In my business (elite level athletic development), there’s a very fine line between selling out and making a living. I’m sure this can be said for many industries but I can’t think of one that this is more true than mine. There are lots of charlatans, bamboozlers, and con-men in my field claiming to be things they are not. They cover up their inadequacies (that they likely aren’t even aware of) with fancy facilities, untrue claims of athlete development that are nothing more than loose associations, and false assurances of science-based training that unfortunately take advantage of a largely naive and uninformed consumer base. And if you listened or talked to them, you’d find most of them speak as if they have all the answers. I think that in general, these guys actually BELIEVE what they’re saying. They BELIEVE that their training is science-based despite the fact that their methods are often refuted by research. They BELIEVE that they’ve actually developed the athletes on their resume despite the fact that the overwhelming majority came to them having already been very successful. They BELIEVE in their ‘cutting edge’ training methods despite the fact that they’re often pointless at best and dangerous at worst. I’m giving these guys the benefit of the doubt and hoping they are just ignorant or lost in their own world because the far-worse alternative is that they’ve sold their personal and professional integrity to make a dollar.
Don’t get me wrong. I can rationalize why they’d do it. Everyone has to make a living. If you’re in this business you are your own product. With that said, these guys make a lot of money. In fact, they make a lot more than me. I know it for a fact. I’ve done extensive market research on the industry in general and some of this research has been on these guys. It actually doesn’t bother me though. At least not any more. I am confident in what I’m doing and confident that my strength is not so much what I know but that I desire to know what I DO NOT know (so that I can learn it).
I will say that the one thing these guys are VERY good at is marketing. They know how to market themselves to sponsors, clients, and investors to earn their respect and ultimately their money. For this I have the utmost respect for them as this is something that I’m recognizing is VERY important to making a living in this industry. There are MANY great minds, some of whom I am proud to call mentors, who’ve never achieved the public notoriety or financial success as some of these guys but are infinitely more knowledgeable with far better results in the athletic development arena. When I first came to this realization it was kind of disheartening. It made me think that the cream doesn’t ALWAYS rise to the top. Further reflection though indicates that I just needed to look at the field more broadly and recognize that it’s in its infancy.
In the private sector of elite athletic development at this time, marketing is just as important and arguably MORE important as the skills you bring to the table as a coach, teacher and applied science practitioner. Hopefully this will change and I optimistically liken the current state of the industry to pre-Tiger golf
. You know what I’m talking about. The time when the sport was dominated by out-of-shape, rich, white guys with lots of skill but little athletic ability. Then along came Tiger, and he brought all the skills of those old timers PLUS God-given athletic ability enhanced by training. He had the entire package. He came in and essentially redefined the sport. Nowadays, you can’t expect to be a regular winner on the PGA tour if you don’t bring trained athleticism and mad skills to the course. I’m hoping the same will soon be true for my industry….to be the best of the best should require Trump like market-savvy combined with the athletic development skills of a Dan Pfaff, Boo Schexnayder or legendary weightlifting coach Ivan Abjiev. I don’t claim to have either right now but that’s definitely what I’m shooting for.