Anectdotal Evidence or Scientific Evidence

I was given a couple of books today from a young S&C coach that had taken part in an intern programme that I ran whilst he was in his final year at Northumbria University. The books were a token of appreciation and it was a very nice gesture. He was almost apologetic when he gave the books to me, as if to say that I wouldn't really find them helpful! I explained to him that you don't become less intelligent by reading (unless it's Harry Potter...sorry it's a kids may as well be reading a copy of the Beano!)...anyway, where was I? Yes, the books. Well I had a quick flick through and two sentences struck me and I thought I would share them with you and see what your thoughts were. 

"Anectdotal evidence is reliable because it emerges from the real world" 


"An ounce of doing things is worth a pound of theorising" 

I liked these quotes (one from each book) and I know they will appear at some point in presentations that I give on coaching (so thanks Scott, your books were useful and I know I will enjoy reading them from start to finish). The reason I like these quotes is that I often feel that I have to explain why I think a particular training method I use works, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support it. 

Well, I'm a coach and spend the vast majority of my time coaching, not researching. This is not to say that I don't look for research to support what I'm doing (I write a regular research review for Sports Injury Bulletin, so I understand the importance of research). I just don't hang around for it to back me up. If something works on the floor, then I'll use it. If there is good data to provide support, cool! If not, well, I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing and wait for the science to catch up. 

In my opinion, anectdotal evidence and real world examples from people that are actually earning a living from COACHING is far more useful than scientific research produced by people that spend all day RESEARCHING. Consider for a moment the fact that laboratory situations are inherently flawed because they control all of the variables. This is fine if you want to train in a laboratory and the next Olympics takes place in a science lab but the last time I looked, training takes place in gyms and medals are won and lost on the track, court and pitch, where, like it or not you can't control everything! 

So I'm going to continue doing what I do. I'll keep an eye out for research that backs me up but I won't stop taking on board anectdotal evidence from colleagues working in the REAL WORLD who are spending time DOING and not just THEORISING!