Definition of Insanity

August 15, 2009

I think it was Einstein’s definition of insanity that went something like “doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result” — and unfortunately it seems that in the world of youth sports (especially at more elite/”year-round” levels), there appears to be an insanity epidemic. Pretty strong words, but I’m just calling it what it is.

Our gym has been operating with private members since the end of May, and in that time, we’ve had a significant amount of athletes train with us who’ve either had some recurring or poorly-rehabbed (or non-rehabbed in cases) injuries when they began training with us or have developed injuries during their time with us while participating in their sporting obligations (practices, summer games, etc). Here’s why I began that post with Einstein’s definition of insanity: Whats the culture in youth sport, especially at competitive levels, regarding injuries?? Answer: keep working through it lest you (the athlete) be labelled as lazy, soft, and/or having poor work ethic. Ultimately the athletes are driven to behave insanely.

So what happens when the athlete is injured? The athlete gets scared of being benched, losing a starting spot, or not making the team. When asked about the state of an injury, athletes know what the coach wants to hear and they often don’t want let him or her down, not even mentioning the rest of the team. This is the problem, particularly in year-round sports where the athletes arguably don’t even get a true off-season! When is the athlete supposed to rest and heal? Up here hockey training camps are beginning over the next few weeks — what about newly formed injuries?

I view exercise as corrective in that not only can it lead to performance enhancement, but also to reduced risk of injury. Also when applied in a post-rehab sense, it can lead to a reduced risk of injury re-occurance and also proper healing. In other words, part of my job is to keep athletes healthy or help get them “healthy”. However the sporting culture of hiding injuries or not acknowledging them has been a significant challenge in the start-up of the gym as our attempts to provide the best training environment for the athletes has led us to basically ask them to not act with the false bravado surrounding injuries that they have been rewarded for during their athletic careers.

Hmmm, sounds to me like a recipe for some insane behaviour…

The longer our athletes train with us, the better they begin to understand our intentions and become open with admitting something doesn’t feel right. Unfortunately until they come around, the training could be doing more harm than good, and whats worse is that both the trainers and the athlete don’t even know it.