Before Dick Fosbury and the 1968 Olympics, everyone knew that the best high jumping technique was the scissor. It had always been done this way, and Fosbury’s attempts to modify his technique were more or less ridiculed. One reporter described his unorthodox technique as “an airborne seizure”.
But then Fosbury increased his personal best by half a foot in one day. He set a new Olympic record in 1968 and took home the gold medal. Then people started to take notice. More and more jumpers adopted the Fosbury flop, until eventually the scissor technique was relegated to history. Nowadays anyone not utilising the flop is the subject of ridicule.
Likewise when Rick Barry was coming up as an NBA player, everyone just knew that the best way to shoot free throws was the conventional overhand style. Rick Barry felt more comfortable with the underhand style and was predictably ridiculed. His free throw technique was labelled “granny style”. But then he finished with what was the highest free throw career average of all time.
Unfortunately free throw technique was not revolutionised post Rick Barry like the high jump was post Dick Fosbury. Nonetheless the numbers speak for themselves; few men have been able to match Rick Barry’s shot percentage since his retirement nearly 40 years ago. And he has a Finals MVP award and a Championship ring to show for his efforts.
Convention is a funny thing. When I discuss training methods with strength coaches, we seem to utilise so many tools and methods, or adopt ideas because “That’s always the way we’ve done it”. Unconventional methods or ideas are derided, often without logical argument or supporting evidence. Think about some of what we coaches “know”:
- Long slow duration cardio kills speed, strength and power gains
- Olympic lifts and their derivatives are essential for explosive strength development
- A double bodyweight squat is to be expected in elite level players
Luckily we coaches are in the numbers game. If my numbers are better than yours, it doesn’t matter what route I take to get there. If your numbers are better than mine, I am going to pay attention to what you are doing and try to understand your methods and techniques, regardless of whether they are conventional or batshit crazy.
First comes the ridicule. Then comes the results. Then the culture gradually changes. Then eventually what was ridiculed becomes the norm. Do your numbers back up what you are doing? If so, ignore convention.