Friday, September 4, 2009

All Models are False, Some Models Are Useful

School has started....again! I always love this time of year for many many reasons (college football, beautiful weather), but one of the many things I like is everyone back on campus for another year of learning and overall growth. One of the classes I am taking this semester is Theories of Human Development: Prenatal until Early Adolescence. In this class we basically discuss everything that happens through maturation in these stages of development. Wednesday was my first class meeting for the semester and therefore became my first learning experience.

After a briefing on the course syllabus and other general expectations, we spoke about the theories we would be using and such. Prefacing these theories was a quote by G.E. Box that said "All models are false, some models are useful". What this quote is saying is that in our society we are always trying to organize things in a model to fit all, but in reality there are not many ways to do this. For example, we discussed the calendar year as one model that was completely made up and false. In this model, there can be an argument for a day's worth of time(sun up and down), but all other time constructs are made-up! Who's to say an hour is 60 minutes and a year is 12 months? All of this was made up by our predecessors, but has become something we live and in some cases swear by.

In development and coaching there are a lot of models that are telling us an athlete should be doing something or should be a certain height, but there is really no model that fits all. Therefore, it is up to us to determine individual differences that are present and changes that can be made (the art of coaching). My professor gave a unique analogy that a restaurant menu is like a model and each meal on the menu was the terrain held within the model for you to practice. He said: "Don't eat the menu!" Meaning do not live by the model... When athletes are put into a system and expected to behave, grow, or develop in a certain way and they do not exactly match the model there is no need to criticize them, they are just "choosing" a different meal. Take the model for what it's worth and harness their individual differences within the model.

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