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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Controversial issues: #2 Mike Stone & Mike Boyle

Recent things that have come up provided the motivation for the next three blogs:
  1. The published ahead of print Parchmann and McBride FMS article
  2. The recent interaction between Dr. Mike Stone and Mike Boyle
  3. The University of Oklahoma exercise science professor(s) accused of questionable practice in research
#2. Last month Perform Better hosted A Meeting of Minds seminar in Arizona. It has become fairly well-known that there was an interaction between Dr. Michael Stone and Michael Boyle during the latter's talk on strength and conditioning. 

I am probably going to disappoint some of you when I tell you that I can't/won't give away too much about the disagreements that followed. I wasn't there, and distributing a second-hand account of what was discussed would not be the most professional thing to do. Apparently it is getting discussed out there on various internet forums. Although this content I am sure is interesting and debate-generating, I have managed to avoid reading it. God-knows who the people commenting are and how accurate or productive the discussion is.

What I will do, however, is state / remind you all of some things about Dr. Stone, along with what evidence-based practice is and the role of research and sport science in this.

The "research guy" vs. the "applied guy" situation would probably be a fascinating one for me if it wasn't, by it's very nature, so infuriating and frustrating. I am sure that other professionals in related fields are LAUGHING at us right now because this still exists in our "profession". I use the bunny ears because with the problems we currently face in our field we cannot truly call ourselves professionals, nor do we operate within a profession. Sadly.
Different people will always have a different emphasis / opinion in this world and this is fine - but to have such a divide is counterproductive to ourselves and more importantly our athletes. Everyone should have some background in sport science, and everyone should have practical/applied experience. Not one or the other. Just because someone may be a PhD does not mean they can't get out there and coach or haven't had any practical experience.

Firstly, a little about Dr. Stone. 
It appears that the majority of people out there have lost focus about his background and role in sports:
  • Doc and his lab collects data in the real world of collegiate (and higher level) athletics. The primary purpose of this is to help each of the respective teams/athletes win. Research that comes out of it (in an effort to help other teams win) is supplemental to this.
  • Doc is as much a coach as he is the above researcher. He coaches a sport and athletes directly, is a former head strength coach of an SEC school, and gets his hands dirty everyday. He has been "in the trenches" of coaching, S&C, and sport science since the early 70's.
  • Doc lifts like (and with) his athletes everyday and is bloody strong and mobile for a man of his age.
  • He is married to, and greatly influenced by, a legend of strength and conditioning. Meg Ritchie Stone has been commanding respect as a coach since the early 80's, and as an Olympian and medal winning athlete since the 1970's.
Doc does not need defending - I just feel that much of the above is forgotten. We (his students), and many others out there aim to follow a similar path with regards to how we conduct ourselves in our career. Unfortunately it seems having done formal research and/or a real MS/MSc/MA/PhD is looked at as a negative thing in certain circles!

When we decide how we plan, carry out, and evaluate our practice, what is the process we go through? Should we not collect evidence (from our data and from others)? Yes - our own experience of certain training modalities does carry weight - but we have to understand how subjective evidence can be skewed by a number of outside factors, and by the error of human judgement. If we are to use our own practice as evidence then we need to take data (good data) and lots of it. In order for this to be the case, we all need to know and practice good sport science.

The argument that research is behind practice may true from a time standpoint, but doing a good job of practicing sport science everyday means that you should have access to up to date good data, and then formal research will come slightly later to compare with. If we go in "two-footed" with a training modality or piece of equipment without evidence, we may well be hurting our athlete's performance. 

Lastly - using science when it backs you up but disregarding it when it goes against your practice is NOT cool and is about as bad a thing as you can do in our "industry"/"profession"/"marketing business"/"training play-pen".


  1. Thanks Howard! Appreciate the insights. I certainly agree that too much bickering takes away from our focus of being productive and forward thinking.

  2. Appreciate the feedback Michael. Bickering may still be ok if it is productive. Hopefully these posts have been!