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Holiday Book List for the Sport Scientist

Holiday Book List for the Sport Scientist

Holiday Book List for the Sport Scientist

Tis the season to be jolly … and catch up on some reading. Many people find the holiday season a great time to settle into a comfortable chair, perhaps in front of the fireplace, or at a nearby coffee shop and read a good book that you haven’t had time to get to during the busy sports schedule.

Here are 3 good reads for the sport scientist.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t by Nate Silver

The author, Nate Silver, is the guy who overwhelmingly predicted the U.S. presidential winner in the 2008 and 2012….and then, like all others, tanked on the prediction of the 2016 election. Of interest to the sport scientist, Silver gained notoriety before his political predictions for developing the SABR-metric, PECOTA, for forecasting the performance and career development of Major League Baseball players.

In The Signal and the Noise, Silver explores the use (and abuse) of statistical prediction models, machine learning and artificial intelligence across an array of fields including weather, hurricanes, chess, politics the stock market – and of course, baseball. These examples highlight the similarities in methodology, data collection, data management, analysis and interpretation that can be insightful for the sport scientist.

The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose

What is the average total distance or high speed running of a wide receiver or midfielder during competition? Or, how does an individual athlete compare to the team average? By focusing on the average, we often fall into this ‘tyranny of the Golden Mean’ and ignore the variation in the data. And as sport scientist we are fully aware and greatly appreciate the principle of individual differences!

In this book, the author examines how we have come to be averagearians and critically evaluates the faults of being measured against the yardstick of averages. Think about the following example. Why didn’t Air Force pilots fit into cockpits of fighter planes in the mid-1950s? Because every dimension of the cockpit was built based on the average pilot – and nobody is exactly average. Of the nine bodily dimensions used to design the cockpit, less than 2% of pilots were average on four or more. And, not one pilot was average on all of the measures!

Normative thinking also lends us to believe that certain milestones must be met at certain ages. Think about the age at which walking occurs and the tremendous variability at which age it occurs and the pathway of how babies get there – we have crawlers, scooters, non-crawlers, and everything in between. In the end, everybody walks!

Using the three principles of individuality outlined in this book – the jaggedness principle, the context principle, and the pathways principle – can help sport scientists better understand and explain human behavior and performance by examining the uniqueness of single traits and their collectiveness.

The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want by Dave Kerpen

In contrast to the first two recommendations, this is not a book about data. But instead, it is about understanding and connecting with people – a key and critical skill beyond the science and numbers of sports, that, if not mastered, will not allow us to be impactful with our sport science toolbox. As the saying goes, “they don’t care what you know, until they know that you care”.

This is a modern day version of Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. An easy to read, how-to guide on understanding yourself before understanding others; reading people; connecting with others and building relationships; influencing people and changing their minds; teaching, leading, and inspiring; resolving conflicts; and hopefully, keeping them happy. Again, people skills are critical for the sport scientist – you can have the data, results, and outcomes but if you do not have people skills, you will not win the day.

This quote from the book perhaps sums it up – “Cultivate authentic, mutually beneficial relationships built on trust, respect and cooperation… and if you do…getting the boulder up the hill will feel a lot easier thanks to the team of people pushing behind (or alongside) you.”

Happy Holidays – and happy reading – from SPT!