Walden, Reading, and Coaching: Drawing Parallels


“With a little more deliberation in the choice of their pursuits, all men would perhaps essentially become students and observers, for certainly their nature and destiny are interesting to all alike” – Thoreau

What does the quote above mean? To me, it means that you must take time to decide what you really want out of life. Once you’ve become a true student and master of that subject, then you become more interesting. That’s just my take on it, though.

I’ve recently started reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau. If you want a tough, interesting read, I’d recommend you read this book. I’m only about a third of the way through the book, but it is just…pure. That is the only way I can describe it. Thoreau’s writing is very frank; he tells it like it is. To my understanding, the premise behind the book is that he decided he was not going to live like the typical man for a time; not bend to the ways of normal society at that time. Instead, he built his own cabin in the woods by Walden pond in Massachusetts. He lived off the land and thought…a great deal…about the workings of life. This is my kind of guy; living the simple life, not asking anything of anyone, making his own way. Although, I’m fairly sure he wasn’t liked very much among his townsfolk.

My favorite part of the book, to this point, is when he discusses the written word against the spoken word. In this, he explains the beauty and lasting effect of the written word; how it may be translated and then verbalized through the ages, everlasting. The spoken word, however, is fleeting, and is only heard enough to repeat a very few times. Granted, this was long before the invention of video, so now the spoken word lasts much longer. But you get the idea.

“The orator yields to the inspiration of a transient occasion, and speaks to the mob before him, to those who can hear him; but the writer, whose more equable life is his occasion, and who would be distracted by the event and the crowd which inspire the orator, speaks to the intellect and heart of mankind, to all in any age who can understand him.” – Thoreau

Just unreal. I may be a dork, but I don’t mind. “…speaks to the intellect and heart of mankind, to all in any age who can understand him.” This is it right here; for me anyway, this speaks to me, but I digress.

How does this relate to strength and conditioning? It may not relate to you, but it does to me, so I’ll share.

You see, in strength and conditioning, there is the training/lifting side and the coaching side. While we see lasting physiological effects from training, I believe that the lasting effects of coaching are even more important for our athletes. We lead athletes to be able to eventually become self-sufficient in their training. We teach them about the process and the ultimate outcomes that can be achieved with proper training. However, without good coaches, an athlete can perform a solid program and still not see the same potential adaptations.

Thoreau says, of the written word, “There are stars, and those who can may read them.” Coaching movement is an art; much like the interpretation of the written word. Yes, the spoken word must be interpreted, but the time that can be taken with the written word is much greater and many conclusions may be drawn. The same with coaching movement; what conclusions do you, as a coach, draw about the inefficiencies you see? What causes them?

Now, training, or lifting yourself, can be looked at as the spoken word. Yes, physiologically, it’s effect lasts. But, the action of training is an acute event. The outcomes that touch the athlete are not as impacting as coaching is in the greater scheme, the bigger picture of life. Coaching an athlete does not just impact physiology; that is the acute view. We, as coaches, effect athletes in multiple, lasting, chronic ways and that is how the parallel may be drawn.

Of course, these are just my conclusions. What are yours?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.