Monthly Archives: July 2011

Challenging Conventional Sports Wisdom: Barefoot Running

I’ve been running long distances (cross country running) since elementary school, and I’d always accepted as fact the need for good running shoes. I usually spent significant sums of my limited money on expensive running shoes (usually Nike).  However, about 2 years ago I stumbled upon a new type of running shoe, the Nike Free (see image below). It’s a minimalist running shoe, a kin to the slipper. It has little support, no air or gel pads or other cushioning. The shoe confused me because I’d read, been told, believed and told others that you need shoes with good support to be a runner. So why was Nike introducing a shoe that went against everything they’d been telling us and selling us for decades? I was confused. Nonetheless, I bought the Nike Free and wore it as a street shoe, since I believed it would be folly to do any athletic activity in such a shoe. I love the shoe, and it has become my favorite shoe. I even played a season of ball hockey in them without injury. I’ve been tempted to buy a second pair, and likely will eventually.

While recently reading the book Born to Run, I discovered the origin of these shoes. The author, Christopher McDougall,  is a writer who was unable to run due to injuries sustained while running. He was told by several prominent sports medicine doctors that he was too big for running, and that he should switch to another sport (cycling was suggested). He wasn’t satisfied with their answers, so he set out to find a way that he could run injury-free. His quest took him to Mexico’s Copper Canyons in search of an ancient tribe called the Tarahumara Indians who can run hundreds of miles barefoot (nearly) without rest or injury. Along the way, he encounters cross country running coaches and doctors who recommend cheap running shoes and/or barefoot running. Apparently Nike listened to a few, and produced the Nike Free running shoe. I’ve noticed that other shoe companies are following. While walking past a Reebok store the other day, I noticed a Nike Free-type shoe advertised in their front window.

Disclaimer: I am a Nike shareholder.


The Great Mystery in Team Sports

In my roughly 25 years of playing sports I’ve been on many teams in several sports, but few of them had what most call “chemistry” (also called “teamwork”). Team chemistry is difficult to achieve, and I think most athletes would agree that it is required to win championships. Here are some of the best thoughts that I’ve found on the topic:

– “The best players don’t necessarily make the best team.” – John Wooden, Coach of UCLA men’s basketball

– “Great players rarely work well together, and are more effective with players of complementary and subservient skills.” – Ken Dryden, professional hockey goaltender

– “A championship team needs all kinds of players. Too many players of the same type, no matter how good, make a team vulnerable.” – Scotty Bowman, professional hockey coach

– “Some people believe you win with the five best players, but I found out that you win with the five who fit together best.”  – Red Auerbach, professional basketball coach

– “Teamwork is taught. You don’t just lump a group of people together in a room and call them a team and expect them to behave like one.” – Pat Summit, University of Tennessee coach

– “I’m a great believer that humour’s the lubricant that helps teams create chemistry.” – Dave King, professional hockey coach

– “One of the real mysteries of any team sport is how chemistry develops. It’s usually such an elusive, mercurial thing; it comes unexpectedly and can leave abruptly. For years, coaches and sports psychologists have analyzed, dissected, and theorized about chemistry. Many conclude that you can orchestrate its development within your team. Chemistry generally evolves on a day-by-day basis. I’d suggest some team-building activities can assist the process. At practice, during games, in the dressing room, on the bus or plane, at team meals and meetings – these are the moments when the chemistry is percolating.” – Dave King, professional hockey coach

The recent NBA finalists The Miami Heat had talent, LeBron James (see image below), Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh (the best three) but lacked team chemistry, and were beaten by a team having less talent but better chemistry, The Dallas Mavericks.

Top 10 Sports Quotes

Top 10 sports quotes (chosen by The Canadian Wordsmith):

10.  “Competition is won or lost on the six inch playing field between the ears.” – Gary Mack

9. “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan

8. “The team with the fewest crutches will win.”  – Scotty Bowman

7. “Some people believe you win with the five best players, but I found out that you win with the five who fit together best.”  – Red Auerbach

6. “The degree to which a player loves the game determines whether he’ll be a great player.” – Harry Neale

5. “You can’t outperform your self image.” – Dennis Connor

4. “The way you practice is the way you play.” – John Wooden

3. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters as much as the size of the fight in the dog.” – Don Cherry

2. “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky

And my favorite sports quote:

1. “Don’t worry about being better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can be.” – Joshua Wooden