The context in which we learn is highly important, but sometimes it impairs our development as a coach and how we help shape the future of athletes. Learning context refers to the environment and/or situation in which knowledge and behavior is developed. This association can be very strong and motivating in regards to future learning and perceptions. It can open doors to learning, but close them, too.
Contextual learning applies to strength and conditioning as well, right? Most of our impressions in this area probably were well-shaped before we even left high school. In fact, when working in the NFL I once asked an All-Pro safety who had continuous knee problems why he continued to perform power-cleans and deep barbell squats as it was obvious the effect these movements were having on his knee joints. His reply, "My high school football coach told me if I didn't do these lifts I wouldn't be powerful on the football field. I believed him and I still do." Now, that's a pretty powerful impression of contextual learning to the point where past context affects current perceptions.
I think I've been very fortunate to be able to learn from a plethora of contexts. Now, I can't say that I've agreed with them all, but I've been willing to listen, learn, and take what I can to move forward. In my path, I learned early on from a world-class weightlifter, from sports coaches who served dual roles as fitness instructors, from some of the very best in the field of HIT, from those in physical education, from those developing military fitness, from NFL strength coaches, from researchers, and from the field of clinical physical rehabilitation. In addition, I'll add learning from those in the fields psychiatry, behavioral medicine, community fitness and wellness. Above all, learning from experience, and trial and error has been the best teacher.
These contexts of learning have shaped my frame of reference today. So, how can I stay teachable, how can I challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and learn from someone coming from a completely different context? A good friend of mine says, "Don't let moss grow on your back in life." I'm committed to that.