Yeah, yeah, I know. This is supposed to be a university-like environment. I should embrace the idea of a barefoot running coach certification. On paper, it sounds like a grand idea. Imagine a small group of experts hammering out a curriculum to help standardize the practice of teaching barefoot running. Wouldn’t that be great?
I vote for no.
Here’s my rationale:
1. We don’t know enough. Yes, we have some good empirical research. Yes, we have a lot of anecdotal research. Is this enough to determine if there’s one best method to teach barefoot running? I don’t think so. Currently there are many people teaching many different methods. All have led to successful transitions. We’re not at a point where we can confidently say one method is better than another.
2. Certifications give the impression of expertise, which limits experimentation. One of the coolest aspects of the barefoot running movement is the constant experimentation that takes place. Lots of people are doing lots of different things. That leads to new discoveries. If one “method” is deemed to be the right method, many people will blindly follow and stop innovating. That’s bad. We need the contribution of every barefoot runner.
3. The “experts” have a limited range of experiences, myself included. The people that are widely recognized “experts” really shouldn’t be given this title. Some of us have extensive experience actually running barefoot. Some of us have extensive experience teaching about barefoot running. Some of us have an anatomy and physiology (or other science-ish) background. Most of us have some combination of these three elements. Does that make us an irrefutable authority on barefoot running? Absolutely not. None of us have all the answers. The moment we think we do is the moment we stop opening ourselves up to new experiences.
4. Certification is a piss-poor indicator of competence, regardless of the field. Anyone can read up on material and pass a test. That’s all I have to say about that.
5. Certifications are nothing more that institutionalized gatekeepers. I oppose all gatekeepers out of principle, even if it involves barefoot running. They do nothing more than give a false dichotomy of choice- get certified or don’t get certified.
6. Certification creates a monopoly of information. I’m a firm believer in the free exchange of ideas. It’s the reason I write this blog. It’s the reason I give away the pdf version of my book. Certification places unnecessary value on information.
7. Barefoot running is about feeling, not knowing. Learning information merely gives you some tools to experiment with while finding your own way.
Barefoot running is an individual activity. Yet we tend to rely on the opinions of a relative few, myself included. This is problematic.
We need more people to critically examine what us “experts” teach. We need more people to seek out better methods for all of us in general and themselves in particular. As a teacher, I LOVE when people criticize my methods or develop a better way of doing things. I WANT people to take me on. Any good teacher should inherently understand the value of that concept. That’s progress. That is what we need.
Imagine this scenario- a committee is created to create a barefoot running curriculum. Best practices are developed. Materials are printed. Lots of hours of work is performed. Lots of money is spent. Just as this project is complete, someone comes up with a better method. Changing the material would be impossible due to cost. What does the “governing committee” do? Based on what we know about human nature, they resist. They squelch the new idea. That inhibits progress.
We need to champion dissent; challenge experts. We need to resist the centralization of information. We need to support the democratization of ideas.
What are your thoughts?