“Each man delights in the work that suits him best”
Homer, The Odyssey
Odysseus had his 10 year journey home to Ithaca, Jason his search for the Golden Fleece, Percival his Grail Quest and Frodo had to destroy the One Ring.
All these Heroes had to:
- Travel long distances
- Enlist the help of allies
- Defeat enemies
- Overcome obstacles
- Make many sacrifices
Does this sound familiar in your training or coaching?
(Female quests are under represented in literature: Dorothy trying to get back to Kansas is one example.)
“If you give them silk pyjamas, they won’t get out of bed”
Rob Gibson, Rugby Coach.
Whilst all of these Heroes had a destination in mind, it was the journey, the struggle, the life changing process that was the real story.
(I always question why Frodo walked when he could have hitched a ride on an Eagle).
As an athlete, having things laid out on a plate for you may not always be the best thing. Giving players underfloor heating in a changing room may be nice, but what happens when they have to play away?
“Talent needs trauma” by Dave Collins is an excellent piece on why obstacles and hazards are needed as part of Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD).
I see athletes I have worked with moving to “Institutes” and becoming Institutionalised: they start moaning if they have to fill their own water bottle, or that the wrong music is played in the gym, or that they had to wait for an hour in between training sessions!
A smiliar problem occurs with coaches who want to gain experience at a “bells and whistles” facility. They become fascinated by kit and use that first, rather than thinking about the athlete and the process.
Put them in an empty room with 30 kids and say “Get them fit“ and they turn round and ask “Where’s the force platform?”
Earn the Right
I have a philosophy of coaching that the athlete has to “Earn the Right”. I can show them the way, but they have to take the steps. Rather than turn up to the Athletic Development Centre and get some fancy stash, they have to start working and assessing their own ability.
Young rugby players ask “when are we going to do cleans?” I answer “you have to earn the right” that means being able to move well and efficiently first. Can they do a single leg squat? Can they do 50 hindu press ups and 100 hindu squats? Can they do a dumbbell complex first? Can they overhead squat 50% of their body weight?
It is easy to get popular in the short term by giving away kit and jumping on the latest training bandwaggon.
Will that approach help the athlete when they are face down in the mud on a cold December night with a hairy-arsed monster stamping on them? Will it help them as they try and apply that power in the open field?
The same applies to coaches, you have to “Earn the Right” to work with athletes: at any level! 6 year old kids deserve the same amount of planning and preparation as does an Olympian.
Someone said to me this week that they couldn’t use their knowledge and techniques on kids that age. I said he had to “Earn the right” to work with those kids by improving his knowledge and learning different techniques.
Feedback from a recent speed workshop with coaches included “I reckon that you are a hard taskmaster”. Perhaps, but I was emphasising the quality of execution and precision of movement before progressing.
The Quest for Ultra Performance is about the journey, the struggle and the process for coaches and athletes alike. There are no shortcuts.
“It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.” Winston Chuchill.
- We can learn from other people: mentors, senior coaches and fellow athletes to help us along the way: we then have to practice implementing that information.
- We can enlist the support of allies (parents, friends, coaches, teachers): we then have to step onto the pitch, mat or court ourselves and have a go.
- We can attend conferences, workshops and courses that help accelerate our learning: we then have to Plan, Do Review. It is called the Coaching Process rather than the Coaching Destination!
No one can input the passion and desire though, the opening quote from Homer is important to understand as an athlete or coach.
The only way we can attain Ultra Performance is by undergoing the Quest.
(Thanks to Rob Frost for the Headline)