Progress Takes Time
In racquetball, levels progress from Pro to Open, A, B, C, D, and Novice. In 2009, I entered the C and age 25+ C divisions of the US Racquetball National Championship where I finished second in both divisions. It was my first major tournament.
Last week, eight years later almost to the day, I was able to compete (and do a little coaching) in my second National Championship. This time I entered age 35+ Open as well as both the Centurion Doubles Open and A divisions with two different partners (partners must be a combined minimum age of 100). I came home with a gold, silver, and bronze. It was a great honor to compete in front racquetball legend and a mentor of mine Dr. Bud Muehleisen (see picture below).
Now there are days when I hate training, hate playing, and wish I could stop and just be a sports fan. There are days where I don’t feel I’m improving, my body hurts, and my mind quits. However, a reflection on what skill level I played in 2017 compared to 2009 is a reminder that although I have my bad days, I continue to improve. It’s encouraging and motivating!
Coaching Makes a Difference
But that’s not what this post is about. This post is not about the bronze medal I earned in 35+ Open singles but why it wasn’t a better color. I lost two matches, one in which I was outclassed by a much better player (for now…), and one in which I was close, but couldn’t seem to put it all together. It was very frustrating to be on the court knowing that I had the skills, fitness, and mental strength to match my opponent, yet feeling the match slowly slip away.
On reflection, I lost because I didn’t have a coach in my corner. I had the arrogance to think that my coaching education and knowledge would be good enough. And, unlike most players, I did have a game plan that I developed from speaking to his other opponents (I actually beat one opponent quite comfortably because I was able to watch one of his matches on YouTube before the tournament began and the game plan worked superbly).
But it didn’t work the way it was supposed to, and I needed a coach to help me change my tactics. On the court, I couldn’t see what they would have seen. Tactically, I got it all wrong, and a good coach would have seen the small things that I now recognize on reflection.
Too many of us, including me, make the foolish decision to rely on our own intuition and ability to carry us through a performance. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. I prefer it working out! There is value in coaching. I’ve learned my lesson. Will you learn from my mistake?
Over the past two years, I have been writing a book, which was recently published and is now available on Amazon. I’ve had a few books published over the years, but this one is a little more special to me. Educators and researchers across the sport, health, and exercise fields will use this book because it teaches how to prepare and publish peer-reviewed articles. Peer-reviewed articles are typically those that are published in academic journals and have been reviewed and approved by other professionals as well as the journal’s editor.
So why is this book more important than my other published works? Well, it couldn't have been written without the authority that comes from having had so many articles published across sports science. In order to have been given permission to write this book, my book proposal was sent out to other experts in the field to determine whether it would be well received. It was also used to evaluate whether I had the knowledge and experience to be considered an expert. Only then would a publisher take the chance of agreeing upon a contract, as publishing is always a financial risk to the publisher.
As you can see for yourself, my proposal was supported, and here we are. But what does this book in particular mean to GOAT Sports Performance? It means that those employing my services can be sure that I have the knowledge and experience to help. It means that others in sports science accept my authority as an expert, and it means that publishers are willing to trust my knowledge and experience by putting their name on the front cover.
This book is more than just a book. It’s evidence of my credentials.
An article appeared recently in a variety of news sources making bold claims: “Good Sports: Longer Lives Linked to Swimming, Racquetball” said one headline I saw. It wasn’t long before similar headlines bounced around social media as a means to justify participating in one sport or not participating in others. Essentially, the news article I read suggested that playing racquet sports and swimming leads to a longer life than if playing other sports such as soccer or participating in fitness classes.
But we have to be careful how we interpret journalistic headlines and we need to understand the background behind the scientific discovery. Having written so many scientific articles and seen journalists and others create “eye-catching” headlines from my work to manipulate what I wrote to catch the attention of their audience, I understand how dangerous this can be!
This is why athletes, coaches, and those working in sports organizations need to utilize the services of experts and scientists to take what science has discovered and interpret it and apply it correctly. Without doing so, mistakes or misinterpretations are made that can be costly. Although this headline above is just an example that I’m using, headlines like this show up all the time.
Let’s go back to the headline that I just mentioned. One would assume that the article then mentions racquetball right? Well, no, it doesn’t. At no point in the article did the writer reference racquetball again. Yet many people will assume that longer lives are linked to swimming and racquetball because of the headline. But that isn’t what the original research said!
Here is a link to the original scientific article. Within the article there are several mediating points that should be noted (there are more but these are the main ones in my opinion):
It’s difficult to make wholesale conclusions from one study, but media outlets do have a tendency to do this. They sensationalize information without clearly placing the information within the specific parameters in which the study was conducted.
My point is not to suggest that some sports are bad for you or that others are better for you. Really, the study’s actual findings aren’t that important for the point I’m trying to make. My point is to highlight how necessary it is to have scientific experts in your corner to provide guidance when you, your athlete, or your organization is trying to perform at an elite level.
Headlines are everywhere, especially when it comes to diet and nutrition, and taking information at face value can be detrimental to performance. Sports performance should be based on science, but it should be based on science that works and can be applied within the context of the experiment.
Be careful how you interpret headlines. Search for the facts, and if you need help, contact someone who can help you get it right, which ultimately leads to better outcomes. That’s what GOAT Sports Performance is all about: becoming the best you’re capable of becoming.
There are few things more frustrating for coaches and fans than watching a player seemingly give up during a performance. Literally, even sometimes when the result is still within their grasp, it looks like they just quit trying. Alternatively, what about the athlete that doesn’t perceive the opposition to be too difficult so they don’t try too hard and play lazy? Frustrating right? Well, there’s a reason why this happens and it’s based on the goal orientation of the athlete. Here’s a quick overview.
The excuses flow soon after a loss for the ego-oriented athlete. An ego-oriented athlete is someone who evaluates their performances against others. They have this little niggling toe injury, the official missed calls, they’re mentally tired, they don’t compete well early in the morning, or they just didn’t feel it that day. Therefore, if they believe that failure or losing is possible, they tend to withdraw or reduce their effort in order to protect their egos.
In other words, when they lose they have what they consider to be a “valid” excuse. It provides a logical reason to explain why they did not win. It was not because they were not good enough, but because of some other reason. This saves their ego because it wouldn’t be fair to make comparisons to other competitors when a “legitimate” reason exists to explain the loss. Their ego is saved!
If losing is likely, expect the athlete to tank (i.e., reduce effort, fail, or quit). One or all of three things will become evident.
Now, let’s flip that situation and place the ego-oriented person in a winning position. What will they do in order to maximize their ego? They’ll reduce effort in order to demonstrate how little work they have to do in order to win. They’ll get lazy and careless, and if they win, it demonstrates not only that they’re better, but how much better they are. They weren’t even trying right? Sometimes this attitude can be dangerous, as the opponent gets back into the match and gains some confidence in the process. Sometimes the arrogance leads to tanking!
Can Ego-Oriented Athletes be Successful?
Yes, they can! Ego-oriented athletes may lack the work ethic of others, or may not win the tight matches, or fight to the very end even when defeat is imminent. But recognize that physical talent is not determined by psychology. An ego-oriented athlete may still have amazing physical skills and abilities that take them very far!
However, more often than not, the ego-oriented athlete is less successful than others, and the ego-oriented athlete will never achieve their true potential. They’ll never achieve their GOAT!
Here’s a little test to determine whether your athlete tends to be ego-oriented. Ask them when they feel successful in sports. If you hear any of the following, it’s a sign they’re likely ego-oriented or thinking that way:
So how do you change an athlete’s thinking? How can you turn them away from the focus on others to improving their own skills and abilities? Well, that’s why you need GOAT Sports Performance to help!
I was recently asked by an athlete how important the mental side of sports was to success. Was it more or less important than having the physical skills? Well, that’s kind of similar to asking whether peanut butter is more or less important than jelly in a PB&J sandwich. You can’t be successful without having both!
Here are two true story examples to illustrate. A few years ago, I had a young but enthusiastic player sign up for a tournament I ran. He was athletic and was very confident he would overcome any technical difficulties playing a more skilled opponent through his superior athletic ability. His confidence never wavered until he lost to his more skilled but much less fit opponent. Although his mental game did not fail him during the match (I might argue it did before he started), he lacked the skill to execute when it was necessary. He was very confident he would make the shot, but he couldn’t execute.
I had another friend who was also extremely athletic, and I thought he had an excellent chance at winning the division. Yet, to my astonishment, in his first game he swung and missed the ball seven consecutive times. He never recovered from that, fell apart with nerves, and came out of the course visibly shaking.
Based on these two stories, is physical skills or mental skills more necessary? Both right? I have many years of training in physical education, and an expectation of PE teachers is that they train students across three domains. The affective domain addresses ethics, behavior, and attitude. The psychomotor domain teaches physical skills and the cognitive domain teaches the mental skills necessary to be successful in sports and exercise. All three are necessary to develop a well-rounded sports participant.
What’s the point of this piece beyond the understanding that an athlete’s mental skills (cognitive) are just as important as their physical skills (psychomotor)? It’s this: why do so many train so much on their physical skills yet train so little on their mental skills? It makes no sense to train your body to perform at its best but ultimately under perform or fail completely because you didn’t train your mind.
Mental training is difficult for some athletes, coaches, parents, and sports organizations to believe in because the results are not always as obvious. You can’t always visually see progress like you can with physical skills. But don’t be arrogant enough to think that without mental training an athlete will ever achieve their potential. It’s why so many professional athletes and teams spend a significant amount of their time training minds to control body. Will you?
Sports are an integral part of daily life for many people, and unfortunately many parents, athletes, and coaches lack the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure the best outcome for all. That’s partly why I started GOAT Sports Performance: to help where help is needed. Here’s a good example from a situation that I heard just this morning.
Not knowing who I was or what I did for a living, my dental hygienist started talking about her daughter’s 5-6 year old T-ball game last night (I had asked her what her favorite day of the week was and it went from there). Apparently, one player on her daughter’s team is quite selfish, and has no problem in fielding for the entire team (it’s a co-ed team where boys and girls are combined). She told me that for the entire season, whenever the opposing team made a hit, this player leaves his position and chases the ball. It doesn’t matter who should be making the play, he runs over and takes the ball away from his teammate to try and make the play.
You can imagine the frustration in this mom’s voice as she talked about how this one player is a ball hog, doesn’t know his role, and stops the rest of the team from learning and playing. “My daughter had an opportunity to get an out and this boy ran over, took the ball from right in front of her and denied her the out. She was really frustrated on the way home. It’s really aggravating for all of us, because our kids aren’t getting the chance to play!”
So who is at fault here? The players for not communicating? The volunteer coach for continuing to allow this to happen? The parents of this one child for not noticing his selfishness and doing something about it? Who says his parents don’t encourage it? Maybe it’s the other parents who should say something?
Here’s a major problem in this scenario. No one knows what to do about it. The players are just kids learning to play the sport and just want to have fun. The coach is a volunteer who didn’t sign up for this kind of situation, and the parents of the team don’t want to make it an issue with anyone. It’s a messy situation that ends up leaving everyone except one player unhappy. Chances are this team will not stick together, players will lose interest in the sport, and the coach doesn’t volunteer again.
The number one reason kids quit sports is because it is no longer fun. Don’t let that happen to your child or team! If necessary, work with someone to improve communication, establish roles, and foster an inclusive environment. For more specific information on how I can help please look through my website or contact me directly.
Our fitness is determined by how well your body can use the energy it has available. Many of us have plenty of available energy stored as fat, but the ability of the body to convert those stores into usable energy during an intense sport like racquetball is limited.
There are three energy systems working within your body, and they work interactively to produce energy. Which system is working the hardest depends on what your body needs at that moment. Think of each energy system like a rechargeable battery. Once the battery is drained, it needs time to recharge, but each “battery” has a different storage limit and produces different types of energy. Here is a general overview of each.
ATP-PC system (adenosine triphosphate-phosphocreatine system)
Your body can use all of these systems simultaneously depending on the situation, but racquetball uses anaerobic energy almost exclusively.
Understanding when you (or your opponent) might need time to replenish these stores gives you an advantage in that situation! For example, if your opponent has had one or two very hard points in which they had to be explosive, their anaerobic system is struggling. Do not give them time to recover, and continue play as soon as possible. They will be a little slower around the court because their body needs time to recharge that fast system. Conversely, if you find yourself on the opposite side of that same situation, use your timeouts and breaks between points to provide you with the time you need to recover.
In a long match, you do not want to rely on your aerobic system for energy, as it takes longer to convert this energy into a usable source and you will be slower as a result. Therefore, do not forget to consume carbohydrates during the match so that your body has anaerobic fuel readily available.
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