I recently wrote a post explaining that I don’t actively promote who I work with. And I don’t. I don’t expect them to promote me either. If I’m good at what I do, they’ll tell other people. If I’m not, they won’t, and they won’t work with me.
My primary goal isn’t to make money. I have a “real” job for that. Rather, I love being able to help athletes at all levels, whatever the sport, get better. It’s a privilege seeing my clients working to achieve their potential, and it’s an honor to be part of that experience and their improvement.
But there is one person who I do want to mention, and it’s someone who encouraged me to talk about our working relationship. So I am. Many of you who are reading this will know Indian/Illinois racquetball player Dr. Alok Mehta. He’s one of the fiercest competitors I know, and has amassed medals and titles across all levels of the amateur divisions, and has qualified to represent his native country of India on several occasions. If I detailed his successes in the sport, we’d be reading for quite a while.
Every client is different, and my relationship with Alok is unlike any other client. Most need to work with me regularly, sometimes a few times a month, and some just once a month. Alok works with me sporadically. He doesn’t need me to teach him how to train, and he doesn’t need me to teach him how to swing a racquet. Alok needs me to keep him driven toward his goals. Once every few months, I’ll get a “I want to talk” message, and we’ll have a conversation that serves as his checkup. What’s working? What isn’t? What are his goals? What is he doing/not doing to achieve these goals? These are some of the questions that might be discussed.
Alok drives me crazy sometimes, but I love working with him. And at times, I don’t think I’m helping too much. He says otherwise. And if he thinks I’m helping, then we keep at it. He’s a fierce competitor, never quits, and HATES losing. Just like me. Are there more things to improve? Yes! But he’s willing to keep working to get better. I love that about him.
A few weeks ago, Alok and I set the goal of winning the Indian National Championships. As a 54 year old, playing competitors much younger than him, we knew it would be hard. But goals should be hard. He lost 11-10 in the final.
Most athletes would be crushed by the result. Not Alok. He wrote me shortly after: “No regrets. I’m actually not even sad. I feel great!!! Thank you for reigniting the fire in me!!!”
That’s why I do what I do.
Finally, after two long years of work, I have my own copy! Thanks to the many, many contributors who have made this book something special.
Sport specialization is a continual discussion with coaches and parents. Many parents make the assumption that specialization early gives their child an advantage over other children. But, unfortunately, the opposite is almost always true.
It is hard to resist the concept that if Jennifer is getting more time in practice then she will be better than her friend Heather. After all, she'll have more experience, be stronger, be faster, and so on. Well, yes, this may be true in the short term, but long term research suggests that Jennifer will be less successful. Why? She is likely to overuse specific muscles and body parts in repetitive motions, which will lead to injuries later (or sooner). She will lack the creativity of learning about different positions, sports, and opportunities for growth physical and mental growth. She'll also be more likely to burn out and dislike the sport.
Initially, Jennifer will be successful, but in time Heather will catch up having played a variety of sports and improved more slowly, but steadily. How will this affect Jennifer's motivation when Heather catches up and perhaps even passes her?
Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) for long term success encourages multi sport participation through early to late high school. Don't just take my word for it. There are many in support of multisport athletes.
"Kids, play as many sports as you can for a s long as you can. Don't let anyone tell you, you have to specialize in something. Every sport requires different skill sets, and there is a sport in every season." (Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints)
“My trick question to young campers is always, ‘How do you learn the concepts of team offense in lacrosse or team defense in lacrosse in the off-season, when you’re not playing with your team?’ The answer is by playing basketball, by playing hockey and by playing soccer and those other team games, because many of those principles are exactly the same. Probably 95 percent [of our players] are multisport athletes. It’s always a bit strange to me if somebody is not playing other sports in high school.” (Dom Starsia, four-time national championship lacrosse coach, University of Virginia)
“The first questions I’ll ask about a kid are, ‘What other sports does he play? What does he do? What are his positions? Is he a big hitter in baseball? Is he a pitcher? Does he play hoops?’ All of those things are important to me. I hate that kids don’t play three sports in high school. I think that they should play year- round and get every bit of it that they can’t get through that experience. I really, really don’t favor kids having to specialize in one sport.” (Pete Carroll, two-time national championship football (USC) and Super Bowl champion coach with the Seattle Seahawks)
Unfortunately, parents will look to the exceptional cases who did specialize and did become successful. However, they forget the many, many athletes who followed the same path and burned out physically and mentally.
The path to success comes from participation in multiple sports, not one.
I am writing this blog from my hotel room in Tokyo, and fresh on my mind is my visit to the Tokyo Olympic Museum. The museum itself was enjoyable, but was not particularly exceptional to many other museums. Yet, the experience sits on my mind. I've been wondering why.
I think, perhaps, that my visit was a reminder that as coaches and sports professionals, sport is bigger than ourselves. Seeing artifacts that span 100+ years of sport reminded me that we have unique opportunities to affect history. Sure, we may not coach a legendary Olympian or we may not write ourselves into the history books. But, whatever sport we are in, and whatever level we coach, attending this museum was a reminder to me that our involvement in sport is an honor and is bigger than ourselves.
By the way, that last picture below? That's the first time the Olympic logo was ever seen in print, and it was first produced in a letter written by the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, in 1913. And, in case you're wondering, the colors in the rings represent the colors in the flags of all of the countries that attended the Olympics in 1912.
Sometimes it is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day details of our jobs. The little things force us away from the larger view of what we do. My visit to the museum, and witnessing historical records that date back to the very beginning of the Olympiad, remind me to slow down, appreciate the responsibility I have to others and the sports in which I work, and to work toward the values that exceed my personal needs. I hope this thought of the month encourages you to do the same. Take a moment. Reflect. Remember why you do what you do.
I've learned that for many people, change is uncomfortable. Maybe they want to go through it, and they can see the benefit of it, but at a gut level, change is uncomfortable. Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation
For the past week I have lived in Tokyo, Japan. I has been my first experience of this country, and I have deliberately made myself uncomfortable. I don't like being uncomfortable. I really don't. Not many people enjoy it, let's face it. But this trip took me way out of my normal environment, and I made an effort to embrace it. I wanted to learn!
So here are a few things that made me uncomfortable:
1. Traveling alone, especially internationally, scares me a lot. I don't like it at all. Anything could go wrong. I could lose my passport, my wallet, get sick, or many other things where I wouldn't have anyone who knew me or could get help.
2. Going somewhere where the language was completely different. I can understand most Latin-based languages. Japanese is far from that.
3. Traveling by train/metro at night when a taxi would be a much simpler and safer option. FYI, the first night I ended up on the wrong line with the wrong ticket which created some additional issues. In other situations, I managed to get on the wrong train and go in the opposite direction of where I was hoping to go.
4. Choosing a "room" (see picture) that I normally wouldn't. Sure, I could stay in a nice hotel room, but I wanted to do something new.
6. I took public transport even though taking a taxi or Uber would be much easier and convenient. I got lost. I paid the wrong price for tickets. I went the wrong way. But I learned.
7. I tried new foods and drinks. Trust me, I regretted some of those decisions, but some of them I did not. However, how will we know if we do/do not like something if we do not try it at least once?
8. I tried to speak Japanese and tried to follow some of their customs. Was it comfortable? NO!!! I'm horrible at Japanese but I made the effort.
9. I tried to speak to people when I didn't want to. I'd much rather keep my mouth shut and not talk to anyone (seriously, if I don't know you well then I'd rather not talk). But that's not how connections are made at an international conference. So I made the effort to introduce myself to people rather than the other way around. Awkward? Yes! Worth it? Yes!
10. Last, I told myself to do things even when I didn't want to. I cannot tell you how many times I told myself to do something even when I didn't really want to. Why? Because I knew it was a good idea, even if my personality screamed at me not to do it. I won't list the number of times I said "no" to myself, but I deliberately ignored that internal voice. For example, here I am at Hachikō Square, the most famous and perhaps populous square in Tokyo. I dislike large crowds, but I wanted to see Hachikō Memorial Statue. I can't tell you how many things went wrong in my trip to see that statue, but I did the uncomfortable to get there. I'm glad I did!
Why am I writing all of this? It's a long post. I want you to understand that within sports and sports performance, the same attitude is necessary. Too often, we choose what is comfortable and familiar. We choose to make decisions based on what we know, not on what we do not know. We don't make the best decision; instead, we make the most comfortable decision.
For me, this was probably one of the most rewarding conferences I have ever attended. Did I learn a lot from the conference? Yes, I did, but no more than any other conference I attend. Rather, I learned so much more by pushing myself to be uncomfortable. That's where the true learning took place.
Be not afraid of discomfort. If you can't put yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable, then you will never grow. You will never change. You'll never learn. Jason Reynolds, author
I leave Tokyo a different person (thank you Japan Racquetball Federation and Japan Sports Council). I have been made uncomfortable. I can't say I enjoyed the experience of being uncomfortable, but I learned and grew from it and I know I'm a better person for it. What are you doing in your environment to be uncomfortable? How are you bettering yourself?
I've worked a lot in niche sports or with those scrapping at the bottom trying to find their way up. It's hard, very hard. He's a wonderful example of what it's like from a firsthand experience of a tennis player trying to achieve her potential. I encourage you all to take the time to read it.
This past month I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico to help the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) with broadcasting one of their grand slam events, the Paola Longoria Experience. The four day event was a testament to the popularity and national visibility that Paola Longoria (in the image above) has crafted in Mexico. Coming from what most would consider a niche sport, Longoria has demonstrated how an athlete can become a household name to those who may not even know much about the sport he or she plays.
What's my thought of the month from all this? For an athlete to truly be successful, they must work hard within and external to their sport. Over the four days I closely watched Longoria. And, quite frankly, I was impressed, not just by her athletic ability (she won the singles title, her 99th by the way) and her ability to interact with fans of all ages. No, what impressed me most was how much time she spent with these fans.
Before and after every match, fans crowded around begging for photos, autographs, and selfies. Did she ever say no? Not from what I saw. After the event was over, she stayed long after every other player, until every fan who wanted to had been given time with her.
Longoria sacrificed her time on this occasion. She could have easily used her influence to keep fans away, to limit her exposure, or to tell them she was too busy. They would have understood. But she didn't, and because of that she left the court a winner on it and a winner off it.
Longoria is one of the most famous athletes in Mexico, and achieving this level of popularity as a woman from a smaller sport says a lot. And it has not been achieved by accident. Hard work, dedication, and significant time commitments have been necessary. It is has been a long-term investment for gains that have taken time to materialize.
Athletes, coaches, and sporting organizations that want the same exposure and financial rewards as Longoria must recognize the work that's required. It's not something that will just happen. Are you going to put that work in?
Last week was a big deal for one of my athletes, as Guatemalan international racquetballer Maria Renee Rodriguez earned a silver medal at the Pan Am Games with her doubles partner Ana Gabriela Martínez!
This was the first Pan Am medal won by any Guatemalan racquetball player, and, as you can imagine, it meant a lot to MRR.
I encourage you to spend a couple of minutes to read her blog about the nerves, pressure, excitement, and joy of standing on the podium in a major event.
This is why I do what I do: to see athletes and coaches achieve their potential.
I've spent a lot of this month renovating our house. Some of those renovations included yard work. Now weeding is not a passion of mine by any stretch, and I wasn't too thrilled when the weeds decided their home between the paving was something they were willing to die for. It became a monumental battle, but finally, after much toil and sweat, human conquered weeds.
Pulling up these weeds got me thinking. Look at the picture and you'll see the enormous length of the roots of these weeds. They went very, very deep.
Perhaps you've seen the cute images of the iceberg theory, demonstrating that the person on top of the iceberg achieved their title through all the hard work and character displayed on the bigger portion of the iceberg under the water.
But what about weeds? We need to think about those in our team or environment who are not flourishing; those who are toxic. Now it is sometimes easy to fix a problem by pulling at the stem, and solving the immediate issue. But what happens? The weed comes back. Instead, we need to remove the root.
What am I saying here? In your environment or team, there may be weeds. Weeds needed to be removed by getting to the root of the problem. We need to understand that what is exhibited (e.g., bad behavior, laziness, apathy) is not the real problem; it's just a stem. Something else is going on. It could be a family issue, a bad experience, a personality issue, or many other things. Your job is to get to those roots, whether through talking to the athlete, working with an assistant or captain, or even recommending counseling or some other mental health professional. If you don't, the roots get longer, deeper, and ultimately will become harder and harder to remove.
Let me conclude by asking you this: do you have weeds in your life? How deep are their roots? Please contact me if you'd like to learn more about strategies that might help remove the weeds in your life and the lives of your athletes.Don't Forget to Subscribe!
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Five years of work went into this project. Kudos to all my colleagues and especially Adam Nicholls for seeing it through to completion.
The development and validation of the Adolescent Sport Drug Inventory (ASDI) among athletes from four continents.
Here is a link to an interesting article on basketball and music that I was involved with.
The objective of this study was to determine whether music, positive feedback, and/or negative feedback impacted jump shooting performance in NAIA Division I male and female basketball players. Using a cross-over design, participants (N=20) took 50 shots from 15 feet and 50 shots from the 3-point line under four conditions (silence, music, positive feedback, negative feedback). The number of shots made were recorded and a one-way ANOVA was used to determine differences between gender. Repeated measures ANOVAs were used to determine differences between conditions in shooting performance and to identify differences in gender by condition. Analysis yielded no significant (p>.05) differences between gender or gender by condition. However, significant differences (p<.05) between conditions were noted, as participants had better shooting percentages in silence and music conditions compared to positive and negative reinforcement for shots from 15 feet. Participants also had better shooting percentages in the music condition compared to negative and positive feedback. Silence and music yielded significantly better shooting percentage compared to positive and negative feedback; however, these conditions did not necessarily mimic in-game conditions. Further research must be conducted on player performance during game time situations with negative and positive feedback from the crowd (i.e. home crowd versus away crowd).
Coaching for Sports Performance provides a practical overview of the many disciplines necessary to be an effective coach. Using experts from across the sports science fields, this book teaches readers the core concepts in a practical, easy to understand style, separated into four sections.
Part I explains the fundamentals of effective coaching including the development of coaching philosophies, best practices for coaching effectively, how athletic technique matures, and what coaches can and cannot do in specific health-related situations. Part II provides practical ways to improve athletic performance where readers learn the fundamentals of biomechanics and how to use technology to analyze performance, the physiological functions and adaptations to exercise, how the body can be physically trained and properly fueled, and mental strategies to optimize athletic outcomes. Part III introduces the business side of coaching, the important responsibilities involved in sport management, and practical methods for marketing as well as working with the media. Last, Part IV offers specific strategies for coaching across age and skill levels.
Chapters are split into youth and high school, collegiate, and professional athletes, and the nuances of coaching each level are explained. Being called "Coach" is an honor, but with this title comes the responsibility of being professional, knowledgeable, and effective.
Coaching for Sports Performance provides the platform for becoming a successful coach and assisting athletes in achieving their potential. Coaching for Sports Performance provides a practical overview of the many disciplines necessary to be an effective coach.
I am looking forward to having Junior World Champion Lalo Portillo (MEX) here in Stillwater to train with me for a week. We will be doing some on court training but also plenty of other off court activities to work on strength and power.
Impact of Positive and Negative Motivation and Music on Jump Shot Efficiency among NAIA Division I College Basketball Players
Does music help players make more shots in basketball? What about positive/negative feedback? We just published a study on this very thing. You can access the whole article here.
The objective of this study was to determine whether music, positive feedback, and/or negative feedback impacted jump shooting performance in NAIA Division I male and female basketball players. Using a cross-over design, participants (N=20) took 50 shots from 15 feet and 50 shots from the 3-point line under four conditions (silence, music, positive feedback, negative feedback). The number of shots made were recorded and a one-way ANOVA was used to determine differences
between gender. Repeated measures ANOVAs were used to determine differences between conditions in shooting performance and to identify differences in gender by condition. Analysis yielded no significant (p>.05) differences between gender or gender by condition. However, significant differences (p<.05) between conditions were noted, as participants had better shooting percentages in silence and music conditions compared to positive and negative reinforcement for shots from 15 feet. Participants also had better shooting percentages in the music condition compared to negative and positive feedback. Silence and music yielded significantly better shooting percentage compared to positive and negative feedback; however, these conditions did not necessarily mimic in-game conditions. Further research must be conducted on player performance during game time situations with negative and positive feedback from the crowd (i.e. home crowd versus away crowd).
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
This has been shared a lot over the past few days. Really, a LOT! And the joy in performing is evident and engaging to all of us watching. But how can Ohashi compete with such abandon in a high anxiety situation like this? It requires a feeling of flow, which cannot be obtained without having performed the routine again and again and again. Ohashi's body knew what to do, and she let it perform. Too often athletes are forced or force upon themselves the need to control their body during a movement. This isn't always a good thing, especially during competition. Sometimes, probably more often than not, it's better to turn the brain off and let the body do its thing. If you're an athlete, try not thinking so hard about your technique some time. If you're a coach, try letting your athletes figure it out when things aren't working and let them express themselves. Flow, and performances like that of Ohashi, do not come from the brain constantly telling the body what it should and should not do. They come from letting the body do it's thing.
Winning, Effort, and Sustained Effort - I discuss a passage from Tim Grover's book Relentless.
Recently, I wrote to a variety of coaches in Oklahoma and asked if they would be willing to share their advice for early career coaches as part of a textbook I'm writing. I was very grateful for how many responded and what they wrote. I've compiled them (I'm still getting emails) in a list here, which I hope you will find useful. They have lots of great advice!
Stay current with my professional activities and recent articles.