I've been quiet the past few months on GSP social media. I think that 2020 was hard for all of us, especially for those of us coaching athletes who couldn't even train in a facility, let alone compete!
I don't usually brag publicly about the clients I work with, but I was so happy to attend a recent racquetball tournament where 6 of them competed, bringing home 5 medals in the process. Most importantly, I saw a lot of heart, refusal to quit, and a desire to compete to the very end, win or lose. I saw a lot of honest, fair play too, which is important to me as a coach. They don't just represent themselves, but me and GSP as well.
Why do I love coaching? Well, here's why. One of my athletes was in a back and forth match that went to a tiebreaker. Over an hour later, they found themselves in a tiebreaker. Both were exhausted, but I saw my athlete maintain their composure, never quit, and squeak out the win.
Match over, the athlete exits, and immediately came to find me. "I couldn't have won without you." I'm sure that athlete will never forget that win. I know I won't.
"I was a big, strong, athletic kid and I had an advantage over many of the other kids my age because of it. Coaches would therefore always project me to play somewhere else besides quarterback. They all seemed to have a particular body type and lack of athleticism in mind that they associated with that of a quarterback and therefore always looked for another position that better fit their stereotype of my body type."
Tim Tebow in Tim Tebow
Stratification occurs when an individual makes a classification based on some kind of hierarchy. How this happens and why it happens can vary, but in sports, we can make assumptions based on our predispositions of what we think should be rather than what is or might be. A good example of this can be found in soccer. Historically, many coaches and managers would place black players in attacking positions because they were perceived to be faster but not as effective at the decision making or strategy needed in defense. Of course, while we know this to be wholly untrue, this thinking existed for many years.
Tim Tebow's quote from his autobiography suggests that stratification is still occurring in sports. In fact, he mentions how difficult it was for coaches to see him as a quarterback throughout his youth, high school, college, and even professional career. As we know, Tebow had an incredible playing career, one which might not have had happened had he and his family capitulated to the wishes of coaches. Therefore, as coaches, we must consider thinking outside traditional assumptions, our own biases, and be open-minded.
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?
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!
In this short video, I discuss a quote by author and performance coach Tim Grover about abilities, skills, and how best to use them. I also discuss what does and does not make athletes and coaches successful.
The Serena Williams tirade at the US Open has been a hot topic in my class recently. Here's an article looking at some of the data associated with penalties in tennis. As a former international referee, I know how hard it is to get it right all the time. In fact, it's impossible because we are human! But in this instance, it appears that the rules were enforced correctly. The issue becomes whether these rules are being consistently enforced across tournaments, tours, and gender. Thanks to Dr. Sean Mullen for sharing this article with me.
GSP Core Value #4: I respect everyone including my opponent and official.
GSP Core Value #11: When I win, I am gracious: when I lose, I demonstrate dignity.
In this short video, I discuss Tim Grover's comments about taking advantage of success and pushing forward rather than resting when an athlete reaches the top.
"No matter how many years I'm in this business, I still shake my head at pro athletes who can't make the decision to commit themselves to excellence. This is your body, your livelihood, you only get a few years to ride this wave. Are you going to ride it or lie on the beach whining that the water's too cold?" Grover (2014, p. 153-154)
One could argue that this could be applied to any of us in the sports fields: coaches, managers, athletic trainers, officials, ADs, owners... the list goes on. I took the plunge in 2017. The water's cold, but it tells me I'm alive.
In this Stillwater Area Sports Association (SASA) video, I explain some of the considerations coaches need to have when developing a practice or series of practices in youth sports. I cover topics such as warm ups, stations, punctuality, core values, periodization, homework, and cool down. Thanks to Ms. Melissa Jensen for her contributions to this content.
Yeah, of course I want to be a great coach/athlete! Wait, I have to study? And work? And... homework?!?!
In this Stillwater Area Sports Association video, I explain what coaching values are, why they are important, provide some examples, and offer some suggestions on how to create your own coaching values.
I interview World Natural Bodybuilding Federation World Champion Dr. Brian Whitacre about many topics including what makes a champion, training, nutrition, visualization, the psychology of posing, and juggling life, work, and sports.
I spend a couple of minutes discussing the excuses given by athletes and coaches to justify NOT getting sports performance help. Here I equate it to why we don't want to go to the doctor.
Too often we tend to criticize ourselves or our athletes for making mistakes. Using an example from the book Motivate Your Child, I very briefly share why these situations should be used as learning opportunities.
I'm assisting the USA Wrestling's National Coaches Education Program by providing some feedback on their coaching certification content.
Parents and athletes, here's a good take home statistic I learned during this process.
There are 2,500,000 volunteer coaches in the United States alone, and less than 250,000 receive any formal training. Put another way, there is more than a 90% chance your coach hasn't even taken a first aid or CPR class, let alone been taught how to coach! Read that last sentence again. It's frightening!
It's fantastic that organizations like USA wrestling are implementing required education for their certified coaches. But for those of you not in wrestling, maybe you shouldn't be relying solely on your coach to become your best... I encourage you to contact me to see how my education and experience can help in your specific situation.
Coaching Relatives and Friends: earlier this summer, NBA star Chris Paul dramatically and suddenly left the LA Clippers to join the Houston Rockets. Why did he do it? The answer is in my short video along with some suggestions on how this situation could have been avoided.
Coaching or being coached by a friend or relative is pretty common, and there are many challenges associated with it, so I also provide some suggestions on how you can ensure a Chris Paul like incident doesn't happen to you or your team. Share this link with a coach or athlete who might benefit from this.
Sometimes athletes and coaches (and dads and sons) just need to have fun in sports. It's the #1 reason why young athletes quit. Here's just one of many activities to make practice fun. Share it on to others who need to hear this message!
Stay current with my professional activities and recent articles.