The following is a partial transcript from a recent Process2Perform podcast...
Every once in a while we need to take a minute and perform an audit on our lives. An audit in this sense is not financial, but we are auditing our time. In every day we only have so much time to spend on our interests outside of our obligations. And for those who are lucky enough that their interests and their obligations collide – then figuring out how to continue excelling at both is key to remaining in such an appealing position.
So thinking about our time – time spent maximizing the ability to thrive in what we want to do the most. I’m talking about being able to focus in on the keys to performance success. And I wanted to do a short show this week talking about how we as players, parents, and coaches – can hone in on what it is we need to get out of our time. I want to do this as pragmatically as I can, but please understand the process for your personality may require some minor adjustments.
The first thing we have to do with an audit is take an objective look at ourselves. Watch your last three games, talk to a coach, take notes from your practices. These are what the top shelf players are doing all the time, and it doesn’t cost any of us anything but a little effort and curiosity! Side note – a lot of people will suggest that this kind of review is only for the professionals and we should just be focused on age appropriate measures…reviewing is making it too real.
That’s ok – and if you are a parent who thinks that way; that’s ok and maybe for your athlete you are right. These ideas are not for everybody! In the LTAD (Long Term Athlete Development) model there is the chronological age and developmental age of any given athlete. Younger athletes mature physically, cognitively, and emotionally at different rates. If it isn’t right for yours – who am I to say? I do want you to know that people are using these methods to dramatically improve, and they are using them at younger ages.
Kids that grow up watching games with a passionate parent usually have higher sporting IQs than those that don’t. These methods don’t start as structure, they start with passion. We move to a structure because we have done an audit and want to maximize our time.
So we watch our tape, talk to our coaches, review our notes, and build an idea of where are largest gaps are. Notice I said largest – we want to hit the largest, most basic gaps in our gap first. Again – developmentally some things come more naturally to some more than others. A lot of these gaps at the younger ages are centered around moving well, or the footwork we use to translate power from the ground into whatever endpoint we are trying to reach given our sport.
Think about this - every video on YouTube you watch right now of a teenage football, basketball, rugby, or soccer game is highlighting athleticism; yet many athletes take this part of their development the least seriously. We have done an excellent job in this country – and anyone who watched the NFL combine this year will attest to this – an excellent job with human performance development. We just have to understand that eyeballs always go to two groups of people; master technicians and superior athletes.
The components of a successful athlete are behaviors, technique, and sporting IQ. We can think of those traits as essential, and our relative athleticism is a cheat code that allows us to level up. Now this is where we have to start thinking in terms of time. Everyone wants the cheat code, and the most basic way to improve performance is to focus on sleep, nutrition, and then S&C (mobility, agility, power, strength).
So before you start thinking about extra training, hiring position coaches, and sending the kids off to camps and combines; make sure they are getting enough sleep. Make sure they are eating enough good food, and prioritize movement and building a solid power base. These things develop better humans, better humans are better athletes, better athletes become better players. Don’t overthink this stuff, I have a ton of clients who are willing to train all day every day, but they eat poorly and don’t get any sleep. It’s not completely counterproductive, but again, use the cheat code it's right there for everyone.
So now that you have made the move to improve the human, take out your calendar and look at what non-essential things we are doing every week in terms of improving performance. For many competitive athletes regardless of sport and even age, the weeks look the same but the hours may change based on the individual, age, and sport.
I deal with a lot of soccer, football, and basketball players. Here is the general difference between them in terms of expectations for practice – and remember there are exceptions, but this is true for the majority. In skill sports like basketball and soccer, the practice at a competitive level is more about developing team traits; things like scheme, positioning, combination play, specific plays or set pieces. It is about improving the team. Individuals can improve dramatically in these environments because of natural competition, but oftentimes individual development is considered something the athlete needs to do away from the team. If they want to get better with their off hand or foot for example, the expectation is that we practice that somewhere else and then bring it to the practice as a more finished product.
Non-skill sports – football and rugby as examples – these sports usually bake individual drills into the practices because they have enough coaches to teach technique to smaller groups. There are a ton of confrontational skills that everyone needs to learn, but most people don’t spend time learning outside of the practice field. My comment is always that blocking and tackling aren’t things observed while walking down the sidewalk, but anyone can be dribbling a basketball or juggling a soccer ball.
Whether we have good practices with great development, or poor practices; chances are we consider these concrete obligations. Most families are not willing to deal with the consequences of skipping a poor practice for an individual training session, although sometimes the latter might be for the best. So depending on your sport, and depending on what you have determined are your largest areas of opportunity – now you have to decide on what is going to make the biggest bang for your buck.
I’ll say a couple things here that may raise eyebrows. If you decide you need to develop your individual technique, and you are old enough to talk in specifics – and you are wanting to go to an individual coach – I would suggest a couple things.
1) Scour the internet and training apps to see if you can find what you need online first. There are some good training apps that will demonstrate exactly the techniques you are looking for, and now your schedule remains your schedule.
2) If you are looking to train live – and you have the resources – find a training partner. Someone you can compete with on the daily. Iron sharpens iron. With a lot of trainers, the magic is in the competition. That’s what a lot of kids really need, are the safe training spaces to try skills out live. This is a huge part of our progression stack training method – for more on that go back to season one of our podcast and check out progression stacking.
3) If you are paying someone to train you or your athlete – be very specific about why you are there. If you generalize – I want to get better – that can put you on a general cycle that, while everything can be helpful and has its place; some of this stuff is not going to move the dial and you want to work on the things in the moment that are going to make the most difference.
So you have you schedule, you have you obligations and your ancillary trainings, now the question is how much? Parents, here’s what I would tell you. One thing we do with this generation is fill up their schedule with things we are always going to. If that’s what your kids want and you can do it – great. But here’s the rub for me. Too many athletes are not going outside or to the gym and just shooting, or dribbling, or working on their own. Not enough of these competitive athletes are going to the park to play pickup. There still needs to be that sense of ownership – that love for the game that compels them to do some of this stuff on their own. That could be the gym, that could be the park, that could be watching tape.
We get kids in the league that don’t know how to fix their own problems. The thought of going out and working on something without prompting doesn’t even compute. And it’s not that the athletes don’t love what they are doing; they just have never had to think for themselves.
And it’s a problem. And it starts with how we act on the sidelines, or how their coaches tell them exactly what they should be doing instead of letting players make decisions. Being led through this is not the answer – a partnership of sorts is required. Players provide the motivation and drive, coaches and parents provide direction, up until the athletes learn what is best for them.
So the key again, is to understand that there is, at a certain age, a standard of operation that will likely be required to accelerate improvement relative to your peer group. What that is, what the athlete is comfortable with – that varies athlete to athlete. So we have to prioritize. Starting with giving team trainings your best, getting the requisite sleep and nutrition, working on building a better human.
If you or your athlete are doing those things, and you are looking for more. Look to your specific areas of opportunity, find the right fit with preferably a training partner. Start small, and see how it goes. Does the extra help promote them playing around the house more or less? Are they as enthused about practice or less? It has to come from the player. It has to come from the player and not the parent.