This is a partial transcript from the Process2Perform CORE CONVICTIONS podcast.
The impact of the pandemic goes far beyond sports – I want to acknowledge publicly that what we discuss here is hopefully a welcome distraction from many of the real problems each one of us face every day with regards to our current reality. That being said, there is not a better time to really focus on your process then right now.
Optimistically, I have looked at this quarantine period as a time for athletes to hit the reset button. This is a chance for you to identify and work on your major areas of opportunity. As players, parents, and coaches; you may never have another window of time to foster curiosity, self-awareness, and intrinsic motivation like we do right now.
In that, we have spent a good amount of time discussing non-negotiable character traits, and the building blocks of becoming a master of your craft, most notably technique.
Coaching – teaching - is one of the hardest things to do. This is especially true in team sports; there are a handful of personalities and learning styles all requiring different forms of attention. Some of the great coaches I have been around are not the absolute best play designers, or have the most complicated drills. It has often been the opposite. The coaches that have made the biggest impact on me have all had similar qualities; they were demanding, detailed, and most importantly – genuinely interested in their players.
The focus was about getting the most out of the athlete; understanding that developing the athlete would, over the long term, help them run a better program. That idea has been largely lost over time, and a big reason I started Process2Perform. I want aspiring athletes taking control of their careers, and understand those dials they need to turn. What better time to do that then now, when the uncertainty of the next couple months forces us to refocus on development.
With that – I have a set of core convictions that lead my thinking when putting together programs for players, parents, and coaches. My hope is that putting pen to paper will prompt thought and discussion between players, parents, and coaches on how to best maximize development of your athletes. These convictions apply to every situation, but are vital to development away from your team.
We want to teach them HOW TO LEARN, not just memorize a move or skill, but integrate how they are learning skills repeatedly – the process or methodology – so that they can form connections between process and results.
This skill, over the long term, is far more valuable than blindly following directions – we want curious athletes – we want our players to think independently and find solutions on their own.
Here are my core convictions:
Process Based – this is no surprise. Look through the lens of a development specialist, not a gambler. We care about the outcome, but are more interested in the details of the process.
- Start small – start with footwork or body posture – start small and build up
- The athlete has to buy in that we can improve the outcome by focusing on the process – not constantly focusing on the outcome
This core conviction is the easiest thing to justify and the hardest thing to execute, especially as you rise through the ranks. When we are comfortable with our process – it is much easier to navigate difficult situations. The ball is going to sometimes bounce the wrong way, you are not guaranteed a win because collectively we are doing things correctly. But we can certainly build on process knowing that more often than not we will be successful.
By building off of outcome, we will always be reactionary, not proactive. We will also enter into every contest uneasy with the unknown. Without a solid foundation to adjust from, every competitive experience is also likely a new learning experience. Every adjustment is akin to learning a new skill. This is not the way.
Technique First - technique is the means by which we channel our aggression with precision and accuracy
As an athlete – technique is really your calling card – when you turn on your film it is the thing about you that stands out from everyone else. When we actively make the decision to be detailed and disciplined with our footwork, with our body posture, with our shooting form; it is much easier to make adjustments from a point of confidence and conviction in how we operate.
Contrast that with poor technical execution of a sound scheme or framework. As players, parents, and coaches we are beating ourselves over the head because it should have worked, but it didn’t. That is often because with failed technique comes an accumulation of losses in individual matchups.
Simplicity – I break everything down from complex to simple because it is easy to be detailed and disciplined when we discuss and demonstrate a series of small movements or ideas.
- From a technique standpoint this is an easy concept. Pad level for example, breaks down into component parts (deceleration, ankle mobility, base width, etc.). By identifying the component parts that can be improved, we can quickly improve the big picture.
- From a scheme or framework/objective of the match perspective – I think this is also incredibly simple – what are we trying to do – who are we trying to exploit – in the fewest words possible?
Big picture ideas are simple. The Patriots beat the Dolphins a couple of years ago using essentially one formation the entire game. That formation allowed the Patriots to identify coverage and make the necessary adjustment. Simple.
As we coach with simplicity, we do so with two ideas:
– Congruent language throughout the process. Mixed definitions lead to hesitation.
- Self-correcting exercises allow players to continue to grow outside of team periods. Create solutions that making a mistake will not feel right. This is easiest to think about when considering footwork drills. A quick-foot ladder holds many self-correcting exercises. As do jump ropes. High gates around a hoop promote proper trajectory in basketball. When you can exploit a piece of equipment to reinforce specific behavior, jump at the opportunity.
Specificity - It is imperative that the athlete can close their eyes and associate the learning material directly with on field
- If a drill has a player scratching their head, not quite seeing the association; maybe that isn’t the right drill for that player or group of players
- We want to incorporate the when & where of specific techniques
As a player I want to be able to see the purpose: I can see the play unfolding, how I would insert myself into the sequence, how I would use the specified technique, etc. Teaching in concepts allows for specificity – if an athlete can identify the concept, they can see the adjustment needed for the specific situation being referred to.
Why - Teaching the WHY before the HOW. We want athlete buy-in – make them committed stakeholders – give them a reason.
As important to me as someone interested in development; we want curious athletes. We want players who understand concepts and can make the best decisions based on the information available. You cannot make the best decisions if you do not understand the concept – this is part of becoming a master of your craft, and something as parents and coaches we must champion and foster.
Great teachers teach the why and elite athletes know the why – one of the best post game interviews I ever saw came in a losing effort from Peyton Manning – he had thrown a pick in a crucial situation and was asked about it after the game – Peyton just said flat out that the defender was in the wrong spot – he shouldn’t have been there! Right or wrong – having the conceptual knowledge about the opposing scheme and how to attack is a hallmark of great QB’s, point guards, and the nines or tens in rugby..
Intensity - we don't rise to the occasion, we fall to the lowest level of our training.
I have written at length about training mental toughness. Today I want to give you a story about a current player, Mike Pouncey, that I hope demonstrates what a professional athlete should expect from themselves. Really, what all competitive athletes should expect from themselves.
Mike was most impressive at walk throughs. While most of his teammates would spend walk-throughs (a mainstay in football preparation) in casual posture with less than ideal attention to detail; Mike was working his footwork, hand placement, and body posture. Guys like Mike subscribe to the percentage idea of walk-throughs: always perfect technique, varying levels of speed. That process to perfect his form carried over into game situations, because it has been a developed habit and part of his routine.
Of course there are other levels of intensity, but this type is not something we often discuss.
These core convictions are from my perspective as a player, parent, and coach. Take the time to think about your specific perspective. What is important to you, what will drive you forward to the destination you aspire to? These practices are not only helpful, they are insightful. Train hard!
Core convictions are you guiding principles
Yours may be different
They will guide you towards success if you are willing to follow