In 2011 Novak Djokovic had a winning streak of 41 matches. Included in this streak is his Australian Open title, as well as titles in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome.

His streak was broken when he lost to Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French open.

About two thirds of the way through his incredible run reports emerged that he’d recently switched to a ‘gluten-free’ diet and commentators attributed this switch to much of his success.

Disregarding any bias for or against gluten, it is difficult to assume that one change in his diet set him on a path of nearly unprecedented success, yet I had an extraordinary number of requests from parents and players requesting that they too be put on a gluten-free diet.

While on the sport of tennis, it is frequently pointed out at the number of successful players who have ‘difficult parents’.

In fact, if you think of Agassi, the Williams sisters, Dokic, Tomic and Mary Pierce’s father you’d be forgiven if you started to wonder if it was actually a requirement to have a ‘psycho parent’.

(This is not a joke but I did have one parent who read Agassi’s book ‘Open’ and informed me that Agassi’s father’s method was the way to produce a champion).

The connecting theme between these two stories is that in both cases we had people looking at the evidence, not the ‘silent evidence’.

WHAT IS ‘SILENT EVIDENCE’?

The silent evidence* is the proof that we do not register. It is there if we look for it but since no one is writing about it or highlighting it, we have to look harder.

Referring to the two stories above:

  • STATEMENT: Gluten-free diets are the key to performing  well.
  • EVIDENCE: Novak Djokovic.
  • SILENT EVIDENCE: All those other athletes who are on gluten-free diets who did not win anything substantial.
  • STATEMENT: To be successful in tennis one needs a psycho parent.
  • EVIDENCE: Tomic, Dokic, Agassi, Pierce, etc.
  • SILENT EVIDENCE: The thousands of players who never made it (or quit) due to the parental pressure.

Looking around the world of sport we can see plenty of examples:

  • STATEMENT: To be successful we need high altitude training/a hyperbaric chamber/magnetic beds/to fly at a low altitude/Pilates/etc.
  • EVIDENCE: The team that won the premiership/Super Bowl/World Champs.
  • SILENT EVIDENCE: Every other team that used the same intervention but didn’t even make the finals series.
  • STATEMENT: To become elite one needs 10,000 hours of practice.
  • EVIDENCE: Bill Gates, the Beatles, Bill Joy, Bobby Fischer, Mozart, etc.
  • SILENT EVIDENCE: Every tennis player over the age of 25, outside the top 150.
  • STATEMENT: Weightlifting stunts growth.
  • EVIDENCE: Weightlifters are short.
  • SILENT EVIDENCE: Weightlifters who are too tall to be successful (and quit).
  • STATEMENT: I am a successful coach.
  • EVIDENCE: Look at the players I produced.
  • SILENT EVIDENCE: The other players who quit, were burned out, went backwards, etc.
  • STATEMENT: CrossFit is a great way to train to improve one’s physique.
  • EVIDENCE: Rich Froning.
  • SILENT EVIDENCE: The queue outside the orthopaedic surgeon’s office.

There is a saying ‘Success leaves footprints’ implying that by following those footprints the reader will also achieve success.

The catch, however, is that there are many footprints (interventions, training methods, culture, structures, gadgets, luck, etc) and we need to improve at our ability at distinguishing which footprints to follow.

In other words, we need to improve at differentiating what is relevant and what is fluff.

One way to improve this is to be aware of the silent evidence and ask this simple question: Who else is doing that and NOT succeeding?

P.S. A simple heuristic to apply:

If the reason for the success is printed in the popular press, it is not the reason for success. 

*As far as I can tell, Nassim Taleb coined this term.

Hopefully you’re not using the Beep (or more correctly, the Multi-Stage Shuttle) Test in your testing and training programs.

But, if like me, you have to due to some decision makers needing to justify their positions some protocols you should know how to optimise the information.

For a bit of background, I was working with a National Sports Organisation where we had to test every player in the Academy system twice a year. Unfortunately, none of the tests correlated with, nor predicted performance or development, least of all the Beep Test.

In fact, one year an email went out where another Academy was patting itself on the back for having one particular player run a 17 or 18 on the MST and breaking the official, NSO record. Less that two weeks later that kid wasn’t in the Academy as his results in the actual sport weren’t good enough…

As an Academy we wondered if we could use the Beep Test in other ways that might actually feed into our programs. Aside from the easy to administer, easy to compare, low value numbers, the Beep Test may be able to offer some insight that may benefit the Coach.

Regardless of whether you want to run the Beep Test or have to run the Beep Test, don’t only record the numbers, have a look for these Athletes:

 

The Gritty Athlete

This Athlete isn’t the fittest or the fastest, and probably has their tongue hanging out early, but they’re hanging in there. They might miss a shuttle but work so hard to get back on time they make the following one. Their desire is greater than the current fitness, and that isn’t the worst place to be. They’re great to work with because they will push themselves to their own limited limits, and often push the more talented Athletes to their’s too.

 

The Easy Stopper

AKA the Non-Gritty Athlete. Without missing a shuttle and hardly looking tired, this Athlete suddenly pulls out. They were just about to get uncomfortable so ended the test. It’s amazing how often this behaviour carries over into other aspects of their life, particularly training and competition.

 

The 2nd Finisher

Watch this one closely. They usually wait until the first person drops out and then pull out straight after. In other words, they’re aiming to ‘not be the worst’. They’re the ones who do things not because they believe in them but because the Coach is watching, or because it looks good. It’s hard to become a Champion with this mindset.

 

The Big Stage Competitor

If there seems to be a mismatch between the Test results (they seem rather low) and their ability to endure in the Sport (they can keep grinding), they might just be a Big Stage Competitor. This is the Athlete that will step up on the big stage, they need that pressure to compete and rise; and probably (and maybe wisely) don’t see much benefit in this aspect of your program.

 

The Great Trainer

The anti-thesis of The Big Stage Competitor, their MST results often look way better than anything they have produced in competition. They’re a dream to coach in the training setting and a nightmare to coach in performance setting. While they may not ‘make it’, do not discard their value to the training environment – they often lift the (physical and professional) standards.

 

The Quick Recoverer

This isn’t a positive characteristic. The fact that the MST is meant to be a maximal test suggests that it should take a long time to recover. This person hasn’t learnt to, or decided not to, push themselves. If it’s the former, this education should be infused into their program. If it’s the latter, as a Coach you have to decide 1) what is the underlying cause? and 2) can the behaviour be modified?).

 

Caveats:

1) Obviously do not base your program on a single MST (or any other test), this may be one way of revealing some aspects of your Athlete’s character and perhaps used to any trends that may develop.

2) Hopefully, as a Coach, you don’t just put the Athlete in a box without realising that many of the ‘negative’ attributes can at least be modified to help build the Athlete. 

As with most things in life, reducing an Athlete to a bunch of numbers hardly does anyone any favours so maybe this guide may add value to your program.

PS If you’ve found any other characteristics please send them through.

The original title of this post was ‘Impress your Coach’ but I thought it was more appropriate to call it ‘Getting Better at Getting Better’.

You see, almost everyone in your Sport is improving. You need to accelerate your improvement. You need to get better at getting better.

 

Get there Early (and Get Ready)

Even if it’s only five or ten minutes before training, spending that time warming up, foam rolling, stretching, working on your weakness or practicing that activity that you didn’t quite nail in the last session will help improve your abilities or reduce your chance of injury.

Let’s be clear here: it’s not about that ONE time you do it.

It’s the accumulation of 5 minutes, before EVERY session that starts to add up over the preseason, over the season and into Finals or Championship time that you’ll start to see the difference.

And that is when you’ll need it the most!

 

Ask Questions

No doubt about it: engaged Athletes improve more than submissive drones.

If something doesn’t quite make sense, or you want to understand it at a deeper level, ask for more information.

Understanding why your Coach wants you to do something in a specific way, or why they want you to do a specific activity will help you plan your time away from the Coach.

 

Answer Questions, Honestly

If your Coach asks a question, have a crack at the answer.

They are not trying to make you feel stupid nor catch you out, they are probably trying to gage the depth of your understanding.

The deeper your understanding, the less they might need to explain… The less your understanding, the more they might need to explain.

Either way, it’s probably not a test, just a way of ensuring they got the message across effectively.

And when you do answer, give your honest answer, not what you think your Coach wants to hear.

They’re probably using that information as feedback to understand where your program is and where it needs to go.

 

Aim for Improvement, not Perfection

No one expects you to complete the task, challenge or activity perfectly first up. In fact, trying to be perfect will almost always hinder your development in the long term.

What every Coach wants to see is a shift towards doing it better each time; of moving forward.

Don’t get down on yourself if others in your team or squad can do it better than you can, that’s not the point.

The point is that every session you’re getting a little bit better than you were the last time.

 

Gather Feedback

After the session, or away from Training, ask your Coach for specific feedback about how you’re going and what you need to improve on.

It might be based on your last few Competitions or a Training block you are currently in.

This feedback can be used for you to 1) plan your sessions away from the Coach; 2) focus especially hard during certain parts of training; or 3) what you should be doing before training even starts.

 

Stay Late

When the session ends don’t sprint off.

Get a few more reps done while you’re still warm. Or grab a buddy and ask them to help you work on the thing they do better than you.

Alternatively, offer to help someone who was struggling with something in training. Give them some guidance on how they can improve. It might not make you a better Athlete but it’ll definitely make you a better person.

 

Say Thank You

The ‘winningest’ team of all time, the New Zealand All Blacks, have a saying ‘better people make better All Blacks’.

With that in mind, saying ‘thank you’, helping pack up after training, leaving the gym in a better condition that what you found it on… All of these actions will help make you a better person.

Do these things, follow these processes and you too can put yourself in a position to Improve More.

In the early 2000’s, as a young Strength & Conditioning Coach, I was appointed the S&C Coordinator for AFL Queensland.

My first priority included physically preparing Queensland’s top U18 footballers for the National Championship while my second priority involved preparing those that were invited for the AFL Draft.

Since I typically favoured ‘Strength’ over ‘Conditioning’, and given I have a rugby union background, it would be fair to say I wasn’t impressed with most of the young athlete’s gym numbers (i.e. squats, cleans, bench press, etc.).

In fact, I was so unimpressed with their general weight training ability I wanted to institute a rule of non-selection unless they could achieve certain numbers in the gym.

I can’t recall the exact goals but it would’ve been along the lines of:

  • Squat = body weight for 3;
  • Bench press = 75% bw for 3;
  • Chin ups = 10x chin ups

If they couldn’t achieve these rather low numbers I felt they weren’t deserving of selection for the State team.

I had a ‘Procrustean bed’ and I wanted to make my athletes fit into it.

 

Greek Mythology – Procrustes

According to Greek mythology, Procrustes was an evil character that would promise a ‘perfectly fitting bed’ to tired, and unsuspecting, travellers.

However, instead of fitting the bed to the traveller, he would either cut off the limbs of his guest or stretch them out, so that the traveller would fit the bed.

This myth has lead to a few terms that are important to understand in Athlete Development:

  • Procrustean bed – an arbitrary standard that is (usually) mandatory to achieve.
  • Procrustean solution – applying a predetermined structure to a query or question; or ‘making the data fit’.

Examples of the Procrustean Bed in the world of sports and training are rife in many domains.

Rehabilitation

Recently, one of my master weightlifters ‘tweaked’ her back.

Sitting caused her immense pain, as did rotation and any quick movements.

Wanting to see a physiotherapist as soon as possible, she called around and booked in with the first appointment available.

This idiot informed her that, according to his KPIs and despite her obvious pain, there was nothing wrong with her back.

He had a Procrustean bed and wanted her to fit to it.

Nutrition

It is not uncommon for dietitians to set skinfold targets for certain playing positions in each sport.

For example, rugby union props might have to be under 100mm, or in the AFL midfielders might be aiming to be under 50mm.

Is this based on evidence? Is it Individualised? Or is it a Procrustean goal?

(Heuristic: If the number is neat – e.g. 50 or 100 as opposed to 47 or 109 – it’s probably Procrustean.)

On a personal note, while I mainly adhere to higher fat, paleo-type diet (think: low sugar, low processed), my BMX squad performs well with their nutrition that includes high GI carbs.

On the other hand, my triathletes and ironman have improved their training and performance through adopting a similar nutrition plan as mine.

Applying a Procrustean solution to both groups would be detrimental to at least one squad.

 

‘Pathways’

We see this in ‘pathways’ of National and State Sports Organisations: to be selected the athlete must achieve X on the beep test, Y on the VJ or have a Sit ‘n Reach of Z.

The question each NSO and SSO needs to ask themselves: Are your selection criteria predictive of ability (based on evidence) or just easy to administer and monitor (Procrustean)?

350lbs Bench Press

Andre Agassi wanted to bench press at least 350lbs leading into the Australian Open.

This is not an example of a Procrustean goal.

Andre and Gil Reyes (his Strength & Conditioning coach of 17 years) had built up such a strong relationship, that Andre totally trusted Gil’s programming and planning.

He knew that when he hit 350 on the bench, combined with the accumulation and balance of all the other work he had performed, he was physically ready to take on anyone.

The 350lbs was not an arbitrary goal. Rather, it was built on experience and evidence (including Gil’s extensively detailed notes!).

(Side note: Andre is one of the few players who used to ask AO tournament director, Craig Tiley, if he could be scheduled to play during the middle of the day in the hot Melbourne sun, such was his belief in his preparation).

Other Potential Procrustean Beds

  • Flexibility – How many athletes are unnecessarily told to ‘stretch their hamstrings’ to achieve the ‘ideal’ 90 degree single leg raise? Or to touch their toes?
  • FMS (or potentially any other screening)
  • Forcing all your athletes to squat with one technique (weightlifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, etc.)
  • What about minimum reps for a body weight exercise before external weight?

AFL Queensland and the Brumbies

Returning to the opening anecdote… Before pulling the trigger to include minimum strength standards into the selection criteria I called Phil Mack, a Strength & Conditioning coach who was contracted to the Brumbies Rugby Union, for his thoughts.

He shut them down pretty quickly by informing me that George Smith, arguably one of the best rugby union players in the world for a period of over 10 years, never got close to Level 12 on the Beep Test (Multi-stage Shuttle Test).

What makes this even more powerful is that Smith played ‘on the flank’, one of the highest work load positions in rugby.

So one of the best players in the world, playing in one of the most physically demanding positions, never got close to reaching what many of us would deem a ‘minimum’ level for an elite athlete.

Why not? Maybe it didn’t challenge him? Or he wasn’t motivated in that context? Maybe he saw it as irrelevant? Maybe his ability to read the play and make decisions more than covered for his low test scores? Who knows?

The point is the Brumbies staff were astute enough to realise that it was performance on the field that was important, not some Procrustean aerobic test.

Conclusion & Challenge

Needless to say I dropped the idea of creating a Procrustean strength standard for my young athletes; and continue to ensure my paradigms are designed for my athletes, not the other way around.

Your challenge, is to ensure your athletes are getting what they need, when they need it and in the manner they need it… Not a Procrustean Bed.

Think of a heuristic as a ‘rule of thumb’, a solution that is less than optimal but works most of the time.

Most heuristics are fairly accurate, especially for a young coach working with inexperienced athletes.

Problems arise when people confuse a heuristic with an actual rule or law; or continue to apply them when the situation requires increasing subtlety or nuances.

Below are some coaching heuristics that might require some questioning and explaining.

Heuristic 1: Use Body Weight Before Using External Resistance

While it probably does check the egos of many strength and conditioning ‘Cowboys’, this heuristic should be clarified to specify that it applies more to lower body exercises (think: squats, lunges, etc.) than it does to upper body exercises.

As our collective athleticism decreases, and fewer youngsters can perform the basic movements (think: push ups, pull ups, etc.), using external resistance in the form of bench press, lat pull downs & seated rows become viable options.

In fact, these exercises can often provide significantly lower forces than the body weight variations.

Some might argue that it would be for more beneficial to adapt the body weight exercises to allow the young (un)athlete to be able to complete them, for example, an incline/wall push up.

Personally, my aim (heuristic) is to find the minimum stimulus that will allow my younger athletes to adapt and improve on a consistent basis. Sometimes that’s in the form of some light dumbbells or barbells.

 

Heuristic 2: Progress from Single Leg to Bilateral Movements

This is a tough one to understand, though it is quite common.

Single leg exercises require the same mass (body weight) to be supported and moved on one limb, when it’s probably less stress for it to be supported by two limbs.

Throw in a greater chance of hip and spinal movement deviations, slower progressions (potentially frustrating the young athlete) and decreased training ROM (due to balance) and its application becomes less relevant.

Following on from the previous heuristic, it might be useful to adopt the following heuristic: Use the lowest amount of stress that will improve a novice athlete.

Heuristic 3: Choose Multi-jointed Exercises over Single-jointed Exercise

In a recent catch up with the QUT ‘Hamstring Group’ we discussed coaches who refused to use the Nordic Hamstring Exercise (NHE) because it was single-jointed. This, despite the fact that research suggests this exercise might decrease the incidence of hamstring injuries by up to 70%!

The belief in this heuristic over-shadowed their ability to apply the evidence.

The interesting thing about the NHE is that it could be argued to be a multi-jointed exercise, it’s just the muscles in the other joints (for example the muscles of the hip) are just working isometrically.

Of course, the real point here is that if there is evidence to suggest you should include an exercise and that exercise goes against your heuristic, throw the heuristic out.

 

Heuristic 4: Dumbbells Before Barbells

While I have never heard this in a weightlifting or powerlifting context, there are coaches who apply this with other athletes.

The idea probably stems from the fact that the load is less when using DBs and ties in with heuristic suggested at the end of Point 1. Of course, it could also be to help correct any ‘imbalances’.

It should be pointed out that trying to control two implements (DBs) instead of one (BB) is often more difficult.

So if the novice athlete is all over the place with the DBs, try a BB (remember, it doesn’t have to be an Olympic BB!), and in this case the progression might be to include DBs as their neuromuscular control improves.

Heuristic 5: Choose Free Weights over Machines

Coming from a powerlifting and weightlifting coaching background I held onto this belief quite dearly: Squats and deads? Yeah! Leg press? Never!

That all changed when one of my tennis players and I were invited to spend time with Gil Reyes at the adidas Camp in Las Vegas.

For those who aren’t familiar with Gil’s work he was Andre Agassi’s personal S&C coach for 17 years.

Anyway, it bothered me that Gil’s programs relied heavily on machine resistance while mine was almost totally free weights so I asked him to explain his rationale.

It was simple, being used in a consultant role (adidas players can call and book Gil for a training block before a major tournament) he didn’t always have the time to teach his chargers the correct technique of a deadlift, never mind a snatch. He found that he got some great results using machines (the ‘learning’ phase of machines is generally considered to be shorter than that of free weights) in a significantly shorter period of time.

Applying this to my own environment I found that, since tennis players spend so much time playing tennis (plenty of highly specific movements), their strength training didn’t need to be that specific; and they got greater muscle mass gains in shorter time (not rocket science).

Summing up, for most athletes apply the FW over Machine principle, but if you have limited time, or a large volume of their training is highly specific machines could be the better option.

Heuristic 6: High Reps for Novices

A few instances when this doesn’t work:

1)   When teaching an exercise it is often better to use low reps (3-5) so bad habits are corrected quickly between sets.

2)   Following, the novice might not have the endurance to hold the correct postures and this needs to be built up over time.

3)   Nowadays a push up or pull up is very often a 1 to 3RM, yet the ‘body weight before external resistance’ fraternity seems to ignore this.

4)   If the young player is, for example, a front row rugby forward, where their body will have to withstand their teammates compressing their spine from one end and the opposition compression their spine from the other end, it may be useful to prepare their bodies for this type of stress.

This might be low reps and high(er) weight. Not many people are comfortable about this and takes time to decide whether to commit to this paradigm.

In fact, not preparing them might be seen as negligence.

So, some food for thought. Happy to be challenged.

As an athlete, there is no doubt that you want to succeed. You put in the effort, spend countless hours training and improving, even more hours discussing, analysing and dreaming about your sport.

The scary thing is that for everything you do there is someone out there doing that and more! They’re pushing themselves a bit harder, doing a bit extra and recovering a bit better.  So here is a list of things that you could do to catch up:

 

1) Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night. Something that is clear when it comes to sleep and performance: you need plenty of quality sleep! There are many ways you can improve the quality of your sleep but one easy way is to go to bed and awake at the same time every night. Simple.

 

2) Stretch Daily.  There are 1,440 minutes in the day and there is no way you can convince anyone that you couldn’t find 10 to stretch some of the major muscles you (ab)use daily. And you’ll feel so much better.

 

3) No More Fast Food. Not as a treat or snack or a reward. Cut it out. McDonalds, KFC, etc. have no place in an athlete’s diet. There are plenty of other tastier, healthier alternatives.

 

4) Attack Your Weaknesses. We all prefer to focus on our strengths – it is easier and definitely more comfortable. However, it might be that weakness that is holding you back. Add an extra set on your weaker leg, ask a sibling to help you out or stay after practice for some more individual work (your coach will only be too pleased to see your initiative!). Just 10 minutes, five times a week would give you over 20 hours of extra work a year!

 

5) Get Stronger. In over 15 years of working with athletes in a range of sports I have never heard a coach say ‘That athlete is too strong’. Neither has anyone I have ever talked to. Hit the gym or do some extra body weight exercises… You’ll see an improvement in your sport.

 

6) Train so hard your coach has to hold you back, not push you on. When was the last time you asked your coach for extra work? When was the last time you just went out and did a session by yourself? If you only do what your coach asks of you your success will be limited. If you have to be held back, there is no doubt you will succeed.

 

7) Turn off your phones, tablets, laptops & TV 30 minutes before you go to bed.  We know sleep in vital to performance and these things are not good for your sleep.  They stimulate your brain and make it hard to relax – not good if you need the recovery sleep provides.

 

8) Protein and 3 Colours at Every Meal. Eggs, asparagus (green), tomato (red) & banana (yellow). Salmon, capsicum, broccoli, & pumpkin (orange). Chicken, egg plant, zucchini, carrots. These are examples of what you major meals should look like. As a rule of thumb each colour represents a group of nutrients, so by having multiple colours during the day your body is getting a wide range of nutrients.

 

9) Recover Better. There are many sporting programs where the ‘recovery’ is scheduled into the annual plans but it doesn’t mean you can’t do extra. Jump on the foam roller, re-read point (2), book a massage yourself, splash around in a pool (especially if the water is cold), go for a body surf, take a friend to watch a movie, read a book.

 

Good luck and enjoy the rest of your journey.

PS You may have noticed that you can control every one of the above points (and most don’t cost a thing!).

Pop Quiz: Whose music would you expect to hear in 100 years from now: a) Mozart; b) One Direction?

If you guessed Mozart, you possibly based your answer on the ‘Lindy Effect’, whether you knew it or not.

(If you guessed ‘One Direction’ you’re the first 13-year old girl we’ve had on this site).

The Lindy Effect is a theory of life expectancy, that posits, for a certain class of non-perishables (e.g. a technology or an idea) every additional day implies a longer life expectancy.

Summarised in the vernacular, the Lindy Effect suggests that the longer something is around, the longer we can expect it to be around.

For example, Mozart’s music, much of it composed about 300 years ago, would be expected to last another 300 years.

One Direction’s ‘music’, on the other hand, will (hopefully) pierce our ears for no more than another four years.

Examples of the Lindy Effect are all around us:

  • Despite all our advances in cooking technology (electric stoves, microwaving, etc.), the best chefs continue our 400,000-year practice of using fire (gas) to cook their meals.
  • Music records (invented in 1889 AD) have out lasted the 8-track (1940s) and could be expected to do the same with compact disc (1960s).
  • Casting our eyes back to the 70s, 80s & 90s when commercial gyms were filled with machines, we’re seeing them replaced with the barbell (invented in it’s current form circa 1865).

 

What’s the value in understanding the Lindy Effect (LE)?

In the world of Sports and Training, fads, trends and the ‘latest ‘n greatest’ habitually take precedence over the ‘tried and tested’; often to the detriment of our athletes and clients.

We seem to jump on a bandwagon (think: high fat eating, barefoot running, 10,000 hours, TA activation, CrossFit, to name a recent few) before abandoning the idea for the next craze.

We scramble to get certified, buy the equipment, radically change our programs, and waste time arguing on the net… Only to repeat the process with the next movement that gathers momentum.

The LE can help us differentiate between ‘what is popular’ and ‘what is fundamental’ or ‘what works’.

For the regular readers of this site, you’ll recognise that, while I was unaware of the Lindy Effect in name, the idea behind this article was inspired by the LE in practice (Lessons for Interns 2).

By understanding the LE, one can potentially make better decisions on where to invest our time, money and other resources.

 

Some words of Caution

It is important to note that the Lindy Effect only applies to ‘non-perishables’. In other words, you cannot apply it to the fruit and veggies in your fridge.

We should also differentiate between a ‘person who does CrossFit’ (perishable) and the ‘philosophy of CrossFit’ (non-perishable).

The Lindy Effect does not judge which concept or idea is *better*; it just may help predict which will be around in the future.

Understanding this could help moderate the wild pendulum swings we see in the Sports, Coaching and Training worlds.

 

Applying the Lindy Effect to:

… Books

Think back to circa 2008 when everyone was jumping on the 10,000-hour bandwagon.

Books such as Outliers, The Talent Code and Bounce were doing the rounds.

National Sporting Organisations got giddy at the thought that if their athletes just accumulated that magic number they’d be considered successful (forgetting of course that their competition was also in the volume race).

Despite some of these books being ‘best sellers’, they are essentially obsolete now.

On the other hand, consider the value of The Science and Practice of Strength Training (first published in 1995) Supertraining (1999), and The Weightlifting Encyclopedia (1998).

Each of these books was first published 10 years before the ’10,000 hour’ books, using much of their research from 20 to 30 years prior to that.

And yet, there aren’t too many athletes who wouldn’t improve if their coach applied the information from these texts.

So next time you’re building your Amazon Wish List, bare in mind the New York Times Best Seller, based on ‘cutting edge research’, will probably be archaic a year from now.

 

… Courses

If you’re looking for professional development, it is easy to see what’s buzzing (CrossFit, FMS, Zumba, etc.) and invest there.

Compare any of the above-mentioned courses to a study of weightlifting (first male world champion was crowned in 1891); powerlifting (first official meet in mid 1960s); gymnastics (roots in Ancient Greece) and Track & Field (records dating back to 776BC).

Using the LE, we can see these training methods have stood the test of time, will still be valid for at least 100 years, and arguably should be the foundation for most physical preparation programs.

Invest your time and money in learning these.

 

… Mentors

Through social media, blogs and eBooks, anyone can have a voice.

And an opinion.

And, even more scary, a following.

In the most simplistic application of the LE, choose mentors who have been around for a long time; and have a ton of practical experience (if possible, measured in decades).

At a minimum, 10 years of hands-on experience.

When evaluating experience, eliminate any position that lasted less than three years – anyone can make a difference in the short-term.

[Also exclude the ‘experience’ of a ‘consultant’ – these people tend to claim the wins, never the losses.]

 

…. Budgets

Attending university in the mid-90s, I caught the back end of the isokinetic machine movement.

Hugely popular, at one stage, some isokinetic companies had sales teams in over 40 countries!

These exorbitantly priced machines were touted as being the final answer in injury prevention, rehab and performance.

They were the way of the future.

Interestingly, I cannot recall seeing a machine since my internship year.

The point is, at one stage they were very popular and teams, universities and academies busted their budgets to get one, but now most of the younger coaches probably haven’t even seen one.

So if you have an equipment budget and your mind is going crazy with potential products you could fill facility with, adopt the Lindy Effect to eliminate buying anything (the idea, not the implement) that isn’t at least 20 years old.

You’d end up with a facility that would be filled with barbells, platforms, dumbbells, benches, chin up bars, med balls… Not bad, huh?

(A heuristic: Spend at least 90% of your budget on the ‘Tried and Tested’.)

 

… Building your Coaching Experience

Whether you need to build your résumé or looking for a place to do your prac/internship, the Lindy Effect offers guidance.

The Coaches who have lasted, who have stood the test of time, are not the ones who are best at the latest technology but those who are most probably really good with the fundamentals of coaching: building relationships with their athletes, understanding what motivates their athletes and how to get the most out of them.

So while it may be tempting to offer your time where you can gain experience in GPS tracking, workload-monitoring software and other trends, the LE suggests you might be better of actually coaching, even if it’s at a much ‘lower level’.

 

Conclusion

The Lindy Effect suggests that if an idea or concept has been around for a 100 years, it is likely to be around for another 100.

While it isn’t a ‘law’ or a ‘rule’, it is a heuristic that can help influence our decisions in the Coaching and Training realms.

Take Home Message: Stop thinking ‘What’s the latest?’ Start thinking ‘What’s lasted?’.

Whether you’re a former player or just know the sport really well, you’ve no doubt realised there is more to coaching than the tactical and technical aspects.

Coaching is about people. Below are 11 tips that might improve your coaching.

Please feel free to add any others that would benefit a coach’s athletes.

1) Be the example. This includes being on time, ready, fit, healthy, appropriately dress, well-mannered, organised, etc.

 

2) Coach the person, not the performance. Remember, athletes are people first.

 

3) Coach to be redundant. Unfortunately, there are too many coaches who do the opposite in the hope that they can ride on the coat tails of the athlete’s success.

 

4) Get to know your athletes as people. Spend time with them, chat with them out of training times, about other topics (not training!). You may be surprised at the results when they see how much you care about them.

 

5) Repeat Daily: ‘Coaching is not about me’. Very few people care how much you know about the sport you’re involved with. And even fewer enjoy hearing your voice when they could be playing and moving and learning and competing.

 

6) State less. Question more. Watch engagement shoot through the roof when you change from a ‘stating’ paradigm to a ‘questioning’ paradigm.

 

7) Professional Develop. Plan, budget and book conferences and symposiums for 2014. How can you expect your athletes to learn and improve from a someone who isn’t learning and improving themselves?

 

8) Allow time for Questions. Information sharing should be a two-way street. Also, don’t be a ‘question-answerer’, this defeats the whole purpose!

 

9) Maximise ‘Time on Task’. The more your athletes ‘do’ the more they will remember. You ‘telling’ them is probably the least effective way they could learn.

 

10) Read more. I aim to spend an equal amount of time reading journals (high science, low practicality), blogs (high practicality, low science) and books (somewhere in between). Too much of any from one domain isn’t beneficial in the long run.

 

11) Learn from other sports. Each sport has aspects it traditionally does well and aspects that could be improved. Try this: if you’re involved in very physical, team orientated sport spend a day with someone from a skill-dominant, individual sport. You’ll be grateful you did.

It is not uncommon for many of us to assume that those that are working at the highest level of their sport must be ‘high performance’.

Likewise, it is not uncommon for converse of that assumption to occur: those that are working at the developmental or amateur level are not ‘high performance’.

However, in the four years since initiating PropelPerform, where we have worked with a wide array of National and State Sporting Organisations, private and public schools, clubs and teams, it’s apparent that:

High Performance is Not a Level of Competition, but a Mindset.

Some of the characteristics of this mindset are listed below:

1) There is a Reason for Everything

‘High Performance’ is where everything is based on evidence.

‘Evidence’ does not only mean ‘peer reviewed’, though that is a good place to start. Evidence can also come from experience (minimum experience required to use this as a reason is ten years).

Under critical examination, there must be a justification for what is being done (Content) and the manner with which it is being done (Intent).

Some reasons that are not High Performance:

  • Because that is the way we have always done it.
  • Because another team/coach uses it.
  • Because it looks good.

 

2) Resources are Optimised

More coaches, more equipment, more staff, more time training, more facilities… This is not necessarily High Performance.

Too often we see resources wasted and this is the antithesis of High Performance.

High Performance is where budgets are stretched, where creative schemes are developed to exploit every advantage and minimise every disadvantage.

 

3) Everyone is prepared for the upcoming session/competition

High Performance is when Athletes are physically and mentally switched on to maximise every second of training; when every Coach is exquisitely clear on what they need to achieve and how to achieve it; when the whole Team knows their role.

Not having a plan or not being prepared indicates you’re not High Performance.

Try this 3,2,1 Heuristic:

3 Hours of Planning, 2 Hours of Preparation, 1 Hour of Training.

 

4) Do Exactly What’s Needed (even if it’s less)

More time with the coach…. More time on the track… More time in the gym… More time analyzing…

The perception is that High Performance is about starting earlier and finishing later, where the reality is that doing the job, hitting that PB or accomplishing that task and then switching off, going home, recovering.

It’s often easier to do more than it is to do it better.

And High Performance is about doing it better.

Don’t deliver inefficient mediocrity.

 

5) Everyone is the Best Person Available

Not a mate, not a ‘name’, not a ‘profile’, not a ‘better the devil you know’ but someone who is the best fit for that role (under that budget, in that time line).

 

6) Decisions are Performance-based, not Ego-based

Enough said.

 

Grant Jenkins is a Physical Performance Coach who keeps as close to these characteristics as possible. Contact him here or follow him on Twitter @Grant_Jenkins

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