At the Junior Sports Science Symposium IV, internationally renowned Sports Performance Consultant Wayne Goldsmith mentioned that aspiring Elite Athletes have many small, seemingly insignificant, decisions they make every day.

In each situation you can choose to take the Hard Road or you can choose to take Easy Street.

And it is the accumulation of many, many Hard Road decisions that will take you to the place you want to be.

Below are some examples.

  • Easy Street: My parents wake me up.
  • Hard Road: I set the alarm to wake me up. 
  • Easy Street: I lay in bed till the last possible moment.
  • Hard Road: I get up straight away. 
  • Easy Street: I have a rubbish, or worse, no breakfast.
  • Hard Road: I have a well-prepared, high-protein breakfast. 
  • Easy Street: I rush my morning and barely make it out on time.
  • Hard Road: I complete my morning stretch in a good state of mind and prepare for the day.
  • Easy Street: If I am late to training I blame: mom, public transport, my mates, etc.
  • Hard Road: If I am late to training I call ahead, take ownership and commit to finding a better way. 
  • Easy Street: I catch up with my mates and wait for my Coach to signal training is starting.
  • Hard Road: I get their early, warm up by myself & am ready to train.
  • Easy Street: I do what the Coach says.
  • Hard Road: I do what the Coach says, in the manner the Coach desires. 
  • Easy Street: I am at training physically.
  • Hard Road: I am at training mentally switched on and emotionally engaged. 
  • Easy Street: When the Coach calls us in, I walk.
  • Hard Road: When the Coach calls us in, I run. 
  • Easy Street: During breaks, I grab a water bottle.
  • Hard Road: During breaks, I offer the members of the squad water bottles first. 
  • Easy Street: When the Coach says the session is over I stop.
  • Hard Road: At the end of the session I do extras. 
  • Easy Street: At the end of the session I chat with my mates and go home.
  • Hard Road: At the end of the session I ask the Coach for feedback on my progress. 
  • Easy Street: I grab some fast food on the way home.
  • Hard Road: I consume my pre-prepared post training snacks and fluids.
  • Easy Street: I jump on the couch and watch TV.
  • Hard Road: I spend 10 minutes foam rolling. 
  • Easy Street: Dinner is anything pre-packaged and/or microwaved.
  • Hard Road: Dinner is fresh veggies, lots of colour, and good quality protein. 
  • Easy Street: I waste time on Facebook.
  • Hard Road: I turn off the TV, iPad, laptop, phone, etc. 30 minutes before bedtime & read a book. 
  • Easy Street: I waste time on Facebook.
  • Hard Road: I prepare and pack for tomorrow. 
  • Easy Street: My room is a mess, light and all sorts of electrical gadgets are on or charging.
  • Hard Road: My room is tidy and perfect for sleeping. 

Athletes, every day you have choices. And each choice might seem insignificant in isolation, but over the course of your career they add up to become very significant.

So, what’s it going to be?

Please only continue reading if:

  1. you have a sound understanding of the following terms: fragile, robust, anti-fragile;
  2. you are involved in development, coaching, training or performance;
  3. interested in providing feedback regarding these thoughts.

In the world of Athlete Development there tends to be a side-effect of creating highly fragile bodies, minds and spirits.

Sometimes this is par for the course – highly specialised organisms are more likely to be fragile to volatility.

However, at the Developmental Level (as opposed to the Elite Level) our goals should be to create athletes who are as close to anti-fragile as possible: independent, adaptable to a range of environments and have an ability to grow from stress and the inevitable set backs.

The Table in the attachment below is a summary of some of my thoughts with regards to the athletes (including skaters, BMX, swimming, rugby, tennis, powerlifting, etc.) I work with; the Coach Education courses and seminars I deliver and some of the goals I am trying to achieve.

In order to make this Table more anti-fragile, I’d appreciate your thoughts, comments, questions and queries.

Anti-Fragility for Sports, Coaching & Training

Dear Former Athlete,

First up, congratulations on your career. Competing at the highest-level puts you amongst a select group of individuals, an achievement most of us could only dream of accomplishing. In that regard, you have earned respect. There is no doubt that you will have lots to offer as you transition into the coaching realm.

Secondly, it is fantastic to hear that you’re interested in contributing to the sport through coaching – there is no doubt you’ll have much to give the next generation of athletes.

While wishing you the best in your transition, it would be remiss of us not to provide you with some insight we have gathered through our own collective careers. This information will hopefully help you navigate your new vocation.

It’s interesting that many people think ‘a great athlete will make a great coach’ yet there are not many who would think that ‘a great coach will make a great athlete’.

It seems that in the second paradigm we understand that the skills do not transfer well – they’re different domains; but in the first paradigm the misconception is that the skills do transfer well.

While we understand the ’10,000 Hour Rule’ is less of a rule and more of a ‘good message’ it could help you in your coaching.

Understanding that it probably took you about ten years to become an expert athlete, it’ll probably take you about ten years before you could consider yourself an expert coach. Remember this and enjoy the journey.

If you believed most coaching courses, you’d be forgiven for having the impression that coaching is mainly about addressing the Technical, Tactical, Physical & Mental aspects of the sport.

This leads to the assumption that you, the former athlete, should excel at coaching and hit the ground running. It makes sense to the uninitiated: You’ve obviously had a good appreciation of the Technical & Tactical aspects; you would’ve had some of the best physical training (though we have to ask: did you understand the principles being applied or did you just do what you were told?); as well as some exposure to Mental training too.

Unfortunately, this is quite far from the truth. Speak to any experienced coach and you’ll see that they’re more interested in learning how to build their relationship with their athletes. They understand that no rapport means no influence, which means no impact.

‘How and when to give feedback’ is another critical area for a coach to understand. Early in our careers, coaching is mainly about ‘us’ (our way, our methods, our influence, what we want to say) but, as we progress, we learn that it is actually about the athlete and giving them what they need, when they need it.

This is a skill that can be learnt, over time.

There are a range of other skills that you’ll need to learn: how to build a culture, how to motivate your charges, how to select your coaching staff, etc. Very few of the skills you had as an athlete will help you in this regard.

There will probably be other steep learning curves ahead: as an athlete your ability to believe in what you were told could have a significant effect on your performance. In fact, more belief could translate into more success: your belief in ice baths could help your recovery; your belief in altitude training could help your fitness levels; your belief in the fabric of your competition-clothing could help your confidence levels.

However, as a coach you need to have healthy doses of doubt and skepticism.You will need to question everything. And you should expect that the answers you receive are backed up with robust evidence. This change in mindset won’t be easy but it will be necessary.

Something else that was praised when you were an athlete is now going to handicap you as a coach: loyalty. Your loyalty to that one club, or your loyalty to that one coach, means that your exposure to different training methods and protocols has been inhibited. Remember, the old adage: There are many ways to skin a cat (apparently).

You’re going to have to get out and learn from other coaches, other teams, other countries and other sports. And never think ‘That could never work in my sport’ because it probably could, you’re just not experienced enough to understand how, why, when & where.

Following the same lines, please do not even think about coaching at the club you competed at, no matter how much the board plead and beg. For your own development, get out and learn. You could always return later, better prepared.

Having coached developmental athletes for over a decade, we understand how your confidence in your ability to coach, though unproven, will still be high.

We have seen your coaches build you up; we have seen the fans adore you and how the press embraces you. We have seen your managers minimise your faults and emphasise your strengths. We have seen how many people agree with you and how few correct you.

When you become a coach, you’ll need to shun most of these people and surround yourself with those that can stand up to you, disagree with you and correct you. These are the people who you can trust; the others are just going along for the ride.

Lastly, we are going to wish that you experience a fair amount of failure in your first few years of coaching. It sounds negative but it isn’t. Too many young coaches who experience early success think they know all the answers when, in fact, they haven’t been asked all the questions.

This perceived failure will be a blessing, as it will force you to extend yourself; seeking and creating learning opportunities, potentially leading to sustained, long term success.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and good luck with your coaching journey.

Regards,

Your Fellow Coaches

PS Never, ever use the phrase ‘back in my day…’

Considering the potential expenses associated with attending a Conference (travel, accommodation, food, the conference itself, etc) you’d want to ensure you maximise the event.

Below are some tips that might be able to help.

1) Dress for the Job you Want, not the Job you Have. A conference is not the time to slop around. This includes the cocktail party, dinner and, if you’re invited, the VIP event.

2) Get Out on Your Own. Too often young attendees partner up and stick with their buddy, potentially losing many opportunities to interact with other professionals.

3) Two Ears, One Mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk (especially if you’re around the top delegates).

4) Aim to meet 10 New People Every Day. Seriously, set that goal. Over 3 days that is 30 new contacts.

5) Maximise Meal Times. Not only for the protein but for the conversations that take place. Guaranteed you’ll pick up great information. Or make a new friend.

6) It’s an Endurance event, not a Sprint. Pace yourself, especially on the social side. There are a number of delegates who’ve peaked early and have nothing in the tank on the last day.

7) Spend Time with the Sponsors & Exhibitors. Firstly, if it wasn’t for them, the costs of the conference would probably sky-rocket. Secondly, don’t just think of ‘industry contacts’ as other delegates, commercial contacts are vital too.

8) Sit at the Front. Your engagement will be higher in the front row. If you don’t believe me, compare how many people check their phones, twitter, email, etc. in the front row versus those in the back row.

9) Don’t Think in Terms of ‘Right or Wrong’. If something is presented which disagrees with your paradigms, try to understand why it worked before dismissing it. Even better, think ‘Who, where and when can I use this?’ and save it for later.

10) Report on the Info. If your team, club or academy contributed to your conference attendance write a report detailing what you learnt. Circulate it amongst the performance staff and the decision makers so that it becomes valuable for the organisation, not just you.

The current trend for universities is to offer a masters degree for eager Strength & Conditioning coaches.

It’s the perfect solution to the exact problem they created: 1) accept way too many students into their under-grad programs; 2) wait for the suckers to realise there aren’t many jobs on offer; 3) offer further (online – it’s cheaper) education to the unemployed coach as a way to ‘get ahead’.

Now whether a predominately online course can adequately prepare anyone for the demands, connections, mindsets and pressures of high performance sport is for another post; today’s post is earning the right to take on further theoretical study.

As mentioned on Twitter, I believe diving into a masters in high performance for a new grad is analogous to giving depth jumps to a novice athlete. Neither are prepared enough.

One criticism I have of the universities marketing and encouraging new grads to sign up is that, for the vast, vast majority of students, they wouldn’t have applied the fairly basic concepts they learned in their degree.

So below is a check list of activities, experiences and situations that should be a minimum requirement before thinking of applying for any course-based masters.

1) Coached 2 FULL, consecutive Seasons. It doesn’t matter what level (e.g. age-group, school, club, etc.) this is at but it needs to be done and it doesn’t have to be ‘Strength & Conditioning’ coaching… Just coach!

2) Made a 16yr old boy objectively faster. It actually doesn’t really matter about the age or sex; it just matters that they improved. PS If you haven’t done this you can have no real opinion on speed.

3) Tested, analysed, programmed, implemented & re-tested, re-analysed… I recently met with a masters graduate who hadn’t run a single testing session outside of the university setting! Not one. Not even a Beep test for the local u15 football side.

4) Trialled at least 3 different training programs. Think Westside, GVT, 531, etc. It doesn’t matter which programs you put yourself through; it does matter that you know what it felt like, and that it was a minimum of 12 weeks each.

5) Spent at least 30 hours observing high performance training. This should help expose you to fresh ideas and the application of the theory you’ve been taught. The more active you are in the process (even if you’re just filling up water bottles) the better this is.

6) Trialled at least 3 different nutrition paradigms. Keto, vegan, Atkins… Who cares, just try it. Monitor how you feel? Understand any feelings of deprivation, fatigue, energy, etc.

7) Trained with & without supplements (E.g. creatine). Track the differences, both physical & psychological.

8) Trialled ice-baths, steam-baths, saunas & massage. In addition to your training and nutrition, surely you should know how you responded to these inventions before studying them further.

9) Trained so hard you vomited. Let’s be clear, any trainer can make a trainee vomit (a minute sprint on an assault bike can do the trick). Then why do it? So you can see (and understand) the games your mind will play with you at your limits.

10) Coached both an individual & a team sport. Compare and contrast the difference in constraints, cultures, attitudes and personalities.

11) Taken a Mentor out for lunch. I detest the term ‘network’ but love the idea of building and nurturing relationships. Start with someone who is at the level you’d like to be in 5 years.

It wasn’t long ago that most of our shared information was through books.

I remember when I first discovered internet groups in the 1990’s (who else was on Mel Siff’s Supertraining group? : ) where anyone could pass on information or share their experiences. While many of the group’s had moderators, the level of qualifying dropped significantly.

The uberisation of information sharing has meant that anyone (everyone?) has a voice. While there are many positives to this, there is a potentially dark side too.

Coaching Experts are offering paid internship positions, subscriptions to their private newsletters with promises of blueprints to success & exorbitantly priced workshops.

Each of these may be worthwhile, but as we know from life, one of the best ways to make money is to sell a method to make money.

I don’t worry too much if the Experienced and the Wealthy sign up, but most times it’s the Interns, the Inexperienced and Students who are targeted.

Below are 3 qualifiers you should apply to those offering advice (especially if they want to charge you!).

 

1) Minimum 10 Years FULL TIME Coaching Experience

The greatest rate of change for most Coaches is in their first 10 years.

Typically, during this time we evolve from using terms like everyone, no one, always, never, good, bad, recipe, blueprint, etc. to often answering with ‘depends’.

When we see the world in the ‘black and white’ it’s natural to have strong opinions: it’s either wrong or right.

You’ll recognise this in the blogs with titles like ‘Why everyone should weightlift’ or ‘No one should use Tabata intervals’.

However, most Coaches, as they progress start to realise that almost everything has it’s place. We think less in terms of wrong/right and more in terms of ‘For who? When? And how can we integrate this?’

In other words, we start to see and appreciate the ‘grey’.

It’s a powerful change in mindset.

If you are looking for advice and guidance you’re going to want to make sure your Advisor can see the grey.

 

2) Minimum 3 Years in at Least 2 Positions

A simple heuristic to embrace is:

Early success for an incoming Coach is due more to the change and less to the methods.

In other words, Athletes might improve their performance when a new Coach comes in because of a freshness of voice, activities or paradigms; not necessarily because the Coach is better.

Imagine the following hypothetical, over-simplified scenario:

You’re a Coach whose fitness paradigm is heavily ‘game-based’; and you take over from a Coach who had a ‘straight-line running’ mindset.

For a while the games might inject a new energy into training and there’ll be some big improvements in performance.

However, the improvement isn’t purely from the games-based approach but rather from this approach being based on a solid foundation of nowhere-to-hide, big-distances, run-till-you-vomit fitness; which, over time will dissipate.

The successful Coach will have to identify what the program is lacking and, perhaps, add some ‘straight-line running’ into their program.

Coaches who move too quickly between jobs don’t get to experience this and think their paradigm is the reason for the improvement.

They’re also not forced to reflect on plateaus in performance; nor have to adapt as the squad changes personnel or the Athletes mature; or even change their paradigms to give the Athletes what they need.

Your Advisor should go through this process at least twice to have a deeper understanding of the Coaching evolution.

 

3) Multiple (Not just 1 Athlete/Team) Successes

When we’re honest with ourselves and accept that every year one team has to win the competition (or every Olympics someone has to win the Gold), we can dig a deeper into the reasons for success of that particular team (or individual).

We can distill the ‘reasons’ for success to the essentials ingredients.

We might find that, through no merit of the Coach, their team has:

  • very few injuries
  • a perfect blend of youth and experience
  • a great tournament draw
  • a few favourable competition decisions
  • a strong, united and invisible board

This is not to disregard the success (my team’s successes in terms of premierships is just above negligible) but appreciate there are external factors to every success.

Multiple successes at different franchises, with different Athletes, over different eras and in different competitions starts to flatten out the external factors.

Find an advisor who’s had multiple success and you’ll find a Coach who has broad perspective to add to your development.

 

Conclusion

Apply these 3 qualifiers to who you seek advice from and you’ll soon see the noise levels drop and information levels rise.

The Annual Plan

One of the most important, yet neglected, procedures in athletic development is filling out the Annual Plan. This simple process should be a priority before your season even starts.

The Annual Plan is vital for one main reason:

It gets everyone on the same page. 

It is imperative your Team (e.g. Coach, Parents, Physical Trainer, Physical Therapist and Mental Coach) all understand what everyone is doing and when they are doing it.

For example, there are times to Evaluate your physical attributes (e.g. before the season starts) and times when it isn’t ideal (e.g. just before the Championships).

Another example is you will have some competitive events where you and your Coach might decide to change something (a ‘Low Priority’ event) and others where you definitely keep everything as it is (a ‘High Priority’ event).

Below are the steps required to maximise your Annual Plan and give yourself the best chance of succeeding.

Before progressing, make sure you’re clear on who your Team is (you might not have everyone in a team yet so don’t worry):

  • Head Coach
  • Secondary Coach
  • Physical Trainer
  • Physical Therapist
  • Mental Coach

Your team could also include your agent, sponsor, nutritionist or even an external ‘advisor’.

STEP 1 – Fill out ‘Week of’

Most calendars begin on January 1 but your Annual Plan is designed to start at any time.

Your first week might be the first week of preseason, or this week.

Typically it’s best to fill in the date of the Monday of that week (however, in your sport it might be different) for the sake of clarity.

STEP 2 – Fill out your Schedule

In the ‘Event’ column’ write down every event you’re planning to compete in.

This should be done with your Coach and, if they’re still involved in your athletic career, your Parents too.

STEP 3 – Assign the Priority

Not all competitive events are created equal.

In fact, some might be glorified training sessions. Others might be super important to be fresh and ready for.

Next to each event, assign an H(igh), M(edium) or L(ow) priority.

A guide to help you:

  1. H – No equipment, training or nutritional changes are made within 6 weeks of the event. Recovery begins 1 to 3 weeks out. This is the event you want to perform your best at!
  2. M – No equipment, training or nutritional changes are made in the week leading to the event. Recovery begins during that week.
  3. L – Equipment, training or nutritional changes may be made during the event. No recovery for the event; or intentionally increasing fatigue levels for the event. This is about getting your processes right!

There are a couple of guidelines to follow which might help you with assigning priority.

  1. No more than two H’s in a calendar year. So you might choose National & World Champs; or Club and State Champs.
  2. Build the pyramid. You should probably have a lot of Ls, fewer Ms and only one or two Hs on your Annual Plan. If you don’t you’re probably going to burn out.
  3. The higher the level of competition doesn’t automatically mean the priority is higher. There will be plenty of occasions where a competitor has assigned an H to the State Champs (because that is where they really want to do their best in) but only an M to National Champs (because they are just trying to gain some extra experience).

STEP 4- Weeks to Peak

Starting at your H event, write down how many weeks it is till that event. Start at 1 and the week before would be 2, the week before that would be 3, etc.

This will keep everyone’s long term goals in check; and focused on the H event.

 

STEP 5 – M.E.R.S.T.

Once you’ve organised the events of your Annual Plan it’s time to connect with other members of your Team.

Lock in MERST into your Annual Plan:

M(eetings) – Decide when you’ll catch up with them to 1) reflect and 2) to plan.

Reflection (or Review) Meetings are good to answer the following questions:

  • What did we do well?
  • What can we improve?

It should never be to blame anyone.

Planning Meetings are good to ensure everyone is moving in the same direction.

Think about planning Meetings after a High Priority event, or after a distinct part of the season: e.g. at the end of the off-season, pre-season, or in-season.

E(valuations) – These can be important tests that give your Team vital information on how strong, fit or fast you are.

Schedule an Evaluation before every big block of training. And possibly another one at the end of the block of training.

R(ecovery) – Leading into H events, or for some time afterwards it is important to plan some down time to freshen up.

S(creenings) – Your Physical Trainer, Physical Therapist or Mental Coach might want to schedule time to see how your body or mind is going. Screenings might show up some red flags that, if addressed, might help prevent you getting injured.

These are best planned after a High Priority event or before a big block of training.

T(raining) – Perhaps the most important aspect to fill out: When you are training to improve?

Tips for your Annual Plan

  1. The further ahead the plan is, the less detailed it should probably be. The closer ahead you plan, the more detailed it should be.
  2. Your Annual Plan will probably change BUT it shouldn’t change too frequently. I like to lock in the following 12 weeks and be more flexible after that.
  3. Make sure everyone in your Team has the latest copy of your Annual Plan at all times.

If you want a copy of the Annual Plan we use at PropelPerform contact us here and we’ll email you one.

As the field of Sports Science increases it is tempting to buy into the ever expanding realm of data collection and data analysis.

Intuitively it makes sense: more information must mean that we can make better decisions – which players to pick for the match, which athletes to fund in the development pathway or what load can a sports person handle without being injured.

All of these questions, and a whole lot more, are what many of us are asking every single day.

And we typically gather plenty of data trying to answer the questions.

However, this might not be the best approach, especially if you are not sure if the problem you’re trying to solve is a Puzzle or a Mystery.

I was first introduced to this distinction by Malcolm Gladwell. Below is an extract that every decision-maker should read (it was written in 2007).

 

“The national-security expert Gregory Treverton has famously made a distinction between puzzles and mysteries. Osama bin Laden‚’s whereabouts are a puzzle. We can‚’t find him because we don‚’t have enough information.
 
The key to the puzzle will probably come from someone close to bin Laden, and until we can find that source bin Laden will remain at large.
 
The problem of what would happen in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein was, by contrast, a mystery.
 
It wasn‚’t a question that had a simple, factual answer.
 
Mysteries require judgments and the assessment of uncertainty, and the hard part is not that we have too little information but that we have too much.
 
The C.I.A. had a position on what a post-invasion Iraq would look like, and so did the Pentagon and the State Department and Colin Powell and Dick Cheney and any number of political scientists and journalists and think-tank fellows.
 
For that matter, so did every cabdriver in Baghdad.
 
The distinction is not trivial.
 
If you consider the motivation and methods behind the attacks of September 11th to be mainly a puzzle, for instance, then the logical response is to increase the collection of intelligence, recruit more spies, add to the volume of information we have about Al Qaeda.
 
If you consider September 11th a mystery, though, you‚’d have to wonder whether adding to the volume of information will only make things worse…
  
Mysteries, though, are a lot murkier: sometimes the information we‚’ve been given is inadequate, and sometimes we aren‚t very smart about making sense of what we‚’ve been given, and sometimes the question itself cannot be answered.
 
Puzzles come to satisfying conclusions. Mysteries often don‚’t.”
 

If we accept Treverton’s categorisation the next step is to explore how to determine which is which.

We’d be short changing our Athletes if we mistook a Puzzle for a Mystery; and would be wasting valuable and limited resources if we made the mistake of treating a Mystery as a Puzzle. 

I have been wrestling with this for almost a decade and use the following three questions to help with my categorisation:

  1. Does the situation require a prediction?
  2. Are the entities organic or mechanical?
  3. Are the relationships (expected) to be linear or non-linear?

In my experience anything that is predictive, organic and non-linear tends to be a Mystery – more information doesn’t necessarily seem to help.

In fact, more information often seems to get in the way – it seems to confuse the issue, not clarify it. This is tough to for many of us to accept.

My experience also suggests that we have a better chance of working through mysteries when those on the team have 1) sufficient experience in the field and 2) strong relationships between the members.

The implications of the categorisation, and the characteristics of each category become fairly significant when we consider that we all work in a limited time, limited budget environment.

With scarce resources it becomes critical to determine whether one needs to invest in more information collection, storage and analysis (puzzle); or more experienced, team-orientated staff (mystery).

Summary

  • Is the problem you’re trying to solve a Puzzle or a Mystery?
  • Ask your self/team the 3 questions (Prediction? Organic? Non-linear?)
  • Direct resources to data collection, storage & analysis OR surround yourself with the best team you can afford.

I have received a number of emails from S&C Coaches who realise that they are not being paid what they are worth.

The sense of frustration is compounded by the fact that the same organisations are paying higher rates for their physiotherapists and other staff.

While our collective profession should be pushing the standard of pay up, here are some things to explore when it comes to negotiating your take home package.

Facilities

Chances are the organisation will be open to you using their facilities during the down times of the day, week and training year, especially since there is no hard cost to them.

If you consider that commercial gyms in Australia can charge their personal trainers between AUS$200-$400 per week you are potentially adding $10,000 to $20,000 to your contract.

Think about using the facilities for some personal training or for holding presentations and courses.

Title Change

My fundamental belief regarding job titles is best summed up when I apologized to a highly ranked army official for using the incorrect title.

He replied “Don’t worry, those who care do not matter, and those who matter do not care.”

Of course, there are people who are legitimately living up to the titles.

It’s just unfortunate that there are many who aren’t actually ‘Directing’, ‘Managing’ or ‘High Performance’.

Regardless, there are decision makers to whom this makes a difference and that decision maker might be interviewing you for your next position.

In consultation with your organisation, look to ‘upgrade’ your title (ensuring it does reflect your roles).

Sponsors

Can you tap into the organisation’s sponsors? Can you negotiate for extra contra?

Airline sponsor? Free tickets? Free miles? Lounge passes?

Clothing sponsor? Extra casual clothes?

Supplements?

You get the idea.

While none of the suggestions mentioned above ‘pay the bills’ they do contribute to your overall package, especially if you are already paying for what the sponsors offers.

What about training the sponsor’s CEO and management? Or doing corporate bootcamps for them? While it may not be your ideal way to spend your time, the money you earn doing theses could be vastly more than your entire contact.

Professional Development (Paid)

[Before discussing PD, remember that most people in charge of a budget are very protective of their piece of authority and often fail to see the big picture.

So if you are able tap into another budget (even though it all essentially comes from the same place) you are more likely to have success.]

Since your organisation will almost definitely have a ‘Coaching Budget’ and a ‘PD Budget’ there will be less apprehension to explore this option.

In fact, this is a great conversation to have with your organisation as it shows that you are looking to improve, while at the same time, they are actually investing into their own program.

Think about attending the annual Coaching Conference, adding extra skills by attending seminars or workshops.

Remember, you can potentially use the Sponsors to help out.

Hotel sponsor? They can provide their accommodation. Car rental sponsor? There is your transport while you’re away.

A great knock-on effect is that your organisation looks good by having a representative at that course/seminar/conference.

Make sure you write a detailed report, with plenty of take home messages, about your experience and share it with those that helped you get there.

Professional Development (Free)

PD doesn’t have to be a paid experience. In fact, many of my most valuable learning opportunities were free: observing, interacting and having a coffee with people far more knowledgeable or experienced than I am.

Sometimes, though, it’s tough to get in contact with those people you want to spend some time with.

However, it’s amazing how small the Coaching and High Performance worlds are. We’re all probably one, maybe two, connections from each other.

Use this to your advantage by finding out who the other people in the organisation are connected to and leverage that.

Besides, you’re more likely to get that experience if you have a shared connection rather than just ‘cold calling’.

Many teams and clubs have ‘feeder teams’ (think AA, AAA, etc. in baseball) and if you happen to be a feeder team to another professional team then use this link to your full advantage.

They should be glad to have you on board – you’re working with the players that will populate their teams in a few years – and will probably open their doors for you.

Build Your Presence

Whether it’s social media, regular media, or the organisation’s newsletter, there are channels to explore that might increase your value by building your ‘presence’.

Sure, none of the examples add to the ‘bottom line’ but as we all know: It’s not what you know… It’s not who you know… It’s who knows you.

Write It In

Once you have agreed to terms, ensure that these terms are written down.

They are part of your contract and should be treated in the same manner as the financial aspects.

If you have any other ideas, please comment below or email them through.

The Anti-Fragile Kid

Most of us have a fairly good understanding of the term ‘fragile’ – something that is easily broken when stress (also known as volatility, chaos or disorder) is applied to it. Glass or a china tea cup are often offered as examples.

When we think of the opposite of fragile the two most common suggestions are usually ‘robust’ or ‘resilient’.

While these terms are in the right direction they are not really the opposite of fragile. Robust/resilient means they aren’t ‘easily’ broken but they will break with enough stress.

Nassim Taleb proposes ‘anti-fragile’ is the opposite of fragile.

Anti-fragility occurs when stress increases the strength of the subject.

Wait, what??? Isn’t stress bad? What gets stronger with stress?

We do.

In fact, my income is mostly based on the fact that humans are anti-fragile: I apply a stress (often with a barbell, dumbbell or medicine ball) to an athlete and when they return a few days later they’re stronger and I apply an even greater stress.

So what does this have to do with being a Parent of a young Athlete? Why are we discussing this on a Athletic Preparation website?

Simple. Many of our (remember, I am a Parent too) well-intentioned actions, that come from a place of love, are making our kids increasingly fragile:

  • We wake them up for morning training (and then check on them if they’re not up after a few minutes).
  • We pack their bags (and rush to school if they left something behind)
  • We buy, prepare and cook all their meals for them.
  • We tidy up after them.
  • We speak to the Coach after they’ve been dropped and demand they be re-selected.
  • We drop them off, and pick them up, right in front of the school/training gates and we’re stressed if we’re a few minutes late (can’t have them waiting around!).

Each of the examples above will expose the fragility of our kids when a stress is applied.

The stressor may be we’re running late because a work meeting went over time… Or the another sibling is sick and we have to stay at home with them… Or the car is getting serviced… Or traffic is bad… Or life just gets in the way.

The key is to recognise the potential for these problems and to slide our kid from the Fragile end of the continuum, through Robust/Resilient to Anti-Fragile.

For example, if we’re running late to pick them up from training:

  • a Fragile kid: Meltdown, tears, didn’t know what to do.
  • a Robust kid: Went back to the club house and sat in a well- lit area with the Coach.
  • an Anti-Fragile kid: Found a safe area to do their homework.

See how the anti-fragile kid comes out better for the experience? The stressor (you being late) has strengthened them (they’ve finished their homework).

Following, we’re going to explore shifting our kids along the continuum in four distinct domains:

  • Transport
  • Nutrition
  • Chores (around the house)
  • Consequences

Transport

The response of your child to you being late or unable to pick them up from training is obviously age-dependent, so below are some suggestions that might be applicable to your situation to improve your child’s anti-fragility.

  1. Contact details – Children should know their Parents mobile numbers. Until you’re confident in their memory skills, a laminated business card with phone number which is easily accessible should be in the school and sport bags.
  2. Home address – Teach them the address and some landmarks they may use to help a trusted friend drive them home.
  3. Safe places – Identify somewhere safe they should wait if you’re late. Give them a task (e.g. finish your homework).
  4. Money – Each of their bags should have a few bucks that can help them pay for a taxi, uber or public transport.
  5. Bike skills – It may start off with you riding with them on the way to training and then on the way back. Make sure they have opportunities to lead you home (not just follow). They might not always have to take their bikes but it give them another option. 
  6. Public transport – On an uneventful day (e.g. Sunday), take public transport to and from training with them. Make sure they buy the tickets/card, etc. Even doing this once will build their confidence.
  7. Friendly rides – Identify which Parents/Coaches they may ask for a ride back to home.

Nutrition

How does your child respond during when they’re hungry and you’re not available to provide food for them?

  • a Fragile kid: Goes hungry, or worse, goes to McDonalds.
  • a Robust kid: Has a healthy snack (biltong, nuts, etc.)
  • an Anti-Fragile kid: Prepares dinner for the family.

They don’t have to be able to create a 3 course, 5-star meal; they just need to be able sustain themselves. Some basic shopping, preparing and cooking skills can go a long way in building independence.

  1. Take them shopping – Of course, shopping with kids will often double the time it takes to do the job but it needs to be done. Send them on small tasks (e.g. ‘get the milk’) so they’re at least get an understanding of the lay out of a typical supermarket.
  2. Get them to unpack – Learning which foods should go in the fridge (almost all over them!) and which go into the pantry is part of the process.
  3. Involve them in the prep – Very young? Ask them to wash the veggies. Older? Get them to chop the onions. Early teen? They’re in charge of the salad. Late teen? Thursday nights they’re in charge of the whole meal.
  4. Family BBQ – Firstly, it’s outside so there’s less mess. Secondly, it’s hard to stuff up, so giving them the task of cooking the meat is a great way to build their confidence.
  5. Teach them to cook – Some essentials kids should start off with:
  • Eggs (highly nutritious, can be prepared multiple ways and are delicious);
  • Mince and Veggies (melt butter, add garlic and onions, add mince meat, add frozen veggies and maybe a sauce);
  • Stir Fry (similar to previous);
  • Smoothie (make sure this doesn’t just become a sugar hit).

 Chores

Often we use the excuse our kids are so busy that it’s unfair to add more work to their daily schedule yet we are probably robbing them of opportunity to learn to contribute to society, build self discipline and responsibility.

The key here is to start small and build gradually.

Some basic chores every child should be completing is:

  1. A Chore Board. A visible board (e.g. on the fridge) with everyone’s duties that can be ticked off each day/week.
  2. Share them. Divide the chores amongst the family and have a (weekly?) rotation. This way, no one is stuck with the worst one(s) for too long.
  3. All in. Rewards or fun activities can only be done when ALL siblings have done ALL chores. Eliminate yourself as the ‘bad person’ and use ‘positive’ peer pressure to get the results you want.

Consequences

The easiest way to ensure your kid is fragile is to eliminate the consequences to their actions.

  • When they get bad grades due to lack of study, do you meet with the Department Head and blame the teacher?
  • When they’re dropped from the team, do you tell your kid it’s ‘all politics’?
  • When they’ve left their PE clothes at home, do you drop everything you’ve planned and rush to get it to them?

Each time we perform similar actions to the ones listed above we’re making our kids increasingly fragile.

Eventually they’ll be in a place where you (the sports agent, manager or Coach) can’t remove the consequence and that’s where their fragility will be exposed. And chances are, it’ll be too late.

So start introducing consequences as soon as possible into their lives. Start when the consequences are ‘inconsequential’.

  • When they’ve slept through their alarm clock? They can buy a second one.
  • When they forget their tennis racquet? They can pick up balls for the session.
  • When their grades drop? There’s less socialising for the next few weeks.

In the big scheme of things these consequences are nothing but little lessons that our actions (or inactions) matter. They’ll teach ownership and help keep our kids grounded.

Conclusion

No one wants their child to be fragile; yet there is a real possibility that we unintentionally cause this very thing.

Life is full of stress, chaos, disorder and volatility. We can either protect our kids from this for as long as possible (and probably feel good about ourselves) and accept they’ll be fragile in the long-term.

Or, we can prepare them for life.

One key thing to remember is your child isn’t a swimmer, BMXer, tennis player or athlete… They are a person who should grow into a valuable member of society.

That’s the long-term view and should help us keep perspective.

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