I’ve never seen a great Coach who is rated low on Congruency.

On the flip side, it is possible to have high levels of Congruency and still not be a great Coach.

Before I expand on the definition of Congruency, below are a few examples of (superficial) Non-Congruency:

  • The overweight dietitian
  • The unfit Personal Trainer
  • The Financial Advisor who still lives in his parent’s basement
  • The Developmental Coach who is well-known for her partying habits

If, while reading the list above, you felt a disconnect between the professional and the terms describing the professional, you already have an understanding of Congruency (or, in this case, Non-Congruency).

Congruency is a term I use to assess the alignment of a Coach’s dialogue, actions and methods: are they all pointing in the same direction?

In my experience, Coaches rated highly on this scale typically have high levels of ‘buy-in’ from their Athletes, are usually well respected and their Athletes enjoy their training.

It is important to note that a high rating of Congruency doesn’t automatically guarantee Coaching success or longevity. Being able to connect with, motivate or discipline our Athletes; understanding the sport, training & preparation may all have a greater role to play.

On the other hand, Coaches who rate poorly (or are Non-Congruent) often have Athletes that are frustrated with low levels of engagement.

Sure, these Coaches might have high levels of technical, tactical or physical knowledge, but it doesn’t seem to matter too much as they often lose their Athletes fairly early on.

Below are some suggestions and tips on how to improve your Congruency.

Look the Part

While studying, one of my best mates and I worked the floor in a commercial gym.

It’d be fair to say he resembled Adonis a lot more than I did (and do). And it was noticeable how many guys would walk straight past me to ask him his advice on lifting (I got asked the ‘endurance’ questions).

This is the most superficial level of Congruency.

It’s what Boards & CEO’s fall for when they hire the Superstar former Player as a Coach. It plays a large part in ‘Broscience’ world – he’s big, so he must know what he’s talking about. It’s why these Instagram models are raking in the cash, selling shitty programs to gullible followers.

But ‘Looking the Part’ is a valuable asset, especially to young Coaches who cannot rely solely on past results or a reputation.

It gives initial buy-in to the Athletes… And that is definitely a better place to be when starting with a new team or Athlete.

Of course, as our experience grows, this aspect of Congruency becomes less important; partly because we’re older and not expected to be as fit/strong/in shape and partly because we should have sufficient results on the board that speak for themselves.

Act the Part (aka Walk the Walk)

If we’re asking our Athletes to cut back on carbs but constantly have a can of coke in our hands; or tell them to respect the officials while we perform like a pork chop on the sidelines; or expect them to be disciplined on the field but we can’t even start training on time we’re not demonstrating high levels of Congruency.

If, however, we too cut back on carbs, respect the officials or are disciplined in our approach we, firstly, give them an example to follow: This is how you do it. The subtext to our actions is ‘we’re doing it so you have no excuse’.

Secondly, we can increase our empathy. Understanding what it is like during those first few days of low-carb (mine was a full two weeks) headaches and grumpiness; understanding the restraint required to not blow up at an official or understanding what time management skills are necessary to be prepared on time allow us to help them through the journey.

In other words: Want disciplined Athletes? Demonstrate discipline! Want prepared Athletes? Demonstrate preparedness! Want…. You get the point.

Can the Coach in the video below ask his players to be disciplined on the court? (Thanks to Jorge Carvajal for posting this).

 

Do what we Say we’ll Do

Promise we’ll call them? Send them that article? Organise that sponsorship? Play them in that position?

Well, we’d better do it.

Promising and not delivering is a sure way to decrease our Congruency; as well as eroding trust between our Athletes and us.

An alternative approach to ‘do what we say we’ll do’ is to ‘Under Promise and Over Deliver’, an attitude many of the Great Coaches seem to embrace.

Finish what we Start

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t take long for our Athletes to start rolling their eyes when we introduce another ‘innovation’ – them knowing full well that after a few weeks it’ll disappear.

Whether it’s monthly leadership meetings or Athlete-driven training sessions or written report cards…

If it was important enough to include it, it should be important enough to continue it.

 

Conclusion

Congruency is the alignment of a Coach’s dialogue, actions & methods.

It doesn’t guarantee success, and isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of coaching but it is something many of my mentors and other great Coaches tend to exhibit.

To improve your levels of Congruency, think about:

  1. Looking the Part
  2. Acting the Part
  3. Doing what you say you’ll do
  4. Finishing what you start

If you have any thoughts, comments or questions please contact me here or leave a note in the section below.

While writing this article (titled Gurus v Mentors) I facetiously asked the Twitterverse this:

 

 

Below are some of the responses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to those that responded : )

PS To read the original article, click here.

My disdain for those that position themselves as Gurus usually manifests quite passively – I just ignore them.

However, as I feel my social responsibility grow, it has become apparent that there are certain groups of people (think: young coaches, impressionable parents and developmental athletes) that need guidance to ensure their ‘hard earned’ isn’t handed over to the (usually self-proclaimed) Guru.

Below are some heuristics to help you decide if you’re being advised by a Mentor or are following another Guru.

  • Gurus create Disciples They see themselves as a messiah, giving their followers a ‘mission’ to spread their word.
  • Mentors create Mentees They will offer guidance but encourage the Mentee to think for themselves. A ‘show you where to look, not what to see’ approach.

 

  • Gurus say ‘Follow Me’ And then create a ‘us versus them’ mentality.
  • Mentors say ‘Create your own path’ And ‘I’ll be there when you need me’.

 

  • Gurus focus on the differences Being ‘revolutionary’ allows them to charge more.
  • Mentors focus on the similarities For example, in strength training there are effectively only 3 methods: Maximal Effort, Dynamic Effort and Repetition Effort. The rest is marketing.

 

  • Gurus are only comfortable if you’re behind them If you’re the messiah, and others pass you, you’re no longer the messiah.
  • Mentors are excited for you to surpass them They have a ‘Pay it Forward‘ mentality.

 

  • A Guru will charge you A Guru’s reward is extrinsic – watching their bank account grow.
  • A Mentor will invest in you A Mentor’s reward is intrinsic – watching you grow.

 

  • Gurus give you Rules Black or white. Right or wrong. No middle ground.
  • Mentors suggest Principles After years of experience, they understand that life is more grey than most appreciate.

 

  • Gurus advertise themselves You know the picture: shirt off, mostly barefoot, ‘look what my program did for me’.
  • Mentees advertise their Mentor Whether it’s social media, their own website or word of mouth…

 

  • Question the Guru and you’ll be blocked or vilified Sometimes you’ll be both… Often by their disciples.
  • Question the Mentor and you’ll be praised And if they don’t have the answer they’ll sure as hell go find it

 

Hopefully these heuristics will help you decide who you should be taking advice from.

And hopefully some Gurus will pull their head in.

In High Performance Sport, it is not uncommon to hear about players undergoing physical testing. It often involves some type of speed, endurance and strength tests. These tests are performed after approximately 6 to 8 weeks, and are used to assess both the athlete’s improvement and the effectiveness of the program.

This philosophy works well in many sports, especially those with a genuine, and substantial, off-season. Tennis, however, is set up very differently. Players, even junior players, can easily enter up to 40 tournaments a year. There is very seldom a block of time that lasts the required 6 to 8 weeks for the program to take effect. And what happens when you have reached the end of that time period and the player has not improved as much as planned? What then?

At the National Academy Queensland (NAQ) the program is set up slightly differently. While we do have scheduled comprehensive testing dates, there is a greater emphasis on ‘tracking’ – performing exercises on a regular (weekly) basis that we believe show us how the player and the program are working.

While these tests might not all be valid and reliable in a scientific context, we have found them to be a great indicator of improvement on court. This article has been written after almost 4 years of working with some of the best junior players coming out of Australia.

The exercises we have chosen are listed below, with a short brief on how and why we use them.

Height & Weight

Working with developmental players we have found that tracking height and weight adds valuable information into the training programs. During growth spurts volume and/or intensity is reduced, and there might be a change in expectation in progression.

Since we know that we are taller in the morning, and shrink slightly during the day, we take height measurements as late in the day as possible. It is never recorded until a decent warm up, mobility, and gym or tennis session have been completed.

Due to daily fluctuations of weight we have found that taking weight more than once a week is unnecessary. We also only record to the nearest 100 grams.

Vertical Jump

Experience has shown that the Vertical Jump (VJ), or counter-movement jump, is an effective test to evaluate athleticism – the higher the VJ, the better the athlete. We have also found that improvements in the VJ have lead to coaches reporting that the player is a ‘better athlete’ or is ‘moving better’.

The VJ can also be used to evaluate fatigue. A sudden drop off of more than 10% may be an indicator that the player is slightly overtrained (or, more correctly, overreached). This is not necessarily a bad thing – often programs are designed with the intent of fatiguing the player, and then later to freshen them up. Just make sure that the expected VJ result mirrors the true VJ result.

We aim to have all our players reaching their Personal Bests (PBs) leading into their most important events.

Triple Hop

From a standing start, the player hops as far as they can 3 times. The distance from their toe (from the start) to their heel (3rd landing) is recorded. This is performed at least 3 times on each leg.

We are fortunate to perform this on a sprung gymnastics mat. This stresses the developmental bodies less than a hard surface, like concrete or a court. Rubber matting also works well, as does a flat grass surface.

The information collected should be in centimetres. We round off to the lower 5cm – i.e. if you jump 524cm it is recorded as 520cm – to reduce the human (eyesight) errors that might occur.

This is a great evaluation tool because it is not only used to assess performance and show bilateral deficits, it can also be used in a return from injury manner.

Take the case of an injury to the lower limb, or even the back. The coaching and rehab staff has access to the distance the player was hopping within a week of the injury. They will also have the player’s PB. Using this data, they can set some comprehensive goals and guidelines for the player. For example, they might say that the player can only return to hitting once their Triple Hop (TH) is equal to 60% of their PB; and return to match-play conditions when their TH is 90% of their PB.

All this information can be used to help the injured/recovering player return to full fitness.

Chin Ups

At the NAQ a ‘chin up’ is defined as having a supinated grip, while the ‘pull up’ has a pronated grip.

We use the chin up in our Tracking so that we can compare our youngest members of the academy with the older, stronger players.

We use the chin up to evaluate the strength of the ‘pulling muscles’. It also seems to correlate quite highly with speed too, probably due to the fact they are both related to relative strength (i.e. the ability to exert force in relation to body mass).

Some of our best performers in the chin ups have been our best performers on court:

–              Jason Kubler, age 15,  (former ITF No. 1) – 24

–              Ash Barty, 15,  (Junior Wimbledon Champion) – 13

–              Naiktha Bains, 13, (National u16 Champion) – 17

–              Priscilla Hon , 13, (National u14 Champion) – 18

30 Second Push Ups

The 30 Second Push is used to evaluate the power, strength and endurance of the ‘pushing muscles’. The weaker the player, the more this is a ‘strength’ test. For example, a player who can only perform 5 push ups, this is a test of strength.

As a player’s strength improves it shifts towards a power-endurance test.

We perform this test with the player’s hands gripping a barbell, which is lying on the floor. The idea behind this is that the stronger players actually pull themselves towards the barbell in an effort to increase their reps.

Just before Jason was transitioned to the AIS program, he was clocking over 40 push ups in the 30 seconds!

Other Evaluations

Over time, and depending on the ages of our academy players, we have also used the deadlift (with a trap bar) for 3 reps; the bench press for 3 reps; and a 1.3km run to track our players’ improvements. These tests have had some correlation with improvement on court, though not as strongly as the aforementioned tests.

You’ll notice that that the Tracking protocols are easy to perform and have limited equipment. They are also easy to record. This means that a coach or academy can monitor a large number of players in a very short time.

Good luck with implementing this, and if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.

How much training should my child be doing?

The above is a common question that is asked, debated and pondered by Coaches and Parents a like.

The short answer is either ‘we don’t know’ or ‘it depends’.

In other words, we seem to have some ‘grey’ answers for a ‘black and white’ question.

Some of the variables that might affect the answer include:

  1. Chronological age (how old are they?)
  2. Training age (how long have they been doing the sport?)
  3. Physical maturation age (do they have adult features or are they yet to reach puberty?)
  4. Emotional maturation age (is their reaction to a situation congruent with their age?)
  5. Mental maturation age (how well can they process information?)
  6. Peak Height Velocity (are they going through a growth spurt?)
  7. Injury history (how has their body responded to their training)

Unfortunately ‘it depends’ doesn’t suffice when we are looking to make actual decisions, so before we explore some answers let’s first acknowledge some of the consequences of doing too much too soon.

 

Dangers of Early Specialisation

The American Medical Society of Sports Medicine considers sport specialisation “as an intensive, year-round training in a single sport at the exclusion of other sports”.

While there may be some initial gains in performance for the young Athlete by specialising early, there are a range of potential negative consequences that may arise:

  • Increased risk of burn out
  • Increased risks of overuse injuries
  • Decreased performance (possibly due to overtraining)

So looking at the research, what ‘Take Home’ answers can we provide?

 

1 Hour per Year of Age per Week

No more than 1 hour per year of age per week. For example, an 11 year old tennis player shouldn’t be training for their sport for more than 11 hours per week.

While some Coaches and Federations think of this as an approximation, in my experience, this is the upper limit: ‘No more than 1 Hour per Year of Age per Week’.

This includes every minute of every session that is geared to improve that particular sport: home stretching program, gym training, running, etc.

If, on the other hand, they are running in the school cross-country race because they enjoy it and it’s not to improve their (‘primary’) sport, then go for it.

 

1 Day off a Week

A mental and physical break, this is also known as a Sport Free Day, this needs to be locked in.

No training, recovery, stretching… Even aim for no sport-specific discussions!

A suggestion is to aim for that day to be a Sunday, however, if Sundays are usually when that sport holds a tournament, race or competition, choose another day.

A second suggestion is to earmark another day during the week that can be used as a ‘Back Up’ sport free day (often a Friday).

The Back Up comes in handy during periods of stress (e.g. school exams), when tournaments, races, competitions or camps are held on the proposed Sport Free Day or if there are any other signs of overtraining.

 

A 1:2 ratio of Free Play* v Organised Sports

Think of it this way: for every hour the child plays (actively, outside – not with any form of TV, laptop, tablet or phone screen), Earns them the Right to have two hours of adult-led coaching.

For example, if our hypothetical 11-year old tennis player is to have 11 hours of coaching and training per week, they should be accumulating at least 5.5 hours of free play through games like tag & touch football & backyard cricket & skateboarding & red rover & force ‘em backs & hopscotch etc. with their siblings or mates every week!

In fact, there is a suggestion that the tennis players who ‘made it’ spent twice as much time practicing without a Coach than they did with a Coach.

This makes sense to those of us who believe that ‘ownership’ and ‘independence’ may have a role to play in future success.

It also makes sense to those of us who understand the detriments of repetitive movements on young bodies.

So instead of filling your Child’s week with training sessions, apply the Earn the Right Principle: for every hour they practice, play or compete by themselves (note: totally self driven!) they can have a Coach for two hours.

[Please note: this is not a contract with the young Athlete, rather the mindset of a responsible adult.]

 

Lock in the S&C

This study suggests “all youth should be involved in periodised Strength and Conditioning”.

Depending on the 7 variables above, most children should have between 1 to 3 Strength & Conditioning sessions per week that are included in their weekly workload maximum.

The goal of these sessions should be multifaceted: enhance movement quality; improve resilience to stresses; decrease risks of injury; and decrease ‘imbalances’ and should include jumping, running, pushing, pulling, throwing, hopping, squatting, lunging, bracing and any other movement you can think of!

Remember the process is 1) Build a healthy Person; 2) Build a healthy Athlete and then 3) Build a healthy Sportsperson.

Too many Coaches are interested in the Sportsperson phase when they should be focussing on the initial phases.

The temptation, especially during or just after stressful periods, (e.g. a National Championships) is to drop the S&C sessions, when in fact, these should underpin the program.

 

Putting it Altogether

Step 1: Decide on the Upper Limit of Weekly Training (no more than 1hr/year/week).

Step 2: Lock in the Sport Free Day (and pencil in the Back Up day – the one that training on that day can easily be cancelled).

Step 3: Estimate the hours of Free Play (remember the definition?). Double that to calculate the hours of Coached sessions.

Step 4: Prioritise the Strength & Conditioning

Step 5: Give it 6 weeks and Revaluate

And if there was another step: Just make sure you’re surrounded by people who don’t put their egos ahead of any Athlete.

*Free Play is defined as “freely chosen, personally directed, and intrinsically motivated, i.e. performed for no external goal or reward”.

 

Further Reading

Read enough popular books, blogs and magazines on fitness and you’ll inevitably stumble across a piece on goal setting. Much of the information presented is correct – make them measurable, specific and have a timeline. So far, so good.

There is another well-intentioned tip to help you achieve said goal: tell people about what you want to achieve.

The idea behind this tip is to hold you accountable. In other words, by telling your friends, family and work colleagues your ambitions they will motivate you and keep you on track if you start to deviate.

While this sounds good in theory, a recent study proposes that this is not the case. In fact, the researchers suggest that the opposite is true – those who told others their goals were less likely to achieve them.

Initially this does not make sense – surely the more people who know what your goal is the more help, guidance and motivation you can get? And no one wants to be seen as a failure, correct?

Psychology Professor Peter Gollwitzer would disagree. He is the primary author of the article ‘When intentions go public: does social reality widen the intention-behaviour gap?’ According to his research, people who keep their intentions to themselves are more likely to achieve their goals than those who announce them.

Our brains struggle to differentiate between ‘reality’ and ‘imaginary’, and also between ’talking’ and ‘doing’. It seems that when we tell someone what we want to do, and they acknowledge it, we start to feel good about it. We also feel that we are already closer to our goals than we are. These good feelings diminish the drive to pursue the goal and we quit sooner than we would have.

So next time you set yourself a goal, keep it to yourself and bask in the glory once you have achieved it, not before.

Did I save their program under ‘Bill’ or ‘William’, “Peggy’ or “Margaret’? Were those testing results from this preseason or the last preseason? Was that a ‘physical test’ or a ‘physical screen’?

One of the characteristics of good coaches is that they reflect. They reflect on their interventions; on their programs; on where they succeeded and where they let the team down.

And part of that reflection revolves around trawling the data they collected.

However, it can become very frustrating, very quickly if one doesn’t have a system for saving that data.

To help prevent you from having to undergo the same frustrations I thought I’d share my ‘system’ – nothing special, but it does work.

Filenames should have 3 aspects: Type of file, (sur)name of the athlete and the date.

 

Types of Files

This is not whether it is a Word or Excel file but rather whether it is a ‘Testing’, ‘Screening’ or ‘Program’ file.

These three simple categories can already help save time when you want to retrieve the files.

Obviously one could add further categories (Psych, Medical, etc.) or break each category down further (In-season, Pre-, etc.)

Name of the Athlete (Where applicable)

Tip: The surname of the athlete is the key!

When you have worked with large squads, trying to remember whether it was saved under ‘Bobby’ or ‘Roberta’ can be an avoidable aggravation, especially since your computer is unlikely to list them close to each other.

MORE: 10,000 Hours – Don’t throw the baby out…

On the other hand, if the files are saved with the surname first, one can quickly find the file they’re looking for.

Oh, and don’t use nicknames! Particularly if there is a possibility of sharing the files with colleagues

 

The Date

While using the date is not uncommon, it is important to realise that there is a specific format with which to write the date: YYMMDD.

Every time! Grouping the files that were saved on the 15th of the month is seldom more beneficial than grouping the files that were saved in the same year.

Knowing your computer will order the files numerically means the file saved on July 14th, 2013 (with the filename: 140713) would be listed after the file saved on December 10th, 2013 (101213).

So change the above-mentioned files to: 130714 and 131210, save time and hassle.

In conclusion, all good coaches make the time to reflect on the coaches. Make this process easier by having the information that has been collected stored in a simple, systematic manner: Type Surname YYMMDD.

At the time of writing this, twelve of my BMXers are away this week for the National Championships and two of my Mountain Bikers are preparing for the last leg of the National Series (and the National Champs three weeks later) I thought I’d post some thoughts on the week leading into the Big Event (race, tournament, competition, final, match or game).

As regular readers of this blog would know, we keep things simple and basic at PropelPerform, and in the week leading to the Big Event we make sure our training and recovery maintains that theme.

 

1) The closer to the Big Event you are, the More you can do to Lose and the Less you can do to Win. 

Just as we know that a great performance is seldom off the back of one training session or one pre-race speech, so we also know that it is the accumulation of many decisions and efforts that lead to great performances.

In the week leading up to the Big Event there isn’t enough time or opportunity to amass that critical amount of quality work to positively affect your performance.

On the other hand, there is plenty time and opportunities to cause a decrement in performance.

Injuries, over-reaching in an attempt to ‘catch up’, or under recovery can all result in decreasing your performance ability.

The long and the short of it is you’re going to have to accept that the work you have done is enough and you’re going to have to stick to the plan.

 

2) Performance = Fitness – Fatigue

Imagine a marathon runner the day before their Big Event: they’d have high levels of Fitness (months and months of training) and low levels of Fatigue (following a good taper).

Hopefully they’d perform well.

Now imagine the day after that Big Event: their levels of Fitness wouldn’t have changed, they’d still be high; however, their levels of Fatigue would have increased substantially!

So you’re not going to get Fitter in that last week – Fitness is said to be slow-changing.

But you can get Fresher – reducing your training workload, improving your quality of sleep,

As a general rule, we aim to maintain Frequency (i.e. train close to the same number of sessions per week); maintain Intensity (i.e. we still go hard or fast) but we drop Volume (i.e. how long, far or much we do in that week).

 

3) Nothing New

No matter what the claims are of any intervention, if you haven’t used it over many weeks of training you shouldn’t use it now.

During the lead up to the Big Event is not the time to experiment.

This should apply to all your nutrition (especially including supplements and stimulants), your training exercises, your warm ups and your routines.

So even if your breakfast isn’t recognised as a great option, now isn’t the time to change it. If you normally sleep-in now isn’t the time to add a morning stretching session. If you understand the benefits of a supplement/stimulant (e.g. caffeine) but haven’t used it to improve performance, wait till your next big block of training.

 

4) Minimise Stress

The Big Event is going to be stressful enough as it is, so don’t add to this stress.

Flights – Book your flights so you arrive with enough time to adjust to the time zone. Allow for delays. Plan to arrive at the airport early. Book a transfer service for your arrival.

Equipment – Pack extras of everything. Courier some extra equipment in the weeks leading to the Big Event. Swap some of your equipment with some others you’re travelling with so, in the event your bags get lost, you’ll still have access to some of your equipment in those first few days.

Accommodation – Get the best and closest you can afford, a quiet, comfortable room is worth it. It’s usually best to have a kitchenette in the room so you can prepare your own food and keep your routine. Ask for a room that is furtherest from the elevators or high-traffic areas. Take your own pillow.

Food – re-read point 3!

EOTC is a series of reflections, thoughts, anecdotes and growth spurts that have occurred in my coaching career.

Some of these will show wholesale changes in direction while others might just be a continuing refinement.

Hopefully you can either learn something or identify from this evolution.

 

From Highly Recognised to Highly Valued (Or Extrinsic to Intrinsic) 

Up until 2007 (ish) every professional decision I made was geared to working in the SuperRugby or NRL (Rugby league) comps.

Part of this was due to loving both sports but I would not be able to refute the proposition that I wanted it as some form of recognition, a form of validation if you will.

Reflecting honestly, I think it might have been driven by the fact there is media hype (though I haven’t chased this), or maybe because of the relatively small number of teams and positions create an aura of exclusivity… Whatever the underlying desire, the point was it was an ego-driven goal.

In other words, the goal was extrinsically motivated.

Accepting a job working with Tennis players deviated from my goals but challenged my coaching (no clearly defined off-, pre- and in seasons; a skill dominant sport; individual; huge travel component; etc.) and I enjoyed it more than I expected.

As I grew and matured as a Coach, that previously mentioned desire, that ego-driven aspiration to be recognised morphed into an appreciation to contribute.

I realised the it didn’t matter who I was working with, or what the program looked like, it mattered that they (the Patients, Clients or Athletes) achieved their goals.

Helping a housewife lose weight, or a businessman recover from plantar fasciitis, or working with club rugby gives me the same intrinsic joy.

While the planning might not be as detailed, I am fortunate to get my ‘high performance’ challenges through the Athlete preparation side of the business (PropelPerform will have at least 6 Athletes representing Australia in their respective World Championships in the following 4 months). 

So when people ask me to work with an Athlete, organisation or family member my first response is ‘I am happy to work with anyone who wants to work with me’.

Intrinsically satisfying.

No ego (well, maybe, less ego)… : )

For parents, the instinct to provide our children with ‘every available opportunity’, while admirable, may inadvertently be impeding their desire to achieve.

Think of this desire to achieve as a thirst. And as soon as that thirst is quenched, so is the desire.

This is captured in the oft-used quote in athlete development circles:

The easiest way to ensure a young athlete never makes it is to make them feel like they already have.

In over 15 years over of working with young athletes, I have seen this too many times.

Coaches are not blameless either.

In an effort to appear ‘professional’ we over-cater, we pamper, we end up softening those aspirations.

One way to prevent this from happening is to adopt the ‘Earn the Right’ principle.

This principle ensures the athlete only receives that which they have worked for.

In other words, they work for it first and receive it second.

Below are some common examples of the Earn the Right principle in practice.

Supplements

Almost every teenage boy, with a slight interest in physical fitness, wants to take supplements.

Many times they are researching what products they want and pressuring parents to buy them before they have trained more than a handful of times.

My athletes still have to ‘earn the right’ to use them.

The first thing to understand is that the first few months, even years, of training will garner improvements with or without supplements.

For athletes over the age of fifteen my ‘earn the right’ principle is that they must adhere to the following:

  • Get your diet sorted first
  • At least forty weeks of two times week training per year for two years. (This is in addition to the sport they are training for)
  • No fast food for at least two months prior to buying the supplements
  • Eat fast food and they are off the supplements

Private (or extra) training

Some kids want to have some personal training or extra coaching and it may seem like a good idea to give it to them.

If they are paying for it then that is fine.

If you’re paying for it then I suggest they ‘Earn the Right’ by:

  • Training and practicing by themselves (research suggests that athletes that ‘make it’ spend twice as much time training without a coach than those who don’t ‘make it)
  • Researching (think: Google, YouTube, etc.) how to improve on their own
  • Hanging out with older and more experienced athletes in an effort to learn as much as possible

The above-mentioned actions demonstrate that the young athlete is craving more, and not just because ‘mum and dad are paying for it’ but because it is their deep-seated desire to progress.

New equipment

It’d be naive to suggest that young athletes do not suffer from envy.

This can be particularly true in sport where equipment is expensive and there is a definite hierarchy in name brands.

However, at the developmental level, rarely is equipment a factor in improvement.

Dedicated practice, total engagement, owning their training and the ability to ‘hang in there’ are far greater factors.

So in the case of wanting new equipment, they need to be showing definite actions of maximising the preceding four characteristics before an upgrade in equipment is even mentioned.

Take Homes…

While we may want to help every step of the way, it is better for our kids and athletes if we apply the ‘Earn the Right’ principle.

In closing, please note that not one of the ‘Earn the Right’ suggestions is performance related.

Nowhere was it suggested that winning a race, or getting onto the podium, or beating a particular athlete had ‘earned the right’.

Rather, each suggestion was about the process, something they kid or athlete could control themselves.

Earn the right via process not performance.

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