Archive for April, 2010

Target Coaching

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Are you a coach, an athlete or maybe even an involved and concerned parent who wants to understand how to perform far better than you are currently?

If so, then you really must read on…

It will change the way you behave both on and off the competitive field, in the gym, in the pool, on the pitch and even within the dynamics of your family. It will change your perspective forever as you see things with greater clarity and finer direction. Just through understanding what makes you as an individual perform allows you to see things from a new and exciting angle, an angle of purpose.

Are you performing as well as you know you can? Are you getting the results others around you are expecting from you? Is there something maybe holding you back from achieving your full performance potential? Moreover, do you own the key to your sporting glory?

My guess is – probably not! Well, not yet anyway.

And why is that, do YOU think? Is it your physical condition, or maybe your internal and external stress levels in training and at competition? Or maybe you feel you just don’t get it, feeling more and more like your mind is being spun in a washing machine each and every time you turn up.

Does this sounds familiar to you? The questions you need to ask yourself are: what have I tried thus far to correct these concerning trends? And how has worked for me?

In a recent study amongst some elite athletes and their coaches at a US sporting high performance centre, it was estimated that only 22% of the coaches information and direction was being correctly retained and acted upon by the athlete at any given moment.

That’s a whopping 78% inefficiency on behalf of the coach and athlete. When translated into actual physical hours, for every 10 hours of face to face training that’s just over 2 hours of effective learning achieved. Not very efficient use of time and resources, is it? Would you pay for 22% of your meal and feel satisfied? I know I wouldn’t.

Furthermore, out of that initial 22% ‘effective learning’ it is estimated that only 65% was specifically targeted towards the individual athlete. What this is telling us is the vital information the coach is relaying isn’t being given and or received in an effective manner.

And this is from one of our more elite institutions, so what do you think the absorption and retention ratio is at our club level?

Being heavily involved within many sports on many different levels myself, I often observe current trends and goings on at both training and competition, and I do this covertly to ensure no external influence on the results.

What I have observed over the years is countless coaches around the world pebble-dashing their athletes with verbal information, not stopping to see if the information they have given has been taken on board by the athlete, let alone if it is actually relevant to their specific learning style.

We have all observed the armchair coach or the slouch master, these are the coaches who find a comfortable possy (Position) and yell morsels of information at the athlete, without any thought as to their interpreted messages effectiveness.

This is totally inefficient on the behalf of both the information giver and also the receiver. If the athlete is not motivated or stimulated they do not taking the initiative to seek the key information from within the message.

The athlete begins demonstrating the apparent inability to ask the right questions for their own clarification and can appear disinterested thus compounding the coach / athlete communication frustration and becoming perpetually destructive and even deconstructive.

As a former elite coach I used to spend countless hours learning the most up to date coaching techniques from around the world. I would spend many hours bio-mechanically dissecting moves, watching performance after performance of athletes and their coaches trying to pinpoint the magic bullet, seeking the one thing that would make the difference to me and my athletes performance.

Little did I know I already had it, it was staring me in the face the whole time. As a child I would often annoy the living begeebies out of my coach by constantly asking him what he meant by something he had said to myself or to one of my competitive peers.

Now with the benefit of hindsight and the magic of modern behavioural understanding, I realised it wasn’t totally because I wanted to annoy him – rather, I was unconsciously searching for clarity, I had a need to digest this information and turn it into my individual internal language.

Simply I needed to make sense of his message before I could effectively put it into action.

It wasn’t until I began studying human behaviour that I realised this was in fact what I was doing and how effective it really could be. As with everything if only I had realised this at the time I was competing I could have done more with it.

Realistically many athletes are lost and bewildered as to what their coach’s real message is and what they are actually being asked / directed to do. They are not always hearing the same information the coach believes they are sending, it may as well be in a foreign language lost in translation or a radio station slightly out of tune as the information becomes lost in the abyss.

Many coaches are an unbelievable wealth of technical knowledge, yet not all are skillful in art form of conveying their wisdom in an effective and efficient communicational manner.

Some choose to pebble-dash their athletes with masses of information in the vein hope some will actually stick, sink in and be effectively converted into a desired action. Others have one format and stick to this again hoping the athlete with convert to their specific brand of communication.

Now, just stop for a moment and think about someone close to you, maybe a brother or sister, mother or father, do they think, speak, act or even perform exactly as you do?

Of course not.

Even if they have been exposed to the exact same forces of influence whilst growing up as you they are individual, you have more chance of physically being similar than psychologically. What stimulates you is totally unique to you; it’s our unique neurological fingerprint, our own personal internal language, sorting room and identity.

So if we are so different how have we managed to evolve thus far as a species? The short answer is, its been rather hit and miss, the longer answer is we naturally fill in the missing information, make do and make assumptions based on the basic context of the conversation and our own interpretations of what should be there. This leads to a hybrid version of the initial message that can be ‘made’ to fit – sort of!

From a performance perspective, understanding a persons individual neurological fingerprint does allow a coach to ‘target teach’ that athlete effectively, converting the paltry 22% to a far more respectable and efficient 80%+. Think what you could achieve with an increase of 58%+ effectiveness in your performance.

So where do we obtain this elusive, vital and highly sought after information? Well, your first step is to understand the different individual contributing psycho-dynamics that go into making our personal blueprints. The pieces of the puzzle that go into making a whole, the filters and the buttons that play your tune.

This can be achieved by studying theoretical and physical behavioural psychology and it’s impact on learning and performance, or listening to someone who has!

Supporting this is one of today’s more effective and accessible tools, it is having your athlete psychologically assessed and a detailed ‘Behavioural profile’ compiled. This will give you as a coach a complete operators manual to your athlete’s mind.

The phrase ‘The MIND GAME’ is thrown around a lot these days and has become a ‘tag’ used by presenters and commentators in many areas. However its significance should not be overlooked, especially within the sporting world. As we move towards what can only be described as almost cloning of physiology within athletes. Their results will soon become the only significant difference between two athletes and these will be determined by the power and efficiency of their minds.

This is a clear indication that the elite competitor of tomorrow will have a far more strategic grip on the power of their neurology, than the athlete of yester year.

It will be commonplace to have a mind coach, it will also be part and parcel of your regular training regime to include mental conditioning, left and right hemisphere stimulation, visualization therapy and others far improved learning and retention technologies.

With so much at stake both financially and through personal achievement buried into today’s sporting career, mind management is the performance enhancement of the future.

Are you being left behind?

Take the first steps to better sporting performance and greater understanding.