The Art & Science of Coaching, Managing and Teaching.

Ever come home from a conference, read a book, had a conversation or listened to a talk where you gained some amazing information and failed dismally to impress your enthusiasm for such information on those who may benefit from it most? Most times, the more emotionally involved you are with an idea, the less able you are to share it effectively. This is because biology and evolution are actually working against you, causing you to be on your worst  behaviour forcing your ideas on others instead of working with them toward a shared solution to a problem they acknowledge on their own.  Knowledge that cannot be shared effectively with others (through our deeds or words) is of zero value in todays information age. Those who are able to share specialised information most effectively create the best results, receive more opportunities and achieve more success in general. Fortunately, ancient and modern science can offer us a framework which can help us better teach anyone, anything. In order to prove myself genuine, I have attempted to use the very principles I wish to share with you to teach this framework. This framework is the result of summarising the content of 5 key resources in 5 key points I believe every information worker should read, understand and act on. Read on if you wish to learn how to help others learn and get more from your head into the heads of others. Please note, I receive no financial reward for the content I reference […]

A Cautionary Tale For The Ambitious

Satisfaction consists of freedom from pain, which is the positive element of life. -Schopenhauer   ‘You still there mate? Did you hear what I said?’   I fought to swallow the tennis ball that had suddenly grown from nowhere and wedged itself in my throat. Suddenly the last five years took on a new meaning for me, it had all been worth it and I understood why it needed to be just as it had been, and not the way I had wanted it.   I used to wonder what it must have sounded like on the other end of the phone. What it would feel like to be the person who played a part in helping another realize their dream. The one who ushered another through the gate they had stood in front of so doggedly in the cold, wet and stormy weather for so long.   After what seemed like an eternity, I pulled myself together and did my best to sound like a man instead of a mouse. ‘Thank you so much for the opportunity, I will not let you down or cause you to doubt the decision you’ve just made’ I said, before hanging up and falling to my bed utterly exhausted.   I had just accepted my dream job, working in elite sport at the age of 23 and one week after submitting my thesis. I would become one of the youngest in my field at that time. As I lay there my mind wandered […]

The Origins of Injury: is it all in the mind ?

“If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.” ~ Hippocrates A morning to forget It was a cold morning in the depths of winter, and I had been dreading this particular morning for days. As I stepped outside I shuddered, partly in reaction to the icy cold air, and partly to try to shake the sinking feeling I woke up with in the pit of my stomach.  As I cut through the morning mist, jogging around the field dropping my cones in precise locations I knew by heart, I reassured myself; ‘it’s going to be fine. Relax you’ve said your piece, that is all you can do.’ The words were stolen away from me as I said them, the cold air highlighting the breath they were carried upon, before being snatched away by the swirling wind, which seemed to be picking up as the sun drew up higher over the horizon. Today was an important session for John, the athlete I had been working with for the past month. John was what the papers might describe as a ‘troubled star in the making’. Oozing ability and possessing what recruiters call ‘tools’ most footballers work hard for but never acquire. John had been battling a muscle strain which seemed to be healing quite slowly and was a constant source of concern for him and the clubs coaches, […]

On Making Decisions regarding the injured athlete.

In my experience, deciding how to make decisions around the management of athletes in rehab is rarely considered or formally discussed. Ultimately this is to the detriment of everyone involved since the closer you are to a problem, the more narrowly you perceive it. Ensuring groups develop and follow formalised ‘ways of working’ leads to increased cohesion and collaboration and improved communication and decision-making. Anytime a group of passionate and emotionally invested experts across various fields are working independently in an interdependent fashion, the outcome often hinges more on how they do it (i.e the tactical requirements such as communication and decision making) than it does on what they are doing (the technical requirements such as the various roles and responsibilities and what is occurring within these) though the emphasis is usually on the latter. Decision-making is without doubt one of, if not THE most important factors in successful rehabilitation of an athlete. There is an abundance of specialised knowledge, ambition and potential these days, so a lack of will, want or skill is hardly ever the reason a group fails. Though knowing how to proceed, progress or pull back can mean the difference between a successful return to training and playing or a setback/recurrence which ultimately costs the athlete, the team, the coaches and the staff. It is the organisation of ability and expertise, not the expertise itself which makes the most difference. Choosing how to make decisions around the athletes program direction, progress and potential return to training and playing […]

WHO ARE THE GAME CHANGERS?

Early one morning as I was leaving for work I got a phone call. My manager was on the line: ‘I hope you don’t have any important plans for tomorrow mate, because we’ve just booked you on a flight to Munich Germany’ he said. Needless to say I had some organizing to do. A promising young athlete had recently injured his hamstring for the second time, this time more seriously. The medical staff and club decided to invest in giving this particular player every chance of fast tracking his recovery in the case of the team making finals. This meant that I would accompany the athlete to Munich to see world renowned sports doc Hans Mu’ller Wohlfhart Knowing Hans’ reputation and the caliber of athletes who come from all over the world to see him (we missed Usain Bolt by one week) I was more than a little excited to meet the man and learn what I could. I packed my bags and read up a little on his work in preparation, and before I knew it we were taking off from Melbourne airport en route to Germany. If you know me personally or read my blog you know that high performance is my life’s obsession. In my job as a strength & conditioning coach I have been fortunate to be able to meet, hear from and spend time picking the brains of more than a few world leaders in their respective fields. I have discussed running efficiency, technique and […]

ON PROGRESSION OF THE INJURED ATHLETE

 If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?                 –  John Wooden Injury affects an individual’s continuity; a teams’ cohesion and at times its’ win loss record. Understandably, this is why athletes and their coaches can be so impatient in the event that one occurs. Worth noting however, is that one the most influential risk factors for injury is previous injury. The combination of these risk factors and the collective culture of impatience toward injury and rehabilitation can create dangerous forces which often work in direct opposition to the desired outcome (healthy, fit, resilient athletes) for both athletes and coaches, as well as those responsible for managing the athletes recovery. I liken this impatience to that which causes the monkey to be caught in the monkey trap. The trap allows just enough space for the monkey to reach their arm down the tube to grab an enticingly presented banana. However once they grab the banana and make a fist, they are stuck and can be easily captured by trainers. The monkey could easily liberate themselves at any moment by dropping the banana though their obsession serves to ensure their captivity. The time pressure created by impatience can cause athletes and their coaches to overlook or ignore the consequences of getting it wrong and create a situation of ‘willful blindness’ (a term used in law for when an individual deliberately creates […]

On Influencing Those You Manage Part 1: Why knowledge is not enough

One day early on in my career as a coach I remember picking up from the ground a program I had written for an athlete, a program I had spent a lot of time and effort on. Hours of research and practice it seemed counted for little if the program was neglected. This was not uncommon in my early years as I worked tirelessly to build my knowledge and expertise and advance my formal education. Despite gaining more and more knowledge, there seemed to be little correlation between my skill set, expertise and number of qualifications with my efficacy as a professional. Over time I have noticed that in most fields of expertise this is actually quite common. There seems to be an abundance of knowledgeable and talented people, but relatively few seem to be effective, and by effective I mean able to fully realise their potential and create the kind of results that their skill set should allow them to. It seems this pattern is visible not just across fields of expertise, but also time. In fact many people who are acknowledged today for their game changing ideas and theories were people who bore the brunt of much resistance and criticism during their lives. Ignaz Semmelweis was a young Hungarian doctor who discovered the cause of childbed fever, which plagued the maternity wards all over Europe in the mid 1800’s. In the hospital that he worked at one in six new mothers died of the disease shortly after giving […]

HOW TO BECOME A SUPER HERO

I watched a movie once called ‘Up in The Air’. George Clooney was the lead actor and sadly I felt the movie was mediocre. This was extra disappointing since I generally have alot of respect for George. George and I do not know each other of course but I like to think that if we met we we would be best mates. All jokes aside though, there was one particular scene in this movie which caught my attention. A brief summary on the movie is necessary to put this scene into context so here is my best version of an impartial unbiased recount. The movie is about the everyday life of Ryan Bingham  (George) who’s job is basically to fly around the world and fire people. Corporations contract the company Ryan works for to essentially do their dirty work for them when downsizing. During one such occasion a man asks Ryan what he is supposed to tell his kids after hearing the news he is being layed off. On this particular occasion Ryan is being shadowed by a rookie who decides to interject at this point with a very tactless opinion, which only serves to infuriate the man further. At this point Ryan intervenes and asks the man if his children’s admiration is important to him. To which the answer is of course yes. Ryan then states: ‘I doubt they’ve ever admired you Bob’ which further confuses and infuriates the man until Ryan asks him another question: ‘Do you know why kids love […]

ARE YOU READY?, OR WORTHY TO LIVE YOUR DREAMS?

‘You’ve got the job’, you will start tomorrow’ Tears welled up in my eyes as I took these words in and at that moment I knew it had all been worth it. I had just accepted my dream job, to work with elite athletes at the age of 23 and months before even graduating. At this time I was one of the youngest (if not the youngest) coaches in the country. Some people within the industry were shocked and openly questioned whether I was ready for this level of responsibility. But as I have come to learn, whether you feel ready or not is irrelevant when it comes to taking your chances and performing on the big stage. What the doubters didn’t realize was that I had been single mindedly working toward this moment for 5 years. When I arrived in Melbourne I could not even get a job at a local sports store let alone work with elite athletes. I knew nothing and no one, the only thing I knew was what I wanted to achieve. At my first university lecture I was told: ‘on average there are five full time strength and conditioning positions within Australia each year, there are also well over five thousand graduates from this course. Competing for these five positions will also be people who have already had experience from this country as well as others’. After 5 years of up-skilling myself, accelerating my learning by doing well above and beyond what was required […]

WHAT MAKES A CHAMPION?

    I once had the privilege of meeting Lute Olsen (a college basketball coach who’s widely regarding as one of the most successful and respected coaches in any sport) and hearing him speak. In answering a question as to why he had not accepted numerous offers to coach at the professional level he said: ‘I am not interested in working with people who think they know it all, I believe its what you learn after you know it all that counts’ This stuck with me at the time & soon after this I learned exactly what he meant.   Whilst coaching a group of athletes recently I had an interesting challenge when providing some constructive feedback to an athlete within this group. The reaction to my feedback was along these lines: ‘You cant teach me anything here, I’ve played at the elite level for over 7 years, a veteran of this team and one of its best and most consistent performers’   As you can imagine, this type of reaction can be quite jarring when your obvious intention is to improve this person’s performance and help them succeed. Why would any athlete at the elite level NOT wish to improve anymore??? I first wondered if the reason for this response was due to the way I framed the information.   Over the next few weeks though, I became aware that this guys response was always the same with regard to feedback regarding his technique and skill level (in terms […]