Showing posts from December, 2015

Systematic Development and Outliers

Systematic development is important. Why? Because, assuming it is done well, it increases your chances of developing successful athletes. By providing good fundamentals in a range of different areas, the athletes capable of reaching the highest level will have as few limitations as possible.

Sometimes our systematic development gets distracted by outliers. By the 'special cases'. We think - aaah - she did that when she was younger therefore that is what everyone should do. But that is not the case. Athletes like Lionel Messi are outliers. They are freaks. The system needs to let them through and not get in the way.

But at the same time, we need to make sure they don't get in our way. There are 2 or 3 football players the calibre of Messi in the world. Systematic development was a key part of the rest of the elite football players in the world.

Systems need to cater for the overwhelming majority of athletes. Don't get in the way of the outliers, but also, don't let…

Periodisation - the Natural Enemy of Skill Progressions

When I was young, passionate and idealistic, I was coaching a develop squad and set out a periodised plan. Everything made sense. Everything fit together. It was an impressive document, if I do say so myself.

When I was old, pragmatic and wise (?), I was coaching the same development squad (different athletes by now!). I had a loose periodised plan (mainly for load management), but mostly planned based on skill progressions.

The difference between the two is that, with skill progressions you move on once you have achieved the level of competence you were striving for, but with a periodised plan you move on when you have scheduled to do the next thing.

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Leadership Skillset, or, Who's in Charge 2

There are more and more experts involved in High Performance sport:

coachscientist - specialist expertsMedical staffmanager Traditionally the roles are allocated as follows: coach - knows about everything - manages everythingscientist works in consultation with coachesmedical staff work in consultation with the coachesmanger does all the non technical work - dealing with sponsors, other organisations, finances, etc But what if the coach doesn't have this skill set? Who should be in charge then?

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Playing Above Yourself

When in competition, don't play above yourself. Just be at your best.

Its not just about process though, nor is it just about outcome. The outcome has to be PART of the process. Your process is defined by the outcome you are striving for - whether you like it or not. If you are striving to be the best in the world, then your process will be, essentially, striving for perfection, for to think you will be the best without reaching your own potential is both arrogant and unlikely. But if all you are trying to do is to be better than someone else, then it is them who define what your process is, not you.

Very often teams and athletes cite their best performances against the best in the world, where they lose admirably. Of course - this is because there is absolutely no pressure to win and so there is no fear of under-performing. Everything is easy because there is nothing to lose. They are joyful to play in because there is no pressure. Once in a very long while you actually win thes…

Coaching the Least

Antoine de Saint Exupéry, wrote "It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove."

Rather than constantly look for new ideas - spend time working out what you can do better. What less you can do? What you can do more efficiently? And spend time on that.

Rather than be the coach who works the most, always try to be the coach who works the least. This will make you the most efficient.

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Digging for Data

There are people who believe data will provide all the answers, but what they often fail to take into account is the data collected purely by expert observation. For example, a coach who works with a team every day for a year will have collected millions upon millions of data points through observation.  Does this present a perfect picture? Of course not, but neither does pure data analysis in isolation. However the combination of the two provides greater context.

One of my biggest frustrations is the 'Everest' approach to statistics.  That is, coaches who look at statistics just because they are there.

For example, 'Traditional' volleyball passing stats use as 3-0 scale, representing how many hitters a setter can set based on the quality of the pass.  (It is interesting how this obviously subjective statistic has become viewed as objective because you can make averages and percentages from it because it is number based!)

One flaw is, as setters become better and bette…

More on 1%ers

Doing things takes time.

I had a friend who did very well at university studying 80% of the course. He looked at previous exams and worked out what was most likely to be in the next exam. A bit part of the reason he did this is because he was working part time and had limited time, so he worked out the odds to become successful within the limitations he had.

Leaving no stone unturned is all very well, but if there are 100 stones, each takes 1 second to turn, and you have to win in 60 seconds, that is not an option.

You have to carefully calculate which ones are most likely to give you success, then do your best with them.

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Coaches: The Doctors of Sport (or...Who's In Charge?)

I'm always impressed by the way doctors have created and managed the medical hierarchy. As a coach, my medical staff has always been managed according to the wishes of our doctor. Specifically, if something is wrong, you see the doctor, the doctor will diagnose it, then you see someone else for treatment. That is, the doctor is the hub, and manages everything else, relying on experts in a range of specific fields.

I'm not criticising this process, I completely agree with it. But I'm always impressed with the strength of this structure. I suspect it is harder to harder to manage, with more and more sub-disciplines of medicine developing all the time. I also suspect that because the doctors were the first on the block, so to speak, this has helped with with their point at the top of the food-chain.

Recently I was coaching a team where someone organised physical treatment support, which was a fantastic addition to the program. Unfortunately it is a very long time since I had…

The Art of Beach Volleyball

For some reason last night I remembered an article I wrote about 17 years ago. I thought I'd post it unedited, below. This isn't for everyone - but you might enjoy it! Introduction The intention of the following article is introduce some ideas and concepts and relate them to Beach Volleyball. The ideas are not necessarily new, but the context may be different. The idea is to challenge the way we look at the sport.
Technique, Skill and Art We often talk about Technique and Skill, but rarely about the Art of playing Beach Volleyball, and we only sometimes notice it when it occurs. Often it is too subtle to see clearly.
Point Scoring There is a popular school of thought that, in Beach Volleyball, you have to Side-Out to win. Beach Volleyball is not a Side-Out game, it is a Point Scoring game. The winner earned their win by scoring more points than their opponent. You can win a match 15:0 with exactly the same number of Sides-Out as your opponent, just as you can lose a matc…