Sunday, October 30, 2011

Focusing on the Process of Performance and Personal Improvement

It's a tough dilemma..we all want to be successful but not everyone can be..or can we? What exactly is success and how do you define it? If someone performs to the best of their ability is it possible that they can be unsuccessful regardless of the outcome?

Most people measure the current level and progression of an athletes skill by results and outcomes (such as win/loss, points or games won or lost, ranking or being selected to a team). These outcome based measurements of skill level are all inaccurate. This is an inefficient and improper process for measuring the current level and progression of an athletes development. There are a number of variables that influence the outcome of winning and losing that are not under the control of the athlete involved. Not only this, but measuring the skill level of any athlete by the outcome of a competition has many negative implications on their psychological well being and long term development. This is why I believe on focusing on an athletes process of performance regardless of outcome.

If we do this is there any reason we can't all be successful? Can we learn to achieve personal satisfaction from a performance after defeat? I believe this is crucial for long term athlete development. The question I have is how exactly can we do this and how do we get athletes and parents to buy into this philosophy?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Pit Crew vs. the Innovators (of sport)

I was at an interesting seminar today, Applied Research in High Performance Sport. The presenter discussed the difficulties with the lack of funding for sport research scientists. And he was discussing main stream, Olympic events. So what does that mean for squash? Well unfortunately it isn't an easy solution. Because there is little to no money in scientific research in squash it means there is a lot of potential for it..but who is going to do it?

After the presentation I asked for the thoughts on innovating new technologies in a non-funded sport and the presenter had a couple of suggestions:
1) Try and find out what other countries are doing. For squash he suggested the U.K., and I'm sure Australia would be good too.
2) Look at the university level research by graduate students for squash specific research
3) Look what other sports are doing and have done. Even if the sport is different, it might have an idea or training method that can be applied to squash

What's the problem with all of these? I assume it's quite obvious..for any coach! Who is going to do this and keep up with it? As a coach are more of a service provider and don't have the time or resources to keep up with these areas. And another problem is, would other countries and coaches be willing to hand over their hard earned (and funded) research? Why would they? We didn't help them, and our athletes are competing against theirs for world rankings, sponsors and money. And as coaches we are also competing for athletes and jobs. So I don't see an easy, positive conclusion.

Maybe one day Squash Canada will have the resources. Although it doesn't sound like just being an Olympic event will bring enough financial resources anyways..but I'm sure it would help a lot! So for the sake of Canadian Squash, let's hope for 2020!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Some Inspiring Quotes

I'm reading a chapter on goal setting and I found a couple of great quotes.

'The direction we're heading is more important than individual results. If we continue to head in the right direction, we may not only achieve the goals we're pursuing but a lot more!'

'The only limit to what you can have in your life is the size of your imagination and the level of commitment to making it real.'

'The most important key to goal setting is to find a goal big enough to inspire you.'

'The way I usually know I've set the right goal is when it seems impossible but at the same time it's giving me a sense of crazed excitement just to think about the possibility of achieving it.'

All of these are from Awaken the Giant Within - Tony Robbins and basically he is saying that obstacles are created in our minds. If you want to do something no matter how challenging it may seem, you can do it if you believe in yourself.

Here are some other quotes that I like.

This one is paraphrased, but when I was a kid I remember a sign at my squash club that read something like this, 'get fit to play squash, don't play squash to get fit.' Don't know who said it or wrote it, but I like it!

This one is also paraphrased and it was about went something like this, 'when you think you cannot go on, you are on the verge of doing something special.'

This one is posted inside the San Antonio Spurs locker room. 'When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not from that blow that did it -- but all that had gone before.' - Jacob Riss

Friday, October 7, 2011

Developing a Coaching Philosophy

Why a Coaching Philosophy?
Even if you have never verbally stated to your athletes, they probably have an idea of your coaching philosophy. The value you place on winning, effort, teamwork, punctuality and your love for the sport are all things that are often implicitly learned. It is important to determine your beliefs and expectations not only for your athletes, but also for your assistant coaches, trainers, parents and for yourself. Before anyone else can know what is expected from you, you need to decide what is important and what your expectations are. As a leader, the coach is a resemblance of the athletes and their behaviours. If any of your athletes don't agree with your coaching philosophies then it is better they know early in the season to avoid disagreements further down the road.

How to Develop a Coaching Philosophy?
It is important to write down what you expect from your athletes and what you value in your sport; sportsmanship, winning/losing, teamwork, anti-doping/fair play, personal growth, roles on the team, behaviours accepted vs. not accepted, etc. After you have defined what you value and what you expect from the athletes, it is important to let them know. Even if you think it might be obvious, your athletes should still be told. Let your athletes know early in the season. A good way is to have the athletes sign an 'Athlete Guarantee' form and to sit down and talk with them about your beliefs and goals for the year and your expectations of them as members of the team.

Some Questions to Ask Yourself When Developing a Coaching Philosophy
How important is winning?

How important is fair play (what if it might lead to an unsuccessful performance?)

Is it how they play the game or the result that matters most?

How do you value their personal growth (on and off the field/court)?

What is your stance on doping/drugs in sport?

Importance of you and your athletes being punctual?

The effort that you, your coaching staff and your athletes give at practice?

Are your practices and games all serious or do you want them to have fun?

If a referee is involved? Do you questions calls and argue? Do you let your athletes? Is this a double standard?

Is it more important that your athlete is improving or getting results?

Would you sacrifice the well being of an athlete to win?

If your athletes are in school, what is your opinion of them missing school or exams?

What if one (or more) of your athletes have a temper?

Do you treat your athletes the same regardless of skill level, age, sex, race, religion, etc? (Do your athletes?)

Does your beahviour as a coach reflect your beliefs (coaching philosophy)?

Do you adjust your coaching style and beliefs to the athletes you have or do you make them adjust to you? Is there a compromise both ways?

Do your beliefs hold any of your athletes back? Do you challenge them to be better athletes and people? To work harder?

How hard are you going to work/push them? Do your athletes understand and agree with this? Do they know why this is/isn't important to you and them?

How much say do the athletes have in the play calling/design of practice? Do they run set plays? Do you allow for creativity? View on athlete empowerment - decision making?

Do you want what's best for them or you? Or both?

Do your actions reflect what you preach?

Do you have a policy if an athlete goes against your beliefs and expectations? Is this known ahead of time?

Know what you stand for and believe in so your athletes do!