Wednesday, May 1, 2013


It is funny to look back on things, after what is still very much a relatively short career, and see things with much greater clarity. Looking back the thing that I am most satisfied with is the fact that I listened to those people who cared enough to offer their advice and that I can now say that I am capable of taking full responsibility for the direction that my career has gone.  I will admit to being as frustrated then as many of you are now with the “state of the industry”.  When we all share a similar notion of what we believe to be our advanced thinking and knowledge of, in this case, human performance it will drive us all absolutely mad that things are done in a way that is contrary to what we believe to be the right way.  The purpose of this piece is to remind everyone of the hard work it actually takes to make a difference in the world and in our careers.

My brother is a Special Agent for the US Government and my best friend works in the same capacity for another Government Agency.  I help people jump higher and run faster.  I say this to people often as a joke but the reality is if this is what I believed my job was I would not be a coach. One of the first kids that I ever coached is now in Medical School.  I started with her when she was in 8th grade and worked with her all the way through college.  A lot of the best kids I have coached were not mentioned in the profiles that I have used to promote my coaching business.  This was a mistake. If I didn’t believe that I was making a difference in their lives and that that difference would be felt in so much more than their training and physical performance than I would not be a coach. 

There are people in our business who think they are better than others because of where they work and who they work with. This is wrong but it does nothing to change the responsibility you must have for what you are doing right now with the job you have. I saw one Sports Performance Director, from a major Division I program, basically laugh off another Strength and Conditioning Coach because he hadn’t heard of the school that coach was from. I have seen both of these individuals coach and I will tell you that the Strength Coach from the No Name University is making a greater difference than the Director who chose to “big time” him. It is not the opportunity itself but what we do with the opportunity that matters. I fully admire the people who are taking advantage of their opportunities. This is not to say that the Sports Performance Director I mentioned is doing no good.  But perhaps at some point in a surely long and illustrious career this person lost sight of the difference they were fully capable of making.     

The frustrations most feel when reading from “Internet Strength Coaches” and personal trainers is, for the most part, very much unnecessary.  There will always be inaccurate and misguided information.  In this day and age this is more common than ever. The fact is that while many will be misled, and end up misinformed, from this information this is as critical of a step as any for a professional: the ability to sift through the nonsense. Further I will tell you that while most of this writing will make many think and consider the material it often does very little to change or influence practice, especially amongst the well informed in the field. Using one such example, from someone who has been very important to my career, with Coach Boyle and the difference he is capable of making. Coach Boyle has the ability to perform a seminar, write an article or blog post, or even have a conversation with someone and he can inspire change in coaching practice around the world (often at a very high level). The same cannot be said for the greatest of Internet Charlatans.  They write an article or blog post, it is well spoken of and shared amongst their fans, and then it is often forgotten in search of the next big thing.  The experts in our field stopped looking for these fantastical solutions long ago.    

This level of influence does not just fall into our laps the second we decide we are capable of providing it. Like all things of any value it takes time and trust to earn the privilege. So every time someone asks, “Well the football team should really change how they train according to my advice but they won’t listen to me.  What do I do?” I know that they have not gained the amount of influence they need to have in order to inspire change on such a large scale.  Nothing to be mad about there is just more work to be done. Try making a difference with one football player or coach who will listen and go from there.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
If one hopes to gain more influence and inspire change successfully allow me to share some of what I believe has helped me to do the same (it is up to you, not me, to decide whether the difference I am capable of making has any value for you):
First and foremost no matter what our intentions are it is from our actual behavior that our influence will be felt. In the documentary “Finding Joe”, about famed mythologist Joseph Campbell, Deepak Chopra shares the thinking that if we use our minds to help others we will change their minds, if we use our hearts we will change their hearts, but if we use our lives to change others we will change lives. One of my favorite poems, that I learned of from John Wooden, shares this same sentiment:

"No written word, no spoken plea
Can teach our youth what they should be,
Nor all the books on all the shelves.
It's what the teachers are themselves."
- Anonymous

-        I often choose to vocalize my beliefs with coaches I have managed and the kids that I coach in order to sell them on the idea that we are all fully capable of steering our own ship. I read to the people I am responsible for and share thoughts or ideas that I believe will help us all continue our journey in a positive direction (some of my favorites are from Dan Millman, Viktor Frankl, Og Mandino, W. Timothy Gallwey, Steven Pressfield, John Wooden, and Anthony Robbins).  Admittedly sharing these thoughts and beliefs does nothing if my behavior does not match up so I work very hard to live my beliefs.

-        One thought that ties to this thinking of living your beliefs, and resonates well with others, is a solutions-focused therapy technique taken from the book “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath. I have learned to change the specific phrasing of the question in order to fully engage the kids I coach but I ask them, “What would happen if a miracle happened tonight and you woke up to find that you are the person, and athlete, you believe you are capable of being?  What is the first sign that you have that you are different?” I then encourage these kids to not wait any longer to behave and act in a way that is more consistent with the behavior of that person. 

The influence we have on others is one of the greatest responsibilities we will ever encounter.  We cannot be inhibited or scared from sharing our deepest beliefs and our greatest enthusiasms. We must also do our best to make sure we are fully prepared to handle this responsibility. We will gain the ability to have greater influence on others when we take full responsibility for ourselves.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley

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