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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Goals and your athletes

"You will find yourself in a place where you want it more for them more than they want it for themselves.  ...when you do for them what they should be doing for themselves, you create entitlement and dependency rather than empowerment"
 - Matthew Kelly, "Resisting Happiness"

The above quote is from the book Resisting Happiness.  It's helped me realize that you can't want something more for your athletes than they want for themselves.
Do you know what your goal is? How hard are you willing to work for it?
Photo by Gwendolyn Sisto. 2016 American Open. Go to www.ristosports.com/blog for more photos


Many times, people walk into to my training center asking to be made into a champion. Yet, are they willing to go all the way and make the sacrifice. Most of the times, athletes seem content to train hard for a solid 6 months.  Somewhere around 6 months, many start complaining that they are too tired to go out on weekends, or that coach told them they can't go hiking on their day off because it will make them too tired to train the next day.

My biggest flaw as a coach is that I expect too much of people. That I take their words of wanting to be a champion at face value. Hence, I  expect them to want to be the absolute best they can possibly be and aim to inspire them to move in that direction.  I assume that they want to be pushed in the direction of their goal, because that's what they said they wanted to do.

This goes back to doing my thesis at MIT.  Every few weeks, I would meet with my thesis adviser. I loved meeting with her, she was so smart and we could talk for hours (if it wasn't for the fact that she was equally busy).  Anyhow, I would bring my latest draft, and , indeed, it would be much better than the last time. But what would happen was, although, I would get affirmation that I improved, I would also get an, " ahh I'm, sensing more chapters" or "this is good, now you just need to flush it out more".

It was a wonderful , beautiful, seemingly unending torture. There was a point where I wanted to write something really good, and I also wanted to balance that with level of effort to graduate. Well, with the inspiration of my advisor and other researches in the lab, it really pushed me in the direction of writing a 150 page thesis ( the average in my major was around 75pages?).  But, you know what, I like being an over achiever. And, it still bothers me when I open up my thesis and see some tiny grammatical errors, or I think of how I could have further developed one idea or another. Art is never done.

I've found for athlete retention that this is not a good approach . If I am going to self reflect, I have been through some difficult trials in life.  So, when an athlete tells me something is too hard, my empathetic reaction is, " Yes, I know, and you can do even more".  And, many people don't want to hear this.

Here is what I run into with many athletes: when they come to Risto Sports, they want to do the hard program, they want to get better. We tell them what they can achieve . And, after the first macrocycle , every single person improves.   But, for some, something happens- they quickly realize they don't want to sustain this same level of effort to keep getting results. Some are happy just to have lifted at nationals- scratch that, most are just happy to have trained enough to go to a national meet, and even better if they win a medal .

The problem is most will not tell you this. Ok, you might say, ''this is my job as a coach to check we're on the same page". But, if someone is paying us to train them for predetermined results, then we will train them as such.

It's up to the lifter to say, "  I want to lift fewer days" or " I'm ok with only improving less than the projected forecast".

Instead, some just quit, and complain that we were too mean.... because we trained them them too hard , and they didn't have enough fun.

This situation is a complete contrast to international lifters who train at Risto Sports. Most will train with no complaints about not going out enough on weekends. Though some may whine during training, most will just complete the program regardless.  And, they seem grateful for the results.  It's important to note that many of these athletes are paid to train and get paid based on yielding results. (I feel like these observations are somewhat opposite of a Millgram experiment I read about- ha)

So, what's the point of this whole article?

Its a cautionary tale for both lifters and coaches.

Advice for lifters:
Be clear about for what you are paying your coach.
- Is it just to increase your total enough to lift at a national meet?
- Is it just to get a little better at lifting so you can win some trophies at local meets?
- Are you just doing this to learn how to lift and get in shape?
- Is it about truly pushing yourself to see how far you can go in the sport?

AND , do your goals match the level of effort you are willing to put in?
- Be honest about how many days a week you want to train
- Be honest about how important your social life is to you
- Be honest if you like to continue doing other sports - like crossfit, kayaking, hiking,...

AND, Lord forbid your goals actually change, or your desired level of effort changes, then:
- Tell your coach!
- Quitting or switching teams isn't going to fix this. It's just as easy, probably more beneficial to you, to have this conversation with your current coach than a new coach you have barely worked with.

Advice for coaches:
Ask more than once what the new lifter's goals are.  Make them flush it out as much as possible.

Be clear about how much effort it will take for someone to reach a goal
- if the level of effort talk seems to scare your potential customer away, then offer them back-up options that they may not be thinking of

Remember, it's not your job to want success more for the athlete
-If they are not doing the heart-emotional-mental heavy lifting as much as the physical heavy lifting, then they need to step it up, not you
- Your job is to inspire

Check in with the athlete after every macrocylce about their goals for the year

If your athletes are not responding to inspiration - ie they're not putting their heart fully into the training, and whine often, then:
- Instead of acting like their over-zealous parent and pushing them, its better to pull them aside and ask them to re-evaluate their goal/level of effort ratio
- Give them options. Come prepared with a back-up plan that might meet their social life needs with reduced results

Finally, a Harvard study showed something like 70%+ of the time people act irrationally, that it is hard wired into us.  Sooooooo.... Good luck!




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