“It’s the little things that scare us most…”

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My daughters are afraid of the second floor in our house.

They are both old enough to go up the stairs by themselves. They carry toys up and down, they play together,  and they harass my wife as she gets ready work, yet, when one of them are asked to go up there on their own, they will hesitate. They will plead…

“I CAN’T go upstairs by myself.”

My wife and I are amused.

Growing Up Scared

I remember at their age that I would be scared if I had to go upstairs or into the basement by myself.

After watching the movie Aliens for the first time, I fully expected one the aliens to attack me when I went downstairs into the basement. My goal then was to get what I needed, and run as fast I could back up the stairs. I would never look back to see what was behind me.

My brother and I shared a bedroom on the second floor of my childhood home. We had bunk beds. I remember being unable to watch Stephen King’s Silver Bullet. My brother and father stayed up to watch it, but I cowered under the covers in my top bunk. I could still hear the television and the screams from the movie downstairs. I was petrified to move.

These are the little things that kids worry about.

The Scariest Place in the World

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This is why my children amuse me.

We don’t watch any scary movies at home. However, they still have this fear of going upstairs by themselves. Even in broad daylight!

My oldest daughter and I frequently drive by a deserted barn alongside a road we drive. It is is old, run down, and dangerous looking.  Recently, my daughter asked if we would be able to go into the barn.

ME: “Why?”

DAUGHTER #1: “Because there might be ghosts in it.”

For fun, I decided to play along.

ME: “Yes, the barn could be haunted…aren’t you scared?”

DAUGHTER #1: No. (flat tone)

ME: You can’t even go up the stairs in our own house.”

She started giggling, so I pressed on.

ME: You mean to tell me that you are MORE afraid of going upstairs in our own house, than going into a scary barn that has a sign on it that says ‘NO TRESPASSING?'”

DAUGHTER #1: “Yes.”

ME: “Which is more scary…The barn or the upstairs?”

DAUGHTER#1: “I would go into the barn.”

No hesitation.

We both laughed, and I told her that I would double check with her younger sister. Her sister is three, and  I believed she would provide a more logical answer – scary barn or upstairs in the house? Obviously, she would reply the scary barn, and she had also seen this barn multiple times. I would even add the word “spooky” to lead her there.

ME: Which is more scary…the “spooky barn” or the upstairs?”

DAUGHTER #2: The upstairs…”

No hesitation.

What?!?

Why are my two daughters afraid of something they know well that is right in front of them?

Moral of the Story

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I live my life through metaphors.

When I began brainstorming this week’s blog, I wanted to write about how adults tend to be more afraid and stressed about things we cannot control – the weather, the economy, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian selfies, etc.

We ignore the little things we can control that are right in front of us, because they get lost in the dramas of society.

Children are more afraid of little things that are right in front of them, like the upstairs. As adults, we dismiss these little things, but maybe our children know more than we do.

Because the real problem is that we are little scared too.

I have written about “patterns of failure” and “accountability“.

Failure patterns are traps that you fall into if you are not confident your control of the little things. Accountability is taking responsibility for these little things and not avoiding them.

You can do this, and you must.

I am writing this week’s blog from hospital bed, because I didn’t ignore the little thing that was right in front of me. I am ready to face it,  whatever it is.

I am not afraid.

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On second thought, those stairs are kind of scary…

For more information on Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or follow me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

“MIND GAMES: THEY’RE GETTING OLD”

 

It is more apparent that coaching styles and behaviors in the United States need an overhaul. This may not be necessary for the most successful and experienced coaches that have been around for a long time. It is necessary for the new coaches that are trying to make a name for themselves, and that are teaching the next generation of athletes.

The mindsets of younger athletes are different.

We can even add that the criticism of early “specialization” of younger athletes in any particular sport should also be leveled at the type of mindset  they are being bred to have.

Last Thursday night, the University of Oregon Ducks beat the Duke University Blue Devils during the Men’s NCAA tournament. Much of the media coverage was not about how Oregon was the better team. Instead the focus fell on the post-game altercation between Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Oregon player Dillon Brooks.

Teachable Moments

 Photo Credit: https://sports.vice.com/en_us

Photo Credit: https://sports.vice.com/en_us

Great coaches look for teachable moments. We look for ways to connect our experiences through sport to our daily lives. On Thursday night, Coach Krzyzewski approached Dillon Brooks to deliver a teachable moment, and it probably wasn’t the right time and place.

There was another teachable moment. Duke player, Grayson Allen, was the player that Dillon Brooks scored the now infamous three-pointer over, and Allen refused to shake hands with Brooks at the end of the game.

It really doesn’t matter what side of the situation you happen to fall on. There are lessons to be learned by all sides:

  1. Do not be a “sore loser.”
  2. Do not be a “bad winner,” and run up the score.
  3. Do not coach another coach’s athlete.

“Life Lessons” are Lost

Coach Krzyzewski has already apologized for number #3 because he realized that it was not his place to offer advice to Dillon Brooks at that moment.

I do not blame Coach Krzyzewski for trying to teach Dillon Brooks a valuable lesson. He is a legendary coach, and wants every athlete that he works with to become successful. Unfortunately, he was upset that his team lost, and he wanted to give advice to Brooks about keeping a  level head before Oregon  went on to play Oklahoma.

I would like to offer Coach Krzyzewski and coaches in all sports a piece of advice:

Stop confusing the athletes.

As coaches, we are responsible for the behaviors of the athletes that are on the field, court, river, etc.  It is becoming more and more difficult for athletes to pull real “life lessons” out of their sport because coaches have trained the athletes to focus only on the sport.

In the single moment that Dillon Brooks shot that three-pointer, he was doing his job. He was uncovered, the shot clock was down to “2”, and therefore his job was to shoot the ball. He wasn’t focusing on the score of the game. He was focusing on executing the play.

In the single moment that the game ended, Grayson Allen wasn’t focusing on his respect for Oregon and the game they played. He was focusing on the fact that his season was over, and was trying to re-shift his focus back to being just a student.

I am pretty sure that in the preparation for the game with Oregon, there was not any focus on how to behave if Duke happened to lose. There weren’t any set plays  in which Allen had to practice shaking hands because he was never allowed to be in that “losing” mindset in the first place.

The Sport is the Focus

The sport itself has become the focus.

When younger athletes first play sports on their own, they learn what their strengths are, learn how to be good teammates, and learn to overcome failure. They experience this in the backyard and playground games where the score does does not matter. They have the freedom to fail without being specialized or trained to be in the correct mindset.

As soon as the sport becomes more organized the expectations for the athletes begin to change.  Coaches focus so much on athletes experiencing success that the  pressure at the high school level and collegiate level makes it impossible to extract any takeaways that apply to an athlete’s real life.  It’s a pipe dream that is ready to burst.

What lessons are coaches trying to teach with sports?

I am not sure that coaches even know.

A few weekends ago, one of my athletes won their first race in over a year. She was ecstatic. Apparently, her coach didn’t believe she should enjoy the moment for that long:

“…well, you could have been faster.”

Another athlete received an email from their coach. It indicated that the team needed to look inside themselves:

“…you have to decide how bad you want it.”

At the collegiate level, I was an assistant coach being reprimanded by my head coach after complimenting our team’s first victory:

“…it’s NOT great…they should have won by more.”

Please keep in mind, this is high school and collegiate rowing. I cannot imagine the pressure and stress that goes with playing in the NCAA Tournament. Or even the Super Bowl, as I wrote about Cam Newton a few weeks ago.

Moral of the Story

No More Mind Games

Photo Credit: NCAA and www.sacbee.com

Photo Credit: NCAA and http://www.sacbee.com

Who is the adult here?

I have personally watched coaches destroy  athletes by “bursting their bubble.” It has opened my eyes to how I need to take a step back in parenting my own children.

Protecting your child from disappointment by either training them not to fail or making them feel good about everything is only making them question which behaviors  are “right” or  “wrong.”

They begin to doubt themselves.

It is one thing to ask an athlete to fully immerse themselves into the sport. It is another to ask them to focus on the morals outside of the sport.

Wake up coaches; the “mind games” are getting old.

We attempt to impart the wisdom of our own athletic struggles onto younger athletes, but they have no frame of reference. We cannot get them to understand and appreciate what they are experiencing because we never allow them to. Instead we try try use old clichés and stories.

We are not martyrs.

Allowing athletes to experience both satisfaction and disappointment builds the confidence to face more difficult obstacles during their athletic career. At that point, they will go to you for help, and that is the point you really can coach them. Meanwhile:

“Winning is the most important thing…It doesn’t matter if you win or lose…”

“Do it for your teammates…Be better than your teammates…”

“Miles make champions…Train smarter not harder…”

“Don’t be a sore loser…Don’t be a bad winner…”

Photo Credit: www.hngn.com

Photo Credit: http://www.hngn.com

 

 

 

 

 

Ugh, my head is spinning…

For more information on Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or follow me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“CHOOSE YOUR COXSWAIN…”


I wanted to be coxswain.

Unfortunately, I was too tall and heavy. As a rower I gave it my all, but I was still fascinated with my coxswains’ ability to motivate us into performing our best.  This power is one of the reasons I always preferred sitting in the bow, and why I enjoy coaching now.

In horse racing, much of the focus is put on the horse and their abilities. Yet, it is the jockey that gets the horse across the finish line. One miscalculation and the horse may go out too fast or too slow. Very rare do you have a horse like Secretariat or American Pharaoh that wills itself to win the Triple Crown. In NASCAR, all the focus is put on the driver. Much is written about their personality and their ability to maneuver around other vehicles at 200 mph.

Why should rowing be any different?

The coxswain is the driver. They need to manage the different personalities, behaviors, and talents of athletes who may or may not be on the same page. They must constantly be ready to follow and adapt their coach’s instructions. They are the ears, the eyes, and the nose (if they happen to be downwind) of the team.

Yet they get no love…

CHOOSE YOUR COXSWAIN

Just for fun, I want to share the six different types of coxswains you may have on your team. Coxing is not just about knowledge. Practice calls, drills,  and race recordings  are all important, but they can be memorized. A coxswain’s strength is their unique ability to connect and communicate this knowledge to the athletes. Each coxswain below motivates their teammates in different ways.

In December, I wrote about the Process Communication Model® and “which erg screen you would choose”. The coxswains below are the six “pure” personality types. Each of us utilize all of these six personality types, but to a different degree.

Even though I chose genders for each character, the characteristics of each coxswain is gender neutral. They are universal.

Riley Rebel – “Whose boat is this?”

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Artist Credit: EijiSaeki on DevianArt

Riley. When you read her name, you were not sure if it was a guy’s or gal’s name. It doesn’t matter; when she shows up, she is in charge. Riley does not cox the way other coxswains do. That is what makes her awesome. Stroke rates, erg times, and drills are not important, because she thinks outside the box.

Strengths:

Riley does not challenge your thinking process, but she will find more creative ways to get a boat moving as opposed to the way you approach it. She will use more exciting words like “NICEEEE!”, “WAAAY-Nuff”, and “ROCKIN’.” She sings in the boat, raps on cue, and is quick with an inappropriate joke to keep boat laughing. Riley makes rowing fun.

Needs to work on:

Riley needs to get with the program. She may struggle focusing on the daily grind.  You may believe she is not serious because she does not hang out with the team all the time. She has her own crowd to hang with. However, Riley may provide the dynamic and balance you need to win. When working with Riley, keep interactions fun and interesting. Lead with humor if possible and she will stick around and get on the same page.

Otherwise, your best coxswain will prefer to stay the 3rd boat because they are more fun and laid back.

Theodore Thinker “We are at 32 spm, and in exactly 5 strokes, we’ll shift to 34 spm.”

Artist Credit: Naths 2008

Theodore or “Ted” to his close friends is super organized and well prepared. He carries everything to practice in his backpack –tool kit, athletic tape, Dora’s Map and his cox box is always charged. Ted carries around a large notebook or iPad.

Strengths:

Ted remembers everything.  He knows the erg times of every athlete on the team as well as other teams.  He knows the race course like the back of his hand, and knows how the wind speed and direction affects the boat.  He scribbles constantly in his notebook, which he will fill up in a week. If asked if there is a correlation between shin length, stroke rate, and protein intake, Ted will show up on Monday with a report complete with a TPS report cover sheet.

 Needs to work on:

Sometimes Ted is so caught up in the numbers and drills that he may hesitate.  Even though the training and race plan is solid, he needs to trust his instincts more and just let go. He needs the confidence to go with his gut. Ted is more prepared than anyone else. Make sure to highlight that strength, before asking him to take a risk. He will be more likely to respond.

Otherwise, your best coxswain will fail to call the sprint earlier, because it was not part of the original plan.

Peyton Persister – “Well Coach always says…”

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Photo Credit: Photonest

Peyton loves coxing. She prides herself on her ability to “inspire” talent out of all the athletes. Like Ted, she will have an array of tools at her disposal to get you technically sound, however she is more focused on doing things the right way. Her way.  Rowing has rules, and Peyton knows them all. She is passionate about her job, and she is extremely loyal to the coach and her athletes.

Strengths:

Peyton does practice right. She will know the best way to get you warmed up and prepared physically and mentally to race. She gives great advice on how to approach an erg test. When times are stressful, Peyton will know the correct way to get everyone focused. She will be at every practice, even when she is sick, and may even train with the team because she wants to know what the athletes go through.

Needs to work on:

Peyton can be a coach’s pet or a coach’s nightmare.  No goofing off on Peyton’s watch. If you are talking in the boat, then she will call you out.  She will report to the coach anything you should not be doing. It is great that she can be right 99% of the time, but if she disagrees with the coach or athletes it may affect her performance. Help her understand that her views and opinions are valued, and it okay to agree to disagree. As long as she can share her input, she will stay loyal to you and the team.

Otherwise your best coxswain will “take her talents to South Beach.”

Isabella Imaginer  – “Let’s be calm…”

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Artist Credit: Miss_Dior on Favim

Rowing is an intense sport, so when Isabella arrives on the team, many may believe she won’t last. She is very quiet, and doesn’t get very excited. Yet, her calming presence makes her one of the steadiest performers. Isabella could be the difference maker when the boat is clicking.

Strengths:

“OHHMMmmm..” Isabella is a great listener, and she will be able to absorb many of the athletes’ woes. She gives excellent feedback to the coach how the boat is moving through the water. She will hypnotize you into focusing on the run of the boat instead of erg scores and the drama on the team.

Needs to work on:

Isabella can be too calm. You may need to snap her back to attention. Give clear and concise directions, or you will overwhelm her. Boat drama may cause her to shy away, and you may question her team loyalty. In reality, she needs time to recharge and process to find a solution that makes sense.  Pick and choose the right moments to talk to her about your rowing. Ask a pointed question and you will get a profound answer. Isabella may be the “missing piece” you need at the end of a stressful season.

Otherwise your best coxswain will vanish, and you will never know that she was gone.

Preston Promoter“You mad bro?”

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Preston is a bro. He is the A-team. At least that is where he believes he belongs. Watch out because the V8+ is his boat. He is one of the most competitive athletes on the team, and makes up for his small stature with his big and commanding voice. To be honest, Preston can be a total %#&!?, but that is how he rolls…

Strengths:

“Why would you want Preston in your boat?” The answer is simple. He gets it done. He is aggressive, and is constantly scheming up ways to win. He is the coxswain that you need with 250 meters to go. Is there a race plan? Scrap it. It’s all about the battle. The chess match is on, and he has stalked and scoped out all the other coxswains and athletes before your race. If there was a publicly televised weigh-in for coxswains, Preston would fight all the other coxswains and the officials.

Needs to work on:

Slow down bro. We need you to focus. Every practice is not a race, and sometimes we need you start paying attention to details. When Preston is bored he may find ways to make things competitive or stir up trouble on the team. It is not that he is manipulative; it is just that he wants a challenge. Give him one. “Preston, practice this drill, and I want your boat to master it by the end of practice”. Let him work his charm. He can be the best, and you just need to direct him there.

Otherwise, your best coxswain may find a way to get you out of the boat.

Hunter Harmonizer“We can do this…”

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Artist Credit: ChillyFranco on DevianArt

Hunter is the ultimate cheerleader. He lives for the team, and he will remind everyone why they row. He is the peace maker, and he will check in with each athlete before practice and competition to make sure they are ready. He is the pulse of the team, and knows what everyone is doing before and after practice.

Strengths:

Hunter is the pulse of the boat, and will be sure to tell the coach if anything is wrong. He gets fired up when an athlete performs, and will be exhausted after every erg test because he pours his heart out with them with every personal best and every failure. He trains with the team to stay in good shape and keep his weight down. Hunter wants to know what all the athletes are going through, because he constantly walks around in the shoes of everyone else.

 Needs to work on:

Hunter may be so concerned with pleasing everyone he may forget what his real job is and his role. In the last 500 meters he may hesitate to act. Hunter credits the athletes for every victory, and blames himself for every loss. Remind Hunter why he is important to the team. Praise him for his compassion for his teammates and his passion for the sport.

Otherwise your best coxswain will take his heart and his sleeve to look for a better “team” to motivate.

Moral of the Story

I believe the coxswain is one the most important “athletes” and “coaches” on the team. When the boat shoves off the dock, we are putting the keys to our Ferrari in the hands of this Cameron.

Know your coxswains. Develop them.

Athletes may be strong, but they need a leader to lead them and a “captain” to guide them. Winning the race is not as sweet as tossing your captain in the water following your victory.

Remember, you are the only crew that has earned that honor.

 

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 Thank you coxswains…

On April 2nd, 2016 I hosted “COACHDISC” for coxswains and coaches. This was a different kind of seminar, because we focused more on HOW coxswains say things, rather than WHAT coxswains say! For more information about upcoming seminars, or to register, click on EVENTS.

You don’t have to wait. Find out which coxswain you are! Get your profile now at Regatta Central. Allow 24 hours for processing!

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For more information on Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or follow me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.