“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“LOST” – THE C.R.A.S.H.-B. CONUNDRUM

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“THE C.R.A.S.H.-B. CONUNDRUM”

It happens every year.

Thousands of athletes travel to Boston, MA to rowing’s equivalent of the Super Bowl. Or maybe the Philadelphia “Wing Bowl”, because it truly is a spectacle.

LOST2

Photo Credit: greglesher.blogspot.com

Four of my athletes competed last week at the C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S, and only one came out successful. I finally realized that this event has always mystified me. In the seven years that I actually competed at the event, I only really did well twice. In my first year, I didn’t know any better, and pulled a personal best time as a lightweight. In 2005, my final year, I just stuck to my race plan, and somehow “won” my heat in exciting fashion.

That’s it.

What is it about the C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S?!?

I want to preface this blog by saying I absolutely love  the C.R.A.S.H.-B’s. It is a  great race and event.

However, when writers cover the event, their articles are about the athletes with inspirational stories, the rowing “celebrities” that happen to attend, and the world records that are broken. Meanwhile nothing is ever written about the thousands of other athletes that go there only to have their souls crushed by failure.

C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S is a conundrum. It is the Bermuda Triangle of indoor rowing competitions. You never know how it is going to play out.

LOST

lost

“And it started out with such promise…”

When you first arrive, you literally forget how you arrived and why you are there.

Like the passengers of Oceanic 6 in the television series LOST  we  convince ourselves that we were brought to the Agganis Arena for a reason. In the end, we realize that even the writers had no idea how the story was going to end.

I have written about “2k Anxiety“, and the fact is that C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S is too overwhelming.  Too stimulating. Too confusing.

High school athletes and parents always ask me for advice on whether it is worth going up to Boston. I look at them and simply say, “You should only go if you know you are going to pull a personal best, or you are going to win.”

Otherwise, just plan on being disappointed.

Even if you could go to Boston with the right mindset, there might be too many distractions there to overwhelm you.

“THE OTHERS”

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“Who ARE these people?”

Maybe it is just because the C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S is in a hockey arena.  The atmosphere is much different than a rowing venue. When you are sitting in the stands, it becomes very easy to be engrossed by everything.

Too many tastes, smells, sounds, and other peopleYou can spend your whole afternoon just people watching. The air is thick with drama, and very soon it is time for your event. Even if you are able to tune out everything, you still have to interact with other people.

“Hey bro, are you done using that erg. I need to warm up…”

Not enough ergs. And constantly bumping into other people as you wait in line at the restroom or concession stands. And all the other people want to talk to you…

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“Pay no attention to that carnage behind the curtain…”

“What a feeling,” as you wait in line in agony for your event behind a heavy curtain. Much like the final audition in “Flashdance”.

“The Dharma Initiative”

desmond

“I’ll see you in another life, brother!”

Even if you arrive with a good plan, the plan may unravel. You can map out your whole routine right up until your event, however a single misstep will throw you off. C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S contains too many uncontrollable variables.

It is impossible to predict every scenario, and athletes that are creatures of habit will find themselves uncomfortable. Boston traffic, parking issues, and event delays are all out of the athletes’ control. Therefore the “organized” athlete will be out of their element.

“Your heat has been delayed for another 20 minutes…”

Desmond had to push the button every 108 minutes. Then he was distracted, and then plane came crashing down.

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Photo Credit: Row2k

Are you ready to adapt your plan? Are you able to anticipate the things you do not know know about yet?

Like no toilet paper? (That’s only a joke… 🙂 )

“THE MAN IN BLACK VS. JACOB”

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“I wanted them to know…the difference between right and wrong without me telling them. It’s all useless if I have to make them do anything.”

At the C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S, athletes are taken out of their element. They are in a unfamiliar place watching athletes and coaches do things differently. Athletes from other programs and countries will prepare for the C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S in a different way.

Observing these “bizarre” methods will challenge your core beliefs. Especially when the athlete next to you pulls a personal best time with a rowing style or warm-up method you are not familiar with.

“Why is he pulling the handle over his head?”

Whether you frown upon their rowing technique or wish your own rowing technique was better, you end up questioning yourself, your coach, and why you are even there…

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“I thought headphones weren’t allowed…”

The focus on your original mission has ended; you begin focusing everything that is wrong in the world.

Thank goodness the GOP Debate was a week later…

“THE SMOKE MONSTER”

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“Okay, that thing in the woods, maybe it’s a monster, maybe it’s a p***ed off giraffe, I don’t know. “

You would think that those that thrive on competition, would always do their best at the C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S. In many cases they are the only ones that pull a personal best time.

With so much competition around, you begin picking out your targets. It is impossible to hold back your adrenaline because the arena oozes adrenaline.

“I am going to beat my time… I am definitely going to beat that CrossFit dude with no shirt on…”

“Oh WAIT, there’s GRAHAM BENTON!”

BOOM! You go out too fast.

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Photo Credit: Row2k and US Rowing

I would love the opportunity to pick the brain of Graham Benton or even the inspiring 95 year-old, Steve Richardson, who broke the World Record. How do they handle that pressure? Perhaps Mr. Richardson was just there to beat his previous time, and to beat all the other 95 year-olds.

And maybe he was just really p***ed that there wasn’t anyone else to race in his age group.

“MORAL OF THE STORY”

I don’t know…

In the 35 years of existence,  the  C.R.A.S.H.-B.’S has produced some amazing performances. Perhaps that is what makes the event the true World Indoor Rowing Championships, because athletes must rise above all the psychological hurdles – the overwhelming masses, the tempting distractions, the conflicting philosophies, and the unbelievable competition.

The tradition will continue to go on, even with the new threat of virtual regattas like the 2016 World Rowing Indoor Sprints and ROW’D Royalty.

Athletes will continue to compete at this rowing mecca to find their “heart” on this island…

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“What the hell was this?!?”

Or maybe  C.R.A.S.H.-B’S is just a purgatory where we all go to meet before we die…

 

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Oh shut up Jacob…

 

 

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