02 Apr Be the best you can be, given…. |Paul Walker

Welsh Coaching Conference

So its that time of year again. I still consider myself (far) more of an athlete than a coach, but having always had an interest in the coaching side (mainly to make myself better) and also now coaching (read: teaching) a group of athletes at Cardiff Met University, I do like to pop down to these things.

Considering the first word in the title was “Welsh”, the conference actually boasted a pretty impressive line-up of speakers. Personal highlights included Neil Black and John Keily.

Neil Black delivered a pretty powerful keynote speech, covering a really broad area of the transition of coaching “good to great” athletes. Like I say, many areas were covered, many of which I’ll probably steal and re-write as blog posts, but the one that kicked me in the teeth the most was on are you trying to be the best.

To para-phrase his slide

“Are you trying to be the best, or are you trying to be the best given…..”

This was directed at coaches, do you really want to be the best elite level coaches, or do you want to be the best coach given that you work these hours, can only be at the track certain times, have family commitments etc. etc.

All of these factors could be considered constraints on their ability to be the very best coach possible. An interesting approach, and something equally applicable for athletes.

The constrained best

Consider a robot, who’s sole job is to become the greatest athlete it can.

(Theres not too much research on the training effects for robots, but for the sake of this thought experiment, they shall be considered equal to those of a human).

What would it do, how would it act. Every possible variable would be optimised, it wouldn’t be distracted on its eating by taste, its sleep by staying up to watch tv, its rest and recovery by family and friends.

It doesn’t sound like a great life, but if we do consider variations from this path as “constraints” to performance, then what are your constraints?
Are any of them easily fixable?
Can you move closer to optimal?

The big one for most athletes may be “I need to work”.

This may be a constraint you can remove quite easily, by quitting. But is that sustainable in the long term? does it need to be sustainable in the long term?

How long till you’re fully-fledged elite and being able to make a living from the sport?

Even once you are making a living, should you keep working for another year? This could be considered creating an “injury buffer”, having extra funds in case of a loss of income due to injury

A Performance Robot

Not everyone can be a performance robot.

Not everyone should be a performance robot.

But slow steady progression over the years may entail removing constraints in order to continue forward progression.

Do you even want to be a performance robot?