Extreme Leadership

A post to my site has been long overdue. But the delay did not happen because of just a lack of desire or ideas, but from a decrease in free time. I am happy to say that training has returned to a resemblance of normal. Teams are back to daily environments that means support to athletes and coaches has been on the rise. I am very fortunate to be back with the Neutral Hills Wrangles, helping with a local cycling program and, and Killarney Artistic Swim. I am also excited to begin with the National Sport Academy Baseball program and a few smaller, equally exciting projects. I would like to thank Jason Poole and Jason Sjostrom at the Canadian Sport Institute for asking me to assist with these projects and agree to collaborate on others.  It is really an honour to be back at whatever capacity to assist coaches and athletes of all levels. As the tag line for the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary states, if comes down to “elevating the athlete.”

Despite the hustle of the summer and the fall, there was time to read. This summer I was able to read 4 new books, and 4 rereads; books that I find so influential, technical, or important that I read a second, possibly third time. One of the more interesting books that captured my attention this summer was Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Very much rooted in the leadership within the Navy Seals, there were several parallels to Integrated Support Teams. They spoke throughout the book of the dichotomy of leadership which resonated on a deep level with me, as I venture to help coaches as well as athletes.

The keys to leadership, and this should come as no surprise, as we all should know by now it is about building relationships through respecting people. Being humble, listening, telling them the truth and having integrity set a solid foundation for that relationship to grow.  But to delve deeper into that concept it is important that a good leader must be confident but not cocky. Now in many cases, I for one would have been labeled on the cocky side. But with age, therefore some life wisdom we learn to put our egos aside, and realise it is not about us, hoe good our programs are, or who we have worked with. It is about those you are supporting, who they are working with, and can you elevate their programs to help support those they are supporting.

Good leaders need to be courageous but not foolhardy. Never has this been more important than now, in the age of social media, the new normal of a global pandemic, and when you are back out in the world climbing the ladder of success again. It is the process of believing in yourself, your skills, and your abilities to act on your passion to move forward; to believe so deeply in your process that you can focus on the goal. But it is also the ability to see, when it is time to change the course slightly, or ask for help. Once, again, that ego is put aside and you reach out to a network that you have hopefully built though strong relationships.

We all need to be competitive but a gracious loser. When I was younger, I took things personally, and at times I still do. If an athlete decided to move on from me to someone else, I was out of sorts for a while. But let’s be honest, there are many people doing great work out there.  Once again, it is not about me, it is about them and what they need to be successful. If this is what they feel they need, then support them in that decision. It may work out, it may not, but you are there to support them, and to even welcome them back if need be. Understand that the wins will come, and they will feel amazing. But with the wins, there will be eventual losses. Sometimes we got a lot of losses. It is how you pick yourself up from those losses that helps to define your leadership.

We all can be attentive to details but not obsessed by them. We talk about this in periodization. Plans are written in pencil and ink. They can be adjusted. Understand that the attention to details matter, to have the most robust plan, account for scenarios but at times, the plan must take a different course. It is not abandoning the plan but guiding the decisions within the bandwidth of our experience. This brings with it new experience and understanding that gives us that greater knowledge.

This career requires good leaders to be strong but have endurance. Not in the physical sense but in character and mental strength. Leadership is not something you walk in and bang out over the course of a few days. It can be months, years that this process develops. So having the mental endurance to take on this marathon is highly relevant to great leadership.

A strong and effective leader must be a leader and a follower. Really this comes down to know when to lead, and when to back off and support. Able to execute extreme ownership, while exercising decentralized command. This is also a trait of a truly great mentor as well. In the words of Higgins from the ever-popular show Ted Lasso, “A good mentor hopes you will move on. A great mentor knows you will.” A good leader knows when to back off as they trust the mentor.  And this requires the leader to once again, be humble not passive.

But when things are not going as planned, it is a skill to be aggressive not overbearing. The overbearing, leader fails to gain the respect of the team. No one wants to feel that they are not trusted, being talked down to, dismissed or yelled at. This also means that the leader needs to be quiet not silent and calm but not robotic, logical but not devoid of emotions.

Leadership is also about being close with others, coaches, and athletes, but not so close that one becomes more important than another or more important than the good of the team.  Not so close that they forget who is in charge. There is a skill at being friendly, but not being friends with those you lead. As time moves, and I can say that I would consider many coaches I have worked with friends. But, having the above skills, helps to differentiate this when it comes to the daily training environment, and when critical decisions need to be made. When it comes to athletes, it is CRITCAL to differentiate the friendly from friends. That is a tough process when young leaders are placed in a position with athletes not much older than them, but that creates no excuse. Sport needs to be a safe place, and our relationship with our athletes cannot come from a place of transactional, abusing our “power”. That has zero place in sport.

And lastly, A GOOD LEADER HAS NOTHING TO PROVE BUT EVERYTHING TO PROVE. We are here to support, we are here to guide, and we will do that with the best of our ability, with the knowledge we have at this time. But we also have to have impact, create results, and not just speak about actions, but enact on the.  That requires us to be humble, listen, telling the truth and having integrity to set a solid foundation for that relationship to grow

May Newsletter V1I5

May turned out to be a busier than usual month which was appreciated from a teaching and training perspective, however, provincial restrictions caused a change of focus. That caused this month’s newsletter to come out a bit later than anticipated. However, here it is. A little overview look at Maximal Aerobic Power. Hope you all find it interesting and informative

Dear Social Media.

I am saddened to see the state our province is in, the culture of society reflected through the online lens. My views are my own, and any debate or negative comments will be deleted. 

For my own mental health I need a break from the negativity of all that is occurring on all social media platforms. 

A Government who’s own members cannot have common ground. 

Government that is concerned with economy over people. People drive the economy, not the other way around. 

I am a religious person, but the challenge of a church here in Alberta at the centre of attention that flouts the health orders as though religion in a specific place is essential. “The Kingdom of God is inside/within you (and all about you), not in buildings/mansions of wood and stone. (When I am gone) Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift the/a stone and you will find me.” I am not making this about religion, but saying we have to stay open because we are essential is a myopic view of how to serve others.  I am sure online option for your people can be tolerated for a short time.

Change that to “Fitness and health is inside/within you (and all about you), not in buildings/mansions of wood and stone.” Do not tell me about hurting, suffering etc. when it comes to fitness and sport.  I have been at 1/8 of my workload for 9 months, so trust me when I tell you what hurt is. I have looked through my scope of practice from both certifying bodies I am registered with, no where have I found that I am able to take clients that are in severe pain or in a place of such poor mental health that I am essential.  But maybe that is why I am a below average trainer/ coach working at 1/8 of my previous load. To defy the orders, shows that  “we are NOT in this together” as many make the sacrifice to stick to such orders.  I fear this will just postpone the inevitable 4th, 5th etc. wave and we are back in this again 3, 6 or more months from now. In this industry there are smart people, we can work together to get through this. One on one is still allowed, as is outdoor training. With creativity, people can still be active, and come out of this with a new perspective. I am hurting, scared and frustrated as is anyone, and frankly sick of all this as well. 

I am saddened to see that a province that has gotten through the flood of 2012 and the Fort Mac fires in solidarity, making only millimetres of progress in a million directions as opposed to making significant progress in the things that matter the most. I consider myself a sport scientist, and as such we apply the scientific process to the realm of sport. That process includes identify solutions, understanding the problems or factors, creating a process for evaluation, analyzing results, making a conclusion, and communicating those results. However, I fear many are caught at the step of creating a new process, after being in this an entire year. Yes, I too suffer from Zoom fatigue, but we are all talented, smart, and educated individuals and such can move the needle on how we can have a true impact on our clients, athletes, and those we are asked to support. We can elevate what it is we do for our clients. I have always strived to have informed athletes; I as many want to coach, guide, teaching all the people I work with how to think, not what to think. Throughout all of this, my hope is that we can collectively come to a happier, safer place, and show that we can endure, we can adapt this profession, not industry, but a profession, can and will have a greater impact on society as a whole.

Until then, see you when I see you Social Media.

Revisiting LTAD Gold.

I have an app called Pocket. If you don’t know it, it’s fantastic. You can grab any article from the net, Twitter, etc., save it to Pocket, and then read it later offline. I have quite a stash of great articles in there to read. Today I came across this one by Rick Howard, M.Ed., CSCS, *D, written a few years back, and it is exactly what I needed to revisit today. So I wanted to share it here.

https://www.nays.org/blog/long-term-athletic-development-what-coaches-and-parents-need-to-know/

But what caught my attention was the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and their foundation of the position statement on 10 Pillars of LTAD:

  1. Long-term athletic development pathways should accommodate for the highly individualized and non-linear nature of the growth and development of youth.
  2. The youth of all ages, abilities, and aspirations should engage in long-term athletic development programs that promote both physical fitness and psychosocial wellbeing.
  3. All youth should be encouraged to enhance physical fitness from early childhood, with a primary focus on motor skills and muscular strength development.
  4. Long-term athletic development pathways should encourage an early sampling approach for youth that promotes and enhances a broad range of motor skills.
  5. The health and wellbeing of the child should always be the central tenet of long-term athletic development programs.
  6. Youth should participate in physical conditioning that helps reduce the risk of injury to ensure their on-going participation in long-term athletic development programs.
  7. Long-term athletic development programs should provide all youth with a range of training modes to enhance both health- and skill-related components of fitness.
  8. Practitioners should use relevant monitoring and assessment tools as part of a long-term physical development strategy.
  9. Practitioners working with youth should systematically progress and individualize training programs for successful long-term athletic development.
  10. Qualified professionals and sound pedagogical approaches are fundamental to the success of long-term athletic development programs.

It was highlighted by the author “The central tenet of this model is that the health and wellbeing of the child is the holistic focus. In other words, all youth participation in sports, fitness, and physical activity should be deliberately planned to provide a positive physical and psychosocial experience leading to increased skills and abilities, love for the game, and reduced risk of injury.”

I would highly suggest that you click on the link above and have a read of the article. It is one of those articles that any of us who are in the sport performance realm, and working with youth should revisit from time to time, to ensure that we are following sound principles that take into account the holistic approach to LTAD.

February Newsletter V1. I1.

I have enjoyed the process of sharing knowledge and information through my posts and recently have thought about new ways to interact. I am hopping on the bandwagon as are many others to share information through the medium of a newsletter.

This will allow those of you who wish to not only read the information but save it for another time in the form of a PDF.

The first news letter is helping to explain what in short detail what I have been working on for the last few months in developing Deliberate Performance.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the content.

OLD LONG SINCE

“Auld Lang Syne” is a Scots-language poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294). It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world, its traditional use being to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations, and as a farewell or ending to other occasions. The poem’s Scots title may be translated into standard English as “old long since” or, less literally, “long long ago”, “days gone by”, or “old times”. Consequently, “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as “for the sake of old times”. Thank you, Wikipedia.

After the tire fire that was 2020, it is hard not to yearn for the sake of old times; of 2018, or 2019. Anything but 2020, with the passing of a beloved sports icon and his daughter, the passing of a game show celebrity, a man who changed the way guitars were played.  Then there was the BLM movement that was a needed wake-up call that was heard around the world. Of course, the main course was the Pandemic, the support or disdain of elected officials and their handling of the course of nature.  Then there are those divided by “research” on social media. That’s a whole separate story.  Did I forget the murder hornets?  Seriously 2020, what the hell?

Now, I am going to state that I am not much for the New Years’ Eve celebrations.  Maybe it stems from long ago being stood up on NYE (for any millennials reading this, that is the physical manifestation of “ghosting” in your texting world), or staying home in 1999 because I drank a case of beer waiting to see the fallout at midnight of Y2K (millennials, that’s when the world’s computers were to stop functioning and we were to revert back to the dark ages, hahaha).  NYE really has never been my thing. But as I sat on the couch at 8:00 pm, my daughters blew noisemakers and we had a mini countdown before their bedtime, it wasn’t until my wife played Auld Lang Syne by The Barenaked Ladies that the magnitude of 2020 hit me.  I was relieved and sad all at the same time. I realized the events we witness, lived through, will live through, and the sacrifices we made.  It also dawned on me the amount of change that I (we) had to endure this past year. 

There was a profound Twitter post that the author laid out his predictions that will likely emerge before 2030 and it really resonated with me.  Riding the coattails of that brilliant post, here are some of the things that I reflected on…

  1. Higher quality of life – the events of 2020 have forced our entire society to slow down.  I was sent home on March 12, 2020, and for the first week, it was glorious. The second and third were pretty spectacular, but for those that know me, I enjoyed going into work and the social interactions. By week four, the house felt the size of a garden shed, and the walls were closing in.  But today, I have slowed my pace and really do not want that to change as our governments roll out vaccinations with a hopeful return to normal.  I discovered the love of cooking and a nightly meal with my family and realized that food that is warm is much better than eating it cold. I have come accustomed to the once-weekly trip to the grocery store and appreciate the dog-eared cookbooks in my house.  Even the random ramblings of my kids as I drive them to and from school have become precious moments.  I have found myself smiling at the little things more often. Thank you 2020 for slowing me down.
  2. My Hobbies – yep, my workout sure took a different direction this year.  However, I look back on this as a welcome change.  I do regret not stocking my war chest of gym goods more responsibly in the past but I made due.  I had a TRX, various kettlebells, bands, and a 45 lb bar (someday I will have plates for the said bar) but I walked nearly three times a week and was on my bike more this year than in the last 8 years combined.  I cherished every day I was able to stand in the water and toss a fly line this year. And throughout all of this, I still managed 257 active days out of a planned 233 (109%).  This time away from the physical gym has allowed me to be more creative, open my mind, and honestly challenge the way I defined solutions for myself and athletes. Thank you 2020.
  3. Career – As most of you will know, 2020 was the year I was shown the door, I was laid off.  To say it was hard would be an understatement. But thanks to a supportive family, some professional help, and supportive friends, I am coping with it… still. Things happen for a reason, and at first seem unfair, cruel, and embarrassing.  But it has taken some time to reflect on where I have come to at the end of 2020.  I have had the time to reflect on what truly mattered to me.  The rise of remote will lead to people re-prioritizing what is important to them and lead them to organize work around life will be the prioritized. People realizing they are more than their job will lead to a deeper purpose in other areas. A recognition that we no longer have to sacrifice work for a living, but we can organize work around our lives. I have been busy since the middle of August defining this at depth truly reinventing myself as a sports physiologist and educator.
  4. My “legacy”- I miss my coworkers and I miss my athletes, more than anyone could know. I would feel the same pride watching my athletes and coaches succeed that I do watch my children grow and learn.  But it took time away to discover what I want to be known for in my next chapter. I want to be known as a great practitioner who can deliver what I promise consistently. I want to be known as a facilitator and educator who trains others on how to maximize effectiveness and translate knowledge. I want my time to be replaced as the main KPI for judging my performance rather than by productivity and output. That means becoming an essentialist and removing the need to pad an 8 hour day, replaced by clear tasks and responsibilities that I find deep connection and meaning. It means doing what needs to be done rather than wasting time on tasks trying to look busy.

So as we bode farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, and we shook our fist at 2020, I recognized it as bidding farewell or ending to other occasions. Coming out the other end of this “UNPRECEDENTED EVENT”  none of us are the same person, probably more so than any other year, we have endured. I would like to think that as a whole, a majority of us used 2020 positively. As he poem’s Scots title may be translated into standard English as “old long since” or, less literally, “long long ago”, “days have gone by”, or “old times”, I do not wish the old times; well aside from no COVID-19, but I look at 2021 with a little more optimism, wisdom, and hope. Here is to 2020, that relationship that was so toxic that it showed us, we deserve better than 2020 and it’s bull shit. I hope the best for all of you in 2021.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

There are two things I love to do outside of coaching; cooking and building with wood. Now the cooking I can handle my own, the wood working is something of a work in progress.  So over the time at home, I have watched a fair share of cooking shows and have begun to rather enjoy the HGTV show Home Town.  Home Town is an American television series starring husband and wife team, Ben and Erin Napier that premiered on January 24, 2016 on HGTV. The married couple restores Southern homes in Laurel, Mississippi.

They take their talents to renovate old homes and take something that to most, should be torn down and make it into something spectacular, many times not even recognizing the old structure existed. With these older homes, they really see the cosmetics of the house, but it is not until demo day that they see what lies underneath.  As hidden problems arise, there is no panic, but an assessment and plan to address the situation within the budget or constraints that they are faced with. For the most part, Erin works on the design and decorating while Ben works on the structure.  Ben’s role is to set a strong foundation and structure to which Erin adds the final touches and together they create a collaborative approach to renovation project.

This got me thinking about the structure of athlete development based around a recent article review.  The article was investigating the improvement of sport performance in response to a change in physiological lab measures. The reviewer questioned the relevance in the mode of exercise to the sport specific exercise.   I then began to think about the renovation process. Much as in a renovation where you have the general contractor and the designer, you have the sport scientist (general contractor) and the coach (designer).  When we begin with a new athlete we see the outside cosmetics (looks fit, can move okay etc.) but it is not until we have the assessment where we see the underlying issues (restricted movement, fitness etc.).  It is at that time the contractor must begin to create a structurally sound plan so that the designer can complete their job.

And here I get back to the relevance in the mode of exercise to the sport specific exercise.  This is my personal opinion, but as the sport scientist in the daily training environment, we can all benefit from taking a step back, and slow the process down.  The first step in the testing process is not to connect the dots of “my training plan in the weight room or on the bike did X and the performance was Y therefore my program had a direct impact on the performance.”  There are so many factors that can account for an improvement or decline in performance we can be missing the picture.

 

As the contractor, your job is to have a strong foundation.  If you create X program, the physiological testing is in place to ensure your program had the intended effect.  With a sound foundation, the coach (designer) can then finalize the project (sport specific training).  Yes, therefore there is an indirect effect that the sport science program has on the performance, but as young sport scientists, too often we try to answer the grand question instead of the simple ones that are before of us.  Entry and exist testing first off must determine if the program you wrote had the intended effect.  Then, when you have that confirmed, can you begin to look at the effect it had on performance, but answer the simple questions before tackling the larger.  Make a collaborative and sound assessment, program.  Test said program for its effect.  Create a structurally and physiologically tolerate athlete for the coach.  Help to set a strong foundation and structure to which the coach adds the final touches and together create a collaborative approach to “renovation” project.

And with that I am off to the garage to continue with a new wood project.

 

 

 

Sport Science, We Are In This Together.

Back in 2008, I was working at a training centre and during a down time in the year we were told that the centre was going to be painted. Instead of taking a few days off the boss hunkered us all down to strategically plan.  It was then that I was first asked, “what sport do you want to champion.”  My response was simple, “I am not concerned with the sport as much as the process of athlete development.”

I was recently asked the same question. Again my response was simple, “I am not concerned with the sport as much as the process of athlete development.”  Yet this time I was able to articulate my rationale.  I went on to state, “My resume has quite a varied field of sports and athletic abilities associated with it.  I take the approach that all participants or athletes have various aspects of performance and that performance fits a bandwidth. The challenge then is to identify the gaps in the performance and narrow the gap of where they are to where they need to be. It’s simple problem solving, and building a strategic plan to accomplish such a challenge.” I said  that I hoped my response did not come across as egotistical but I find the beauty of performance in many events that could range from sports such as hockey, dance to free style ski.  What will help to shrink the gap in performance.

As  a Sport Physiologist, and spent a majority of my time assisting in the management of sport science services to organizations and coaches.  I wore a number of hats; physiologist, the strength coach, and the educator for staff, coaches and athletes.  When I was young, I had little understanding how all sport science aspects interacted, how they all fit, so I avoided it. Then as I got a few years under my belt, I began the “this is my hammer and every problem (gap) is a nail.” But if I learnt anything from Dr. David Smith, Rosie Neil, Dr. Matt Jordan or Scott Maw, it’s that addressing the gap is a puzzle, a 1000 piece puzzle with a bout 200 extra pieces that can fit in place of others.  There are numerous solutions but I was also able to start to see the simplicity in the puzzles, and the puzzle will never be completed, it’s just finished enough to make out most of the picture.

In elite sport, it’s a pretty small sample size of athletes and support.  I have always believed that working with elite sport is not difficult.  You have great athletes, coaches and professionals, a strong support team where the individual participants can deliver their expertise, and just don’t blow the athletes up. It is more complicated than that, but that’s the Cole’s notes. What about at the grass roots?  According to Statistics Canada over one in four Canadians (27%) aged 15 and older regularly participated in sports in 2016, with hockey (of course) topping the list.  With a population of 37.9 million in Canada that is 29.59 million participants in sport after the age of 15 years.  In comparison, the population of Canada is roughly equal to the population of California. This poses two thoughts.

  1. With the number of participants across all sports relatively small in the grand scheme of total population, how do we build better athletes at the bottom and allow them the opportunity to find success at their own determined level?
  2. With a number that large, how do you deliver service and education to the athletes that are in a sport organization?

The key is to help develop and educate the coaches.  Bring the best support to the coaches and sport organization that is appropriate to their situation. That is where an experienced Sport Scientist comes in. That person should be collaborating with the coach, and not dictating; this is a relationship. This person should help the coach identify 1-2 key questions that need to be answered and that question has measurable impact on performance. Think SMART goals. And this person should be able to show the impact or change that the intervention has had for the team.

 

Sport as a Problem Solving Process

 

 

For most of the people in sport, there are a number of questions that require answering and it is a benefit to have the outside view to identify the key questions that can be or should be answered. This will require the gathering of information, where it is key to make observation about the sport and the athletes. When the necessary information is gathered, it is time to identify the solution.  This step must be strategic, and may include a new stimulus or in some cases, require that stimulus is removed.  Too many cooks in the kitchen ruin the soup. Here we can ask with the information gathered, what can be changed that will improve performance the most or what are the goals of your training program? Creating a plan must now take all the above factors into account to write a program that will achieve the identified goals

Implementing the plan, I think is one of the easier steps.  This is the point that coaches all enjoy… the coaching.  It feels like this is the calm before the storm.  But we cannot forget to plan to assess the outcome. Ultimately assessment is competition and how much did performance improve, or not improve. However, this may also include sport science testing. The value in sport science testing is that this provides more control over the random influences of sport performance and can provide specific information about components of performance. Where this process can become confusing is when it is now applied to more than just the training environment.

 

 

The above steps can be an should be applied to all aspects of the training environment, as seen in the figure above. But that is a big undertaking to a coach, and as I have been told in the past, it is very overwhelming.  Start simple and decide the biggest question you have, and reach out to your support network. There are great people out there willing to help. And the 2020 slogan phrase of “we are in this together” is applicable to the area of sport science as well.