Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them
Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom
Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do
Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner's mind. A little awareness is a good thing
Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week
Ideas come from trouble
Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they're generous and selfless
Ideas come from nature
Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence
Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice
Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we're asleep and too numb to be afraid
Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we're not trying
Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute
Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones
Ideas don't need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity
An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn't join us here, it's hidden. And hidden ideas don't ship, have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.
It happened twice yesterday. In the span of fours hours, two people I deeply respect said the exact same thing.
Yesterday morning, I went to see Jeffrey Gitomer (best-selling author of The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling and every other Little Book of... business and management book) speak. Gitomer is pretty clear about what it takes to be successful. He believes that the greatest sales people and marketing professionals are the ones who read and write... a lot. While many people who see Gitomer can easily walk away with the message that the secret of success is in the writing, after spending some time with him, it's obvious that the real secret (for him) is in the reading. Gitomer reads a ton. He not only collects the books that inspire him, but he devours them and surrounds himself with them. He loves words. He's constantly learning and educating himself, and - from there - the ideas for his writing (whether it's a book, article, presentation or tweet) flow from an overflowing brain of ideas and inspiration.
Last weekend I attended the PetroCan Sport Leadership conference in Ottawa, an annual conference for coaches, administrators, leaders and officials. Lots of great discussions and learning all around. One offline discussion I had with a few coaches had to do with LTAD (the Long Term Athlete Development model). More specifically, the discussion was about what I perceived to be the problems with the LTAD.
As I've said before, there are are lot of great ideas in the LTAD, many of them are backed by solid empirical research. There are however a few glaring problems, presented as fact, which to the best of my knowledge are not supported. The top three are:
1) Windows of Trainability
2) The 10,000 Hour Rule
3) Gender bias in training application
The problems don't stop there, but these are the three things that came up in the discussion on the weekend. I've previously written about the first issue here. The 10,000 Hour Rule requires more time than I have right now, but it's something I plan on returning to.
So I'll tackle the easy one in this post....gender.
The LTAD identifies "Shortcomings" in the Canadian Sport System, and the ensuing consequences. One of the shortcomings is that "training methods and competition programs designed for male athletes are imposed on female athletes", and consequently "female athlete potential (is) not reached due to inappropriate programs."
On the face of it, it certainly seems possible; sport is still largely a male domain when you look at the demographics of coaches, administrators, athletes, etc. Maybe we're not training and racing our female athletes appropriately. Maybe we can realize better performances by changing what we do.
Surprisingly, there is no further discussion of this issue in the LTAD, no supporting data is cited, and no solutions are provided. This seems strange, given that 50% of the Canadian population is female, and Canada's Olympic Teams are 38-44% female. It would seem like we're leaving a big stone unturned, and lots of medals on the table.
But before we go revamping our programs for female athletes, we should again ask a very simple question: is it true that our female athletes aren't reaching their potential due to inappropriate programs?
Anecdotally, in the sport of triathlon, it would seem that the reverse is true: that the Canadian women are doing quite well. The majority of Canada's medals in international triathlon this year came from female athletes (ie. Paula, Kirsten, Joanna).
But one year does not constitute proof, and triathlon is just one sport. What happens if we look at the performance of Canadian women at the highest level of competition, the Olympic Games, over the last 22 years?
* denotes a medal won in paired figure skating
As it turns out, the women seem to be doing just fine, or maybe better than fine.
At the Winter Olympics, women have constituted only 36% of the Canadian team over the last 7 Games (increased to 44% for the last two Olympics), but won 56% of Canada's medals. Rather than "not reaching their potential", it would seem that the ladies in red & white are exceeding expectations, or at least beating the odds.
The Summer Olympic Games provide a somewhat different picture, but it's far from dire. Over the last 6 Olympic Summer Games, the Canadian women have on average constituted 45% of the Canadian Team, and won 45% of the medals.
This post is just a quick snapshot of what could be a much larger conversation, but at least it's based on actual data, rather than conjecture. And from the data summarized above, it's not clear to me that our female athletes are not reaching their potential.
But the bigger issue is not about how we train and race female athletes, it's about where we get our info, how we verify it, and how we use it. If I could leave the reader with one piece of advice, it would be to be critical of the information you receive, and to do the homework for yourself. If a statement seems odd, simply ask: "Is that true?", and do some digging. We live in a time of unparalleled access to information. If we want to be world-class, we can't be blindly following advice when the readily available data points us in the other direction.
Taking that approach, maybe the mens' teams in winter sport should reconsider their approach to training, not the other way around. Food for thought, anyways.
I originally wrote this post in April, 2008, but given that A) I haven't updated the blog in a while; B) this approach is still one of our fundamental principles; and C) this message is timely as athletes return to training, I thought I'd resurrect the post.
HEALTH - CONSISTENCY - PERFORMANCE
April 24, 2008
Most of the concepts and ideas I use in coaching are adapted (or just plain stolen) from other coaches, sports experts, athletes, and non-sport sources. Even the things that I've 'discovered' myself are not novel - someone else has figured it out before me, I just didn't read their book/article/website or attend their seminar before I worked it out myself. Most coaches will tell you the same thing, and there's no shame in it - we should be in the business of making people faster, not inventing new gizmos, or protocols, or trademarking common training terms - a pet peeve of mine.
Training can be, and should be, fairly simple - or 'clean' - that's the new word around here lately. If our approach to training is based on clean and simple principles, it's easier to adhere to those principles and stay focused on the task at hand.
One very simple philosophy we follow here was hashed out with NTC coaches Neil Harvey and Patrick Kelly during a swim practice a while back. It's so simple, it's self evident, but that doesn't stop the majority of athletes from ignoring it. Make sure you have a pencil and paper handy, you don't want to miss this one. Here it is:
Health ---> Consistency ---> Performance
(Cue the "How many coaches does it take to screw in a light bulb?" jokes.)
As I wrote earlier, it's self-evident, and it's a very clean and simple concept: Health must precede Consistency, which must precede Performance. Put another way, you can't have achieve Performance without Consistency, and you can't achieve Consistency without being Healthy.
The trick for coaches and athletes is not to simply understand the concept, but to employ it. When I talk to athletes, the conversation centers around health if they are injured or sick, with little emphasis on consistency or performance. If an athlete is healthy, the discussion moves to consistency. Consistent training should be measured in months, not days or weeks. Only when an athlete is training consistently, and maintaining good health (ie. properly managed recovery habits) can we begin to discuss performance.
How many athletes out there are focussed on a specific race performance or a 'breakthrough workout' when they aren't healthy, or haven't been consistent? More than most in my experience, and they're setting themselves up for disappointment. Keep it simple - stay healthy, train consistently, and the performances will follow.
Please note that I've trademarked this concept. Just send your annual licensing fee of $79.99 c/o Provincial Triathlon Centre if you want to use it.
Regional Triathlon Centre (RTC) - Guelph Head Coach: Craig Taylor Location: University of Guelph, Ontario Program: Full-time draft-legal triathlon program Contact: craig.taylor(at)triathloncanada.com RTC Entrance Policy:Link