By John O'Sullivan
November 4, 2015
Wisconsin volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield talks to his team during a timeout.
“I just can’t figure it out,” an exasperated coach said to me recently. “One day we are flying around the field, and the next it looks like we’ve never played together before. Why does this happen?”
“Do you think your players lost all their skill?” I asked? “Do you think they forgot how to play?”
“Of course not,” said the coach.
“Too many coaches think that performance is all about X’s and O’s,” I responded. “It’s much more than that.”
Many coaches think that coaching is an X’s and O’s business, but in reality it is a relationship business. The secret to great coaching and a successful performance by one’s team isn’t simply technique, or tactics, or fitness.
In fact, it comes down to a simple formula:
Performance = (Potential + Behavior) – Interference
(I came up with this equation after combining the definition of performance from two highly recommended books, Timothy Gallway’s The Inner Game of Tennis and James Kerr’s Legacy, which details the 2x defending world champion New Zealand All Blacks’ incredible success in rugby.)
Most coaches only look at potential and behavior (genetics, hours and quality of practice, attitude, coaching, fitness, etc.). These are incredibly important components, but they are not the whole equation.
Far too many coaches ignore the second half of the equation, interference.
Think of interference as the static on the radio during your favorite song. You know the song is great because you have heard it before. The lyrics are the same and the rhythm has not changed, but the song is not being heard in its best form. It is not the song’s fault- it is the radio station connection. In that moment you lose faith in the station’s ability to deliver the song in it’s best form.In other words, you no longer trust the radio station.
How does this relate to coaching to parenting, and to developing high-performing athletes?
Trust is the secret ingredient of great coaching.
It is foundation of all great teams and all great relationships. Players cannot consistently perform their best if they do not trust their coaches, their parents and their teammates, and in-turn feel they are trusted.
Parents cannot give their kids ownership and release their children to the sport unless they trust their kids, and their coaches.
Coaches cannot get the most out of their athletes and teams unless they trust them to perform and earn their athlete’s trust in the process.
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