Lets not fool ourselves to get better you have to do the work, that is a given. Make no mistake that everyone who achieves at a high level does the work. All that being said just doing the work is not enough, anyone can work it is work with direction and purpose that produces results. We have this mistaken notion more prevalent today because of the “10,000 hour” myth that all you need to do is to punch the clock, accumulate hours and somehow magically at 10,000 hours you will be a champion. No way! If that work is not mindful, done with a plan that provides specific direction then all you are doing is getting tired and getting tired does not make you better. It is not the work it is what you put into the work that counts I know that is a cliché but some clichés are truisms. I have seen nothing in my experience to disprove this. Plan your work, work the plan, evaluate the results, recalibrate and keep moving forward with direction and purpose. I had this discussion with a colleague the other day and she reminded of the words of a country western song that was popular a few years ago: “Work your fingers to the bone. What do you get? Boney fingers.”
YOUR EYES MAY BE LYING TO YOU
It is interesting to listen to coach’s talk about what they see when observing movement. Are they really seeing what they think they see? Human vision is incredibly acute and at the same time fundamentally flawed. The longer I coach the more I realize that more often than not we see what we think we see rather that exactly what is happening. Whether we recognize it or not we all have a tendency toward a confirmation bias. Consciously or subconsciously we have programmed our brain to look for certain things. In many ways viewing motion is like looking at a Rorschach inkblot test, the shape of the object does not change as much as our perception of the shape of the object. I heard a story once about three pitching coaches and three scouts watching a pitcher. Mind you six people watching the same pitcher throw the same pitch and they all saw something slightly different. Listening to them you quickly realize that what each of them had seen confirmed each of their biases in regard to pitching.
And in the world of gymnastics- Every “expert” is going to see what they want. A sport scientist will find a biomechanical solution. A strength expert will find a conditioning solution. A Psychologist will find a mental solution. What is the solution? Obviously today we have high-speed video and a myriad of analysis tools, but we still need to be able to effectively use our naked eye to provide instant feedback for correction and instruction. First recognize your confirmation bias and work to erase that mental program. Second a very simple correction that I learned from Muriel Grossfeld is to change vantage point. Instead of viewing Beam from the side watch from the end or get up in the stands and view from above. You will be surprised at how many different things you see. A third solution is to learn to use you peripheral vision. Turn sideways to the action and you will be surprised at things you see. Our peripheral vision is very acute but we don’t train ourselves to use it to its fullest extent. Just like any coaching skill training yourself to have an accurate unbiased coaching eye is part of improving your skills as a coach. In words of that sage biomechanist Yogi Berra “You can see a lot by watching.”