Does Color Really Make a Difference?

April 29, 2008

NFL Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown was in town the other day. I interviewed him and he said a fascinating thing:

“The man who had the biggest influence on my life was my high school football coach. He gave me direction and taught me discipline. He was like a father to me…and you know what, he was white. It’s a shame I have to tell you that, but in this day and age that’s the way society is. Color makes a difference when it really shouldn’t. He was my coach and I loved him.”

Those words from the greatest running back in the history of the National Football League.


Fast Twitch vs. Slow Twitch

April 23, 2008

One of my favorite baseball players of all time is former Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson. I loved him on defense. He wasn’t fast, but had lightning reflexes which made him perfect as a third baseman because his first step and reaction time was explosive when the ball was hit. His diving stops are legendary.

Track runners know the terms “fast twitch” and “slow twitch”. Some runners are born with a built in extra gear that they can hold in reserve until the final lap before kicking in the after burners. Other runners don’t have that gear. They’re slow twitch and their strategy has to be to wear the other runners down by keeping on a constant high pressure throughout the race so they can be far enough ahead of the fast twitch guys to win. That’s playing to your strength.

Somewhere growing up the slow twitch runners had to find that out and more than likely it was a coach who watched them closely and didn’t harp on their faults, but taught them to make the best of the gifts and talent they had.

As a coach you’ll have some fast twitch athletes and some slow twitch athletes and the challenge for you is to recognize the difference and get the most from all of them. Brooks Robinson was probably a slow twitch athlete and wouldn’t have been a great shortstop, but at third base he became a Hall of Famer. Maybe you have a slow twitch athlete who you’ve been trying to coach like a fast twitch athlete.

Don’t Ride Your Star Too Hard

April 17, 2008

I was talking to a sports related orthopedic surgeon the other day and he told me that he has to do an awful lot of work with young pitchers, high school age, who’ve torn their rotator cuffs or developed chronic pain in their pitching arms.

He told me that the problem is that the loose, whipping motion that makes a great young pitcher, is also the one thing that makes them more susceptible to arm damage at a young age. That whipping, almost double jointed motion comes as a result of exceptionally loose joints. That means a lack of stability and quicker wear and tear.

Unfortunately there are a lot of coaches who either don’t know or don’t care to listen to that kind of wisdom. They’re always looking for the next great star, and riding him till he drops, but that star can burn out before he ever gets a chance to shine if we don’t handle him with care.

What’s Honesty Worth? Everything.

April 12, 2008

I was watching The Masters golf championship and saw something remarkable. Amateur Michael Thompson was over his ball getting ready to putt when he backed off and told an official that his ball had moved, in essence calling a penalty on himself. I never saw it. They had to show a slow motion replay to prove that the ball had indeed moved about a quarter of an inch.

Now name me another sport where players call penalties on themselves. It’s the beauty of golf, but it’s also the integrity of the man.

Realize this. Michael Thompson, as an amateur, had qualified to play in one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world. He was right on the edge of the cut line, in other words, the score needed to qualify for the final two rounds of the tournament.

Calling a penalty on himself cost him a stroke and put him over the edge, but it didn’t matter.

He walked off the green to the awe inspired applause of the gallery and the praise of the TV commentators who said that his action would leave an indelible impression on this tournament.

Somewhere along the way someone taught Michael that even the game of golf reflects life. There’s no substitute for honesty and integrity.

If you’re a coach, can you see how you have the privilege of “Coaching For Life” and not just for the game?

Good Coaching Starts At Home

April 11, 2008

I spent a couple of days watching practice rounds at The Masters in Augusta. I like that because you see the players when they’re not in full “game” mode. The thing that always impresses me is how “cool” they are on the course, in their play and their attitude.

Tiger Woods is a shining example. He’s never in a hurry, facial expressions change little, and just plain in control of his emotions.

I’m a fairly easy going guy, but golf frustrates me more than any other sport. It’s a mental thing. That ball seems to lay there laughing at me. The more frustrated I get, the worse I play.

Do you remember how early in his career Tiger, as great as he was, grimaced, stalked after missed shots and grumbled on the course? It was his mother who called him on the carpet for his unsportsmanlike attitude. His mother, mind you. She told him that he was embarrassing the family with his actions, and that if he couldn’t behave himself, she wasn’t going to let him play. What we see now is a mature, determined athlete who has learned to discipline himself and the results are obvious.

Our first, and maybe most important coaches, live right there with us in our own home. But, as the line in the 80’s song says, “Guilty feet have got no rhythm”.

As parents or coaches, however, we can’t expect our athletes to learn something we can’t do ourselves.

How Do You Approach A Team’s Weaknesses?

April 9, 2008

Free throws turned out to be a big issue for the Memphis Tigers in the final minutes of the national championship game. Rudy Kalis had some thoughts to share about coach Calipari’s approach to his team’s free throw weakness. (Click the audio player below.)

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Let The Game Come To You

April 1, 2008

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If you haven’t seen Stephen Curry in action here’s a highlight from the recent game against Wisconsin.