Take a Lesson in Dedication

August 24, 2008

I’ve been glued to the TV watching a good deal of the Summer Olympics and I hope a lot of parents are doing the same with their kids.

I can’t think of a better way to let them see what true dedication is all about. We kind of get lost in this world of football, basketball and baseball when there’s a whole world of athletes out there pushing themselves in so many other wonderful sports.

We’ve been pre programmed to accept what happens and “get’em next week” if we don’t win. But when you see a runner like Lolo Jones, favored to win her hurdles event, having trained for four years and leading with two hurdles to go when she hits the hurdle, almost falls and loses any chance at a medal, your heart breaks. She lies there on the track in shock knowing that at the age of 30 she’d probably never have another chance to win an Olympic medal.

All that training and dedication gone in a flash. But the lesson wasn’t over, because she picked herself up and walked over to do a TV interview where she conducted herself with class and dignity. Later they got a camera shot of her crying in the tunnel way beneath the stadium, but that was private.

Sports is a vehicle to teach youngests how to cope with real life issues. Don’t ever deny them that privilege and, as a coach, remember that you have a powerful hand in shaping that life.

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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.