Grittier athletes more likely to succeed

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, March/April 2016.

After the annual NCAA football signing day, NFL.com wrote that 57.3% of the 288 Rivals.com five-star prospects between 2002-11 went un-drafted by the NFL. Five-star prospects are the elite 18-year-old football players; NFL draft picks are the elite 21 or 22-year-old football players. Only 40% of those who are considered elite at 18 years old remain elite three to four years later, despite five-star prospects generally playing for more prominent football programs with more prominent coaches, bigger budgets, better facilities, and better competition, advantages that should widen the gap between the elite and non-elite rather than shrinking this gap. […]

Avoid choking in unrehearsed situations

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, September 2015.

When Dustin Johnson hit the green in two strokes on the 18th hole, he had a putt for an eagle and the 2015 U.S. Open championship. Instead, three putts later, he settled for second. The putt for eagle was a tricky 12-foot putt, but the putt for birdie to force a playoff with Jordan Spieth was a 4-foot putt. According to PGATour.com stats, Johnson had made 96% of his putts inside 5 feet this season prior to the U.S. Open. The popular narrative was that Johnson choked.  […]

Should every player hate to lose?

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, May/June, 2014.

During my first season as an assistant coach for a junior-college women’s basketball team, the head coach remarked that it was hard to coach a team and to win when the coaches cared so much more about every game than the players. It was an accurate statement; our livelihoods were invested in the team and the games, whereas few players had aspirations of playing basketball beyond junior college. When the game ended, we sat in the office ruminating over what went wrong; I left the gym and headed across the street to a pizza place and went over the game in my head. The players left the game and went to parties, the movies, or the library to study. In no way did I believe that the players did not play hard; they did. They gave a full effort when they were on the court. However, win or lose, the game did not change their behaviors once the game ended and they left the gym, whereas the game lingered and affected the coaches long after the final whistle. […]

The Hierarchy of Needs in Youth Sports

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, October 2013.

The recent publication of Sports Illustrated writer David Epstein’s The Sports Gene has spurred the age-old nature versus nurture debate in talent development, specifically sports. After five-plus years of the 10k-hour rule after the publication of Outliers and other books, Epstein has shown that there is no rule: Some athletes attain expert levels in far fewer than 10k hours, whereas some athletes take far longer. In Epstein’s view, this difference stems from training adaptations, and these often have a genetic component. Therefore, Epstein concluded that talent development is “100% nature and 100% nurture.”  […]

Increasing more intrinsic motivations in young athletes

Ryan and Deci’s Self-Determination Theory suggests that people are motivated when they have feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. SDT proposes that intrinsic motivators enhance motivation better than extrinsic motivators, and Dan Pink in Drive cited numerous studies to support the importance of intrinsic motivators compared to extrinsic motivators (rewards and punishments) for any task involving even rudimentary cognitive skills; for an algorithmic task, that is one where the person simply follows a set of instructions, punishment and rewards improved performance. […]

Why Jeff Van Gundy Was Wrong About Raymond Felton and Self-Confidence

During Sunday’s NBA game, Jeff Van Gundy described his disappointment with Raymond Felton who apparently had said something about his coach negatively affecting his confidence.  Van Gundy said that he did not like hearing these things, as nobody can give you confidence. He said that the only way to develop confidence is to be successful doing something.  […]

A Coach’s Impact on the Fear of Failure

At the park, I watched as a young boy ran all over the place. He tried to play with other young children or he played with his dad, running after his ball and hiking it to his mom. One time, he ran toward our group and picked up speed. All of a sudden, he face planted. He got to his knees, giggled and said, “I fell.” Then he got up and started again. He did not slow down. He was not embarrassed. He did not think twice about running again. He laughed and continued moving. […]

Coaching from the stands: Offer support, not instruction

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness in November/December 2008.

Last weekend, while coaching at a recreation volleyball league, I saw a familiar scene. The teams scrimmaged at the end of the one-hour clinic. A 7th grader stepped to the service line, and her father said something to her. She served underhand because the game was close, and she wanted to get her serve in the court. Her father told her to serve overhand. She looked at her father and dismissed him. She served again. The next time her serve came around, her father implored her to serve overhand. She did. She scored. She served again and missed. It happened to be game point. She said that she always misses on game-point. […]