Friday, March 2, 2012

You can't teach winning IMO.

Coaches have a large amount of influence in what their athlete does. They teach them how to throw, block, run, flip, and any other verb you can think of. And up to a certain point a coach can teach their athlete how to do a lot of things, but winning isn't one of them. What do I mean by that, isn't that what great coaches like Vince Lombardi, or Bobby Knight did? In my opinion no, they motivated, they taught, they pushed, pulled, and everything else. But winning is an attitude, a way of life, a belief, almost like faith.

Some people reading this my say no way, "I teach that kid how to win", or "my athlete always wins, and it is all because of me." In my opinion there is only so much a coach can do, and a good coach can do great things for an athlete. But I have known amazing athletes who win practice every day. They do things that no human should be able to do. And that is all because of their coach. But when that athlete walks out onto the field, floor, gridiron, it is all them. No one is there to help them, to make sure everything is perfect. The athlete has to make the block, shot, or goal, their coach can't do that. This is the point where winning becomes instinct, desire, as important as air. I have known athletes who were amazing in spite of their coaches. These people were born winners and all they needed was someone with a basic knowledge of the sport to take this person to the top. These athletes are who I am talking about, these are the guys/gals who can't lose. Not because they are so good but because it hurts them to do so. Take Mark Cavendish, the man who is considered to be the fastest sprinter in the world. He gets physically ill when his team works for him and he isn't able to win for them. Nobody ever taught Mr Cavendish to win, he needed to win.

I was speaking to my friend who is also a coach about this idea the other day. He told me he didn't learn how to win until he was almost done with his gymnastics career. The moment it happened was when he lost his spot in the lineup before a big competition. He used his frustration, anger, and new found understanding of what it meant to win to turn the end of his career around becoming one of the best pommel horse workers on our team. The point is that with all the great coaches, and even shitty coaches this guy had though his career, no one could ever tell him how to win.

Now I think winning can mean different things to different people. Can leading a league in assists be counted as winning, can spending a day in a futile break away so your team doesn't have to waste energy winning? I don't know. What I do know is being a winner means not making excuses for you not doing what you are supposed to do. You screw up, you take the blame. Like I have said in earlier posts, you chose your coach, said coach is supposed to be the best you could find, coach teaches you to the best of their ability, then it is up to you to finish strong. I know most coaches would rather be out there themselves than send their athlete out there, because we have no control over what they do once on the field. When I first started coaching I was amazed at how nervous I was compared to what it was like when I was competing. Now I think I have done a better job of coaching and I know what my kids are going to do most of the time.

So in conclusion winning is not a teachable skill. It is something that has to be learned on one's own, or is something that you are born with. It's like all those times your parent's told you not to do something, but you had to do it anyways to learn for yourself. Those that do learn how to win are the ones who got fed up with blowing it, wasting all their time training for no result.

Those that don't have "it" my win once in a while, but when they don't it is someone else's, or something else's fault. A winner wont always win either, but when they lose they take it personally, they know they blew it and they are the one who has to fix it. Someone in the cycling world I am starting to think is in the first category, and I used to be a big fan of his, is Tyler Farrar. He recently blasted his team for not being able to escort him to the line, and compete against teams like Sky and Omega Pharma Quickstep. From what I have seen from him in the past his he is a consistent second place, and appears to blame those around him, be it a rival or a teammate. While the philosophy of his team is to ride as a team and work as a team. Their credo has seen them go from a nobody to a multiple tour stage winner. In my opinion everyone else is trying their best and he needs to do better.

As a cyclist I have not learned how to be a winner yet. It has been a long time since I expected myself to win. There were a few times last year where I was close but I think I made silly tactical mistakes that cost me and my team the win. If I want to be a winner I am going to have to pick up my game in all areas of my sport. And if I want my gymnasts to start to win like I think they can, I have to somehow get them to start seeing what I see. That if they want to be the best, they are going to have to take it. No one is going to give it to them, and there are girls out there who want it as much or more. And we all know that sports is all about who wants it more.

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