When we talk about the currency of coaching, according to professional gymnastics coach and consultant Nick Ruddock, if time is money OR medals, how do coaches use theirs? Is the time they spend with their athletes valuable?
He uses the following business analogy; If you wanted to start up a business and you were lucky enough to have a full team of investors to support you, you’d have definite advantages over an individual who had little capital.
As a coach who has a talented athlete to train, you hold the advantage over a coach training someone less talented. But advantages do not always correlate with success – or winning, come to mention it.
Productivity – whether it’s business or coaching – will always trump activity. No matter how talented, an athlete and coach who train unproductively will not match the optimised training programme of an athlete who has a fervent work ethic – even if that athlete isn’t as talented.
Productive training is defined as making excellent use of time to get closer to your goals. Busy and productive are two different things – after all, a rocking chair keeps moving but makes no progress.
There is a straightforward formula – time + beneficial activity = progress.
Sounds commonsensical, yes? But what you will often see in practice is time + non-beneficial activity = stagnation.
When it comes to training, there are many things athletes can do in a session, but at any one time, there are only a few things an athlete SHOULD do if he or she is to improve their performance. The rest are time-filling activities – enjoyable perhaps, but fluffy rather than necessary.
When it comes to business, the best use of money is an investment that will create more wealth. When it comes to coaching, the best use of time is to invest in the kind of activities that increase the probability of an athlete increasing his or her long-term potential. This might mean sacrificing the ‘fun stuff’, the same way that a businessman or woman splashing out on a Porsche limits his or her potential for business growth by wasting money on something that doesn’t help with an end goal.
To be successful in business, you need to convert every pound to £10 – by either selling or reselling a product worth XX to make YY, or by placing the money in a long-term investment, such as property or stocks.
This is a long-term strategy – not as fun as the Porsche perhaps, but more conducive to success in the long run.
Teaching your athletes fundamental skills and movement isn’t much fun either – but it works. It’s your long-term investment strategy. If a coach can see beyond the boredom of repetitive, core competencies – this will pay off. Basic skills are a brilliant investment of time, and they prolong an athlete’s career, as well as increasing his or her chances of fulfilling their potential.
Think about it – would you say yes to £50,000 this week, instead of £100,000 in ten years’ time? Funnily enough, the human brain is set up for instant gratification, so statistics show that most people would take the £50k. The same applies to the choice of taking a holiday versus sticking money in a savings accounts. Patience is difficult when we are presented with something fun and exciting.
But while it might be more fun to teach exciting release and catches on bars to 11-year-olds, what about their handstand shapes or kip cast to handstands?
What gets measured, gets mastered (as the saying goes).
Your successful business person will know how every penny of their pound is spent – and what they intend to get from it. Having worked out the strategy they need to ensure their plan works. They keep a watchful eye on spending to make sure they stick to the budget and do not overspend on areas of their business that aren’t as important. They look at 10p spent on something unnecessary as costing the business £10 in another field.
As a coach, do you know how much time you’re spending on physical preparation of your athletes? Are they doing their vault drills and their routines? In addition to the actual time spent training, do you know what is being achieved in that time?
Most people check their online banking at least once a week to make sure their accounts are in the black and that they stay that way.
But what about those training programmes? Are they subjected to the same scrutiny? Time isn’t a renewable resource (unlike money), and it, therefore, needs to be taken far more seriously when it comes to coaching.
The collective sum of small amounts of daily time adds up to significance – what Nick terms the accumulation effect. It’s the same kind of thing as the saying, ‘Look after the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves’.
If every day, an athlete spends five minutes refining a handstand, this accumulates to about 20 hours of handstand work over a year (based on an athlete training five times a week). You read that right. Twenty hours! Accumulation is powerful.
Imagine increasing your physical preparation from 20 minutes a day to 40… That adds up another 80 hours a year. Coaches who value time spent on physical development have higher-performing athletes, and that is why.
Shave off the ‘fluffy’ time and prioritise critical activities. Scrutinise and deconstruct your programme so that you know every minute is being spent wisely. Remember, you don’t get time back.
Nick Ruddock is a coach, consultant, clinician and speaker. He has been the junior national coach for British Gymnastics, and his GBR junior team made history in 2014 with the first-ever junior team medal at the European Championships. He formed Nick Ruddock Gymnastics in 2015 and has consulted for more than a dozen international gymnastics federations including Australia, Germany, Japan and Switzerland, and provided services to professional sports teams such as Manchester United and Manchester City Football Clubs. You can connect with Nick through his Facebook page or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org