When my mom was a little kid she had a vinyl record titled “Name That Tune,” and whereas we now have millions of video games, this was an audio game. Basically, the record had around 30 snippets of popular 1950’s songs. Each snippet was only ten seconds long, and at the end of each was a little chime that let you know it was over and that it was now time to actually name that tune. Well, nowadays whenever one of those 30 songs comes on the radio my mom will intone the chime at exactly the moment that it occurred on her old vinyl record.
In thinking about that this weekend two things occurred to me. First of all, how starved for entertainment do you have to be to play that record so many times that you’ve not only memorized all the songs, but also the end-points of all the snippets therein? Clearly her cup and ball game was broken at the time. The second thing was that her dedication to that record really highlights a coaching principle that we sometimes forget about, which is that athletes crave achievement.
Sure, of course they do – they’re athletes who obviously love sports, which are little vehicles of achievement. No big surprise there. Well, I think that we sometimes forget this obvious point when we’re training athletes, especially young ones. When faced with a team of 9 year olds, the temptation is to pander to their low attention span and give them lots and lots of activities to keep them occupied. Many young coaches will expend lots of energy throwing the kitchen sink at their athletes because they’ve forgotten that athlete love to see themselves getting better. Why do you think they’ll watch the same 5 Disney videos 300 times? A) Because Ratatouille is the most adorable rat to ever pick up a whisk and B) because they love knowing every line.
So, let them achieve during your coaching sessions. Pick one or two things each day and make it your goal to be knocking them out of the park by the end of the coaching session. Maybe it’s the perfect lunge, or a pro-style 2 point starting position. Maybe you just want them to memorize the muscles of the leg, or the conversion of pounds to kilos. The point is, keep it simple and repeat until they’re quoting you like a celluloid rat-chef.