Monday Morning Edge (09/28/2020)

Greetings from Charlotte, NC!

Before we get into today’s newsletter, I have an important Monday Morning Edge announcement.

Monday Morning Edge is going to take a break for the month of October.

Back in August, I launched the Monday Morning Edge Online Community. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received, but it’s gone well.

Now, I want to take it to the next level.

That’s why I’m investing the next month in building a better community. We’re going to completely change the way we do new member onboarding, community forums, resource lists, and monthly calls. It’ll vastly improve the current offering, but I need some time to focus on it.

That’s why I’ve chosen to pause this newsletter for the next month. The next Monday Morning Edge will arrive in your inbox on November 2, 2020.

But October hasn’t arrived yet, which means that I still have two great anti-coaching coaching tips for you today.

Things like:

  • Why embracing your curiosities is a great way to break into professional coaching
  • And what it actually looks like to be player-focused (as opposed to only saying you’re player-focused)

Stop Being a Boring Coach

Last week, Jack Han shared a tweet talking about how to crack into professional sports.

His answer was enlightening: “Develop some other interests & try to bring your best learnings back to hockey.”

As Jack points out, coaching has only gotten more competitive. If you want to think about it in terms of supply and demand, there are now fewer jobs in professional sports due to COVID budget cuts and more qualified coaches than ever before trying to fill those roles.

To stand out, you need to be willing to go to the edge. I hate to break it to you, but having a list of your certifications in your Twitter bio and posting about the current hot topic in your sport isn’t going to help you stand out from the pack.

To stand out, you’re going to have to do something different.

You have to build an edge.

The best way to do this is to think differently.

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying, your thinking still has to be correct.

You can’t just be off-the-wall goofy and expect to get into professional sports. But you must think different. You must be contrarian.

So what can you do?

To riff off of Jack’s point, you must pursue curiosities outside of your sport.

Personally, I work in baseball. But I’m curious about plenty of things outside of baseball: business, productivity, golf, theology, political history, and certain strands of philosophy.

There’s so much that I can do there.

Let’s start with the most obvious one: golf. A simple connection between the two is that both sports require elite rotational abilities.

But let’s go deeper…

Let’s think about putting…

Specifically, what can putting teach you about rhythm in a pitching delivery?

I once saw top 50 golf instructor George Gankas put a metronome next to one of his college players on the putting green. The goal was to have his back and forth stroke match the ticking of the device. One tick back, one tick forward, better putting.

Now, let’s think about it for a second.

What can we use from this example and bring back to baseball?

I once heard a story about John Smoltz’s bullpens that’s relevant here.

Love him or hate him as an announcer, he was one heck of a pitcher and we could learn a lot from emulating his work habits.

When Smoltz was throwing his mid-week bullpens, he would count outloud to himself

1…..Hands go over the head and he takes his rocker step

2…..Front leg lifts up to max leg lift height

3…..He strides towards the plate in an aggressive-yet-controlled manner

4…..Smoltz releases the ball, focusing on perfect pitch execution

Just like our college golfer, Smoltz knew that one of his KPI’s was a consistent, comfortable, 4-second rhythm. Even the slightest deviation from that rhythm could cause things to get out of whack and alter the results of his upcoming game.

Now, that example seems obvious enough. Good coaches do this kind of thing all the time.But what does it look like to go to the next level?

More specifically, what does it look like draw insights from business, productivity, or political history into baseball that are more than a superficial business book takeaway?

When you search outside your field, you ask questions that other coaches aren’t asking.

And when you ask questions nobody else is asking, you discover answers nobody else has found.

It doesn’t matter what your interest is. If you’re into motorcycle maintenance, there is absolutely at least one lesson you can bring back to your sport. I believe this holds true across almost any interest you have.

As I survey the landscape of coaching, I see a lot of sameness. We’re so caught up in qualifications and fitting the standard that we lose our sense of individuality. I won’t try to speak on your behalf, but for me, I know that I’m interested in a whole lot more than the minutiae of pitch physics. That doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else; it just makes me who I am.

And to break into professional sports, you need to bring all of who you are.

Further Reading: 3 Reasons Competition is Killing Your Career

Coaching beyond IF/THEN Statements

I’ll be honest–I’ve grown a little tired of podcasts. But one guest I will ALWAYS carve time out to listen to is Rory Sutherland.

He was recently on the Invest Like the Best show with Patrick O’Shaughnessy and dropped this nugget about Apple:

[Let’s take] Apple. It’s a trillion dollar company and the extraordinary thing I think that distinguished them from…Strangely, I’m not a massive Apple user…But the thing I think that distinguished Apple from other tech companies was other tech companies were asking what their technology could do. Apple was the first to wonder about what it felt like while you’re doing it, which is a kind of second order consideration, which is actually much closer to being customer-centric than asking what functions you can perform for people. An awful lot of functional products, they’re kind of customer-centered, but they’re not focused on the customer. [Those companies] focus on the customer’s prefrontal cortex, which is the customer’s own post-rationalized notion about what they want the product to do.

For coaches, there’s the consideration of asking, “What will my coaching cue help this player do?” compared to “What will this athlete experience as he tries to do what I’ve asked him to do?”.

We often stop at the first-order question of what a specific cue or instruction will cause a player to do. Honestly, just asking that question is a step-up from a lot of coaching interactions I’ve seen.

When we ask what a cue will cause a player to do, we’re thinking linearly. We’re thinking in IF/THEN statements.

For example:

IF I instruct this pitcher to rotate like a tornado after foot strike,

THEN I think I will observe higher rotational velocities and see greater ball velocity on the subsequent throw.

Thinking this way is good. It’s very important that we have a reason behind what we’re doing. (This brings up one of my principles of coaching: If I can’t explain why an athlete is doing the drill, he/she should not be doing the drill.)

But the next-level approach–the one that Apple took with its customers– is to add another AND to the statement. This AND clause is focused on the player’s perception of the cue.

In our previous example, it would look like this:

IF I instruct this pitcher to rotate like a tornado after foot strike,

THEN I think I will observe higher rotational velocities and see greater ball velocity on the subsequent throw,

AND the pitcher will feel like he’s spinning out of control, which throws his sequencing off and derails his velocity.

You can see here how important knowing your player becomes in this situation. If we don’t have any predictive insight into how a player will perceive a coaching cue, we can’t formulate actionable, achievable, and emotionally-resonant cues that the athlete can use.

When we have a feel for how athletes are going to perceive what we’re telling them, we can better tailor our cues to what’s going to work for them.

For the sake of continuing the example, what would you do if the athlete had never seen a tornado before? What if he had no clue what you were talking about?

Obviously, you’d need to find a new cue.

In the world of coaching, each interaction you have is an opportunity to sell the athlete on why they should listen to you the next time. And the best way to do this is to move past a simple IF/THEN approach to coaching and start considering the athlete’s perception, the athlete’s AND.

Want more? Listen to the full episode here (Podcast website link)

That’s all for this week. Thank you for reading!

Take some time to read the articles and send me your thoughts in an email or over on Twitter. I promise to read and respond to each one.

Have a great week!


P.S. Just as a reminder, Monday Morning Edge is taking the month of October off. I’ll see you again on November 2!