Case Study: The Underlying Factor To Success in Athletics
All parents of athletes and athletes themselves want to know what it will take to make the “Big Time”. What is the single most important value that can predict success in athletics? And what is the underlying factor that can create a professional athlete or even an olympian? This post will challenge your previous notions on what success really is and what it takes to become the best at athletics and in life.
The Case Study
We, MVP Training, stumbled upon this answer unknowingly. We were doing some offseason training for a high school football team when we were challenged by the head coach and administration to what we were doing in the weight room as well as their testing results at the end of the cycle of training. Most of the athletes weren’t scoring very well. Some even decreased on their off-season testing.
So, my coaches and I sat down to discuss this. Why were these numbers so bad? Most seemed to make little improvement when the football team should be making large improvements on strength, power, and speed testing measurements. It was the offseason and we were devoting 3-4 days a week for a high school football program. And as many coaches in this field know, you can totally randomize all the weight lifting, running, and conditioning with high school athletes and there will be dramatic improvements from high school athletes just because of age and bodies are so adaptive.
We, MVP Training, decided to do our own case study to report to the coaches and administration at this school. As we discussed what we were doing the question of attendance came up. There was no predictor of how many would be in the weight room after school. Some days there was 15 (a good day for this football team). And some days there was 3-5 football players. So we started tracking attendance with the next cycle of training.
The Findings from the Case Study
At the end of this 8 week cycle we retested the athletes. As you would have guessed the athletes that attended over 90% of the workouts improved drastically- over 60% on all strength components, over 30% on all speed components, and over 30% on all power components of the test. And these were just averages. Some increase over 2 inches on their vertical, cut over .5 on their 40 yard dash, and increased over 200 total pounds on their back squat and bench press.
The athletes that had little or no improvements were the athletes that attended less that 30% of these workouts. Some were even worse than the first time we tested.
The Conclusions from the Case Study
So, the answer for the Head Coach and the administration was to find ways to get the athletes attendance to go up. Even set rules, goals, and even consequences for these athletes and coaches. We even tried to make early morning workouts for those athletes that couldn’t make it in the afternoon. When we approached the head coach and athletic administration on our findings it was met with hostility from the head coach. The head coach still wasn’t happy with what we did with the football team no matter what the results from this case study was. The administration was pleased with this study. But later did nothing to improve these settings for the athletes and teams. In fact, MVP Training left the entire program shortly after this study and this meeting resulted in zero changes. The head coach was later relieved of his duties and the athletic administration resigned shortly after.
The Real Answer
So was raising the attendance the real answer to this problem? Absolutely NOT! This was just one of the predictors in what the coaches and administration was willing to do to increase the success of the program. The result of hard work, attendance (even when you don’t want to go), and determination is success or even talent. Everyone wants to believe that people were born with this greatness within them but the world doesn’t work that way. We MUST be willing to do the things that 90% of the others aren’t willing to do to be great. And attendance was just one of those predictors in persistence, perseverance, determination, and the grit to succeed. Turns out that the head coach and the administration wasn’t willing to do those things because it meant getting dirty emails from parents, listening to teachers about kids not showing up for ACT Prep classes, and having meetings with administration about what they felt was the right thing for the program.
- Hard work and effort trump everything else in team athletics! No matter how much talent you have on a team, if they don’t work harder than their opponents they will get beat. Angela Duckworth in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance gives us an equation that goes from talent to achievement.
Talent x Effort= Skill Acquirement
Skill x Effort= Achievement and Success
- It takes more than just the team to be successful. The community, administration, coaches, and parents all have to be pulling the wagon in the right direction. So sacrifice, passion, and perseverance must be the underlying factors to winning and being successful because ultimately the wagon can lose it’s wheels if there isn’t a clear purpose.
Grit by Angela Duckworth
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle