Saturday, May 12, 2018

Coaching By FEEL

Shigeo Nagashima is one of the greatest Japanese professional baseball players of all time. He became a very successful manager of the Tokyo Giants after his playing career ended. He is famous for many Yogi Berra-esque anecdotes and quotes. One of the many stories about him center around his teaching of batting form to young players: While guest coaching at a youth clinic, he reportedly said:
"The ball's going come in like zooot! There you gotta get your stance like hrrrummph and then go VOOM with the hips! After that, you hit it like BAH-BOOOOM!
「球がこうスッとくるだろ!」、「そこをグゥーっと構えて腰をガッとするんだ!」、「あとはバァッといってガーンと打つんだ」- From
If the story is anything close to true, Nagashima was probably a very gifted athlete who could not (at least at the time) articulate how he developed one of the most devastating swings in Japanese baseball history. This scene from the 2015 anime hit, The Boy and The Beast, is likely based off of that same story. In the clip, Kumatetsu (the bear) is giving his first instructions in the way of the sword to his pupil, Kyuta.

It's interesting, but we all know great athletes that turned out to be (relative) duds as coaches. Probably not surprising that athletes that "get it" very early do not understand "not getting it". They see a novice struggle and think the problem lies in a lack of motivation or aptitude, rather than in a lack of proper instruction and progression. Admonishments like "You've got to feel it in your soul!", or "Just DO IT!" will not be enough for your athletes unless you are working with the truly gifted .

In today's era of information overload, approaches like Nagashima's (and Kumatetsu's) can be refreshing and, at times, revelatory. But for the analytical athlete, an approach based on "woo-woo" can be frustrating. A good coach can vary instructional method and tasks to suit the needs of the athlete and (relative) complexity of the task.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Motivation, Self-Control, and Why We Should Stop Worrying About Them

A while ago, I wrote a post entitled "Motivation is Overrated". It didn't exactly go viral, but other articles and books similarly themed, like "The Power of Habit" did later. I thought it was a pretty good, concise piece. This article - "Why Self-Control is Overrated", shares information that compliments it well. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Parable of the Raft

"Monks, I will teach you the parable of the raft - for getting across, not for retaining. It is like a man who going on a journey sees a great stretch of water, the near bank with dangers and fears, the farther bank secure and without fears, but there is neither a boat for crossing over, nor a bridge across. It occurs to him that to cross over from the perils of this bank to the security of the farther bank, he should fashion a raft out of sticks and branches and depending on the raft, cross over to safety. When he has done this it occurs to him that the raft has been very useful and wonders if he ought to take it with him on his head and shoulders. What do you think, monks? That the man is doing what should be done with the raft?"
"No, lord."
"What should that man do, monks? When he has crossed over to the beyond he must leave the raft and proceed on his journey. Monks, a man doing this would be doing what should be done to the raft. In this way I have taught you Dharma, like the parable of the raft, for getting across, not for retaining.  You, monks, by understanding the parable of the raft, must not cling to right states of mind and, all the more, to wrong states of mind."
- adapted from the MAJJHIMA NIKAYA, translated by Christmas Humphreys

It's interesting that, as I've gotten older, certain people, interests, habits, exercises, training protocols, etc. just simply don't do it for me anymore. It is not surprising really. The only constant is change and sometimes change is hard. It can be difficult, even frightening, to let go of the familiar, especially when the familiar brought you this far. However, letting go of the raft may be the only way to progress further.