A Score Is Not A Story

SCOREBOARDWe were doing assessments yesterday; times, distance, height, weight. Lots of numbers. High school lacrosse players starting a new training cycle. Hockey players wrapping up and preparing for tryouts. The hockey players are pumped, measuring their progress and improvement over the last 6 months; taking confidence from their results as they head in to their season. For the lacrosse players its a different experience. The summer season ended almost two months ago and they’ve only been in the gym for a couple of weeks. Scores take a dip when you take a break. That’s OK. Its even a good thing. In a world where we’re constantly being evaluated, graded and compared though, it’s easy to get stuck on the numbers. Rather than seeing them as a snapshot we look at a single measurement as a trend and, if the trend is down something must be wrong.

But, as my son-in-law, a former golf pro, said after our round last week, ” A score is just a number, it’s not a story.”
Hockey Player Turning on Ice
The real story for the hockey player is in the discovery and development of their potential and, seeing how hard work in the gym and on the ice combined with good choices about things like nutrition can pay off. For the lacrosse players it’s learning to see how the long arc of training is cyclical. It’s about learning to trust the rise and fall that are part of the rhythm of training and long term development.
So, we let the lacrosse players know that they’re not getting slower or weaker. They’re at a particular spot in the cycle. And, we let the hockey players know that they can take confidence from the numbers they put up and that the bigger story will be unfolding on the ice over the next weeks or months.
Numbers are just numbers. They only mean something within the context of a given players unique development – within that players story. It’s critical that coaches and parents help young athletes remember that their scores are just one way of knowing where we are at a given moment in that story it’s never the whole story and certainly not the end.

Want To Open Up Your Players Potential? Try Changing Your Metaphor.

The industrial metaphor dominates our world these days. We think in terms of inputs, outputs, and efficiency.  Heck, even the FOX NFL mascot isn’t a player, it’s a robot. The factory mentality has an impact on the way we see players, and the way we see our role as coaches and even parents. An industrial model is great for producing quality cars and big screen TV’s. Not so great for developing people.

In the short ( 2:00 ) video below Sir Ken Robinson offers a different way of thinking about developing people. Good teachers, he says are like good gardeners.  ” A good gardener depends on plants growing under their care  – otherwise they’re out of business. Yet, the irony is every farmer and gardener knows you can’t make a plant grow. The plant grows itself. What you do is provide the conditions for growth.”

In his book, The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle notes the same quality in the master coaches he observes, ” Their personality – their core skill circuit – is to be more like farmers: careful, deliberate cultivators of myelin … They possess vast, deep frameworks of knowledge which they apply to the steady, incremental work of growing skill circuits, which they, ultimately, don’t control.”

Maybe that’s the big part of changing the metaphor. In the factory you  control the input and the output. When you’re teaching or coaching, you don’t.  It’s an act of service, in a long term process where the most important work is done by the players or the student. It requires patience, faith and a different way of seeing the world and ourselves.  But hey, as Joseph Campbell said, ” If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.”

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