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The Purest Source of Competitive Advantage

Posted: March 10, 2014 at 10:59 pm   /   by   /   comments (1)

I know that clinic season is upon us, and many coaches are pounding the roads searching for inspiring ideas to implement this off season. We coach in a sport that has finally reached the level of novelty idealogy as the rest of the business world. As we look around there are as many “self-help” books/technology for coaching as any other genre on Amazon. I want give you a piece of advice, The purest source of competitive advantage you can give your team and organization is KNOWLEDGE. This has nothing to do with magic plays, formations, or strategies, but the how. Many times as coaches we are steadily trying to reinvent the wheel, instead of trying to build a better mousetrap.

Watch the best teams compete. I refer back to the game winning score of the National Championship this year, they had practiced that play before, The Super Bowl this year, with the poise the Patriots had in the second half. Writers can find all kind of creative angles to paint the picture for these instances, but these small windows in time was created through long spans of useful on field prep.

We have all played those teams who are not as talented, but annually are very competitive, despite their lack of ability. The core base of this is knowledge. I bet if you went and did an audit of their practice plans, installations, core teaching methods, the root would be the conveying of information, that strengthens their knowledge. Any productive athlete is a master of identification and application of critical knowledge. In the business world you can find tons of research on organizations performance relation to organizations knowledge. Basically organizations who transfer their individual knowledge in to organizational knowledge will out perform their competition. I also suggest you read Bill Snyder’s book: Cultivating Communities of Practice, if you haven’t.

Before we go forward let’s make some definitions clear:

Organizational Knowledge: Offense/Defense as a whole, including all the moving parts.

Individual Knowledge: Position Coaches Knowledge, The players learned knowledge from their coach.

So our equation looks like this:

Individual Coach Knowledge +Players Learned Knowledge = Organizational Knowledge.

Identification=Definition  & Definition = Indentification

As coaches we look at the whole (organizational knowledge) many times to base our upcoming year. We look at the parts we have to create a puzzle of personnel (organizational knowledge). When in reality it all starts with individual knowledge, the players forming the puzzle, but go a step further? Weigh in on how your approach may have created more success, if only…..We cannot go back and answers those questions completely, but we can see deficiencies in our way of teaching that would have made us better prepared. So how do we Identify?

In order to identify you have to define. I have always been a 90/10 rule guy. I believe that out of the 100% of the knowledge I have gained, I need to be able to strain that down to 10% for instruction to my players. In order to do that as coaches we have to define what is crucial for the players to know. I have to define in my strategy what is crucial  for them to master, to operate the system, and once again define how I will teach this to them. There is no need for them to recite a playbook to me, or even tell me what is on page 36, but to be able to execute this at a rapid rate, and be continually successful. As a position coach your job is to accumulate, organize and utilize your knowledge. This is funneling it down to the 10%, I am speaking of.  Basically if my career depended on it, how could I get the players to master it daily? Take absolute ownership. Remember potential and ability are only adjectives to what may happen, they are not verbs of action that show results.

Before you can teach you have to understand your audience.

Next we have to understand the learning preferences of each of our players. A good teacher can tell you how each of his students master their content. As a coach it is our job to develop our learning process to help our players obtain or advance their level of expertise in our system. In order to do this we must take ownership for the highlight and folly reels of tape. It is our product the public critiques.

 Always remember this as rule number 1: Internal Knowledge is not easily copied. Just because you know it, does not mean your players will know it just as well. Your expertise as a position coach was not mastered during your first practice, it took some time of refinement. That required improving your knowledge of the action, either by rereading, rewatching, studying, reflecting etc. How did you acquire the knowledge? How did you integrate it? How did you make it useful? These 3 questions are essential for mastering the exchange of internal knowledge to another person. Know how to maximize these three questions.

How did you acquire it?

As we referenced earlier, how did you learn what you know? Internal Knowledge can be made easier to obtain, by reducing the unimportant information. This goes back to the 10% rule. What exactly do my players need to know in order to get them to complete the exercise, mentally and physically. Become a “cliff notes” version of your novel position. If individual knowledge was easily copied we would have figured out how to insert a memory chip into robots and this game would no longer require humans (much like the manufacturing world is now). We no longer acquire knowledge in the business world we are taught to monitor knowledge for out comes. You have to master the individual knowledge of your content as well as how to teach it.

We cannot simply use phrases such as: catch the ball, wrap up, keep your elbow up, stay square, too deep, wrong step, these are all generalized statements that fans make in the stands. Our jobs as coaches is to diagnose why they did not catch the ball, or failed to wrap up. I recently read where Coach PJ Fleck will not allow these generalized quotes made when addressing a player. The player knows he did something wrong, instead of stating the obvious, give him an answer to his failed attempt. This is how to acquire knowledge.

How do you integrate it?

Know-how is the most difficult to teach. Anyone can learn a process and tell you about it, it takes an operator to put this into action. Know-how is the mastery of recognition and reaction to an action. Know-how produces results under the lights on the gridiron. Know-how is arrived by endless hours of teaching.

Individualized Learning Plans should be a key breakdown to your success. One way to install it may not reach every member of your group. One player may be able to visualize it, one may need to see it over and over in drills, and one may grasp in by using association. Just as in the classroom, you have to know what student can peer teach, as well as the ones you will have to “sit with.”

Seek out the most effective ways to teach, to teach. How can I get it done in my time frame?

Ask yourselves these questions about the individuals in your group.

Is their a confidence issue?

How do they learn? video, drills, breakdowns, scaffolding?

Write your players out individually to know how you will attack them as well as your time frame.

You cannot be  just a dispenser, but a designer. Your guys may not learn exactly how the players on the drill tape do, it is just a starting point. Design a path for success for the players you have. One key element about drill tapes, is this is how he was teaching this player, ask how the coach has adjusted this for teaching different learning styles.

How do you make it useful?

I bet if we all took a moment to look back at players who just didn’t “get it,” (and effort or interest was not a factor) we could start to evaluate our teaching process. Note: some players won’t get it, because of a lack of interest or effort. That is a completely different issue for a Dr. to prescribe. But how do we make it useful?

The most exponential growing I have seen is when players can see their learning pay off, either by performance, or seeing the lessons come to transpire in games. The tape does not lie either, this is a good time to use short film sessions by email to teach and assure them of what they are learning. If the players can see the personal benefits it will inspire learning.

Create an element of assessment. We cannot rely on feelings or memories. Our mind even at its greatest, cannot match mathematical logic, based on repetitive analysis. This can create direction in your teaching, and allow yourself a case when showing the players the areas they need to work on. This can be film mark up, charting, etc. Be a designer. In my down years as a coach is when I did not allow assessment to lead.

I know we all want to relive the one that got away, or that one play that might have changed. We may be trying to look at the organizational knowledge without assessing the individual knowledge. Look back at the roots, how did you convey your knowledge?

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