I recently read “Top Dog” on the recommendation of community presenter Daniel Martinez. It’s a book all about competition. Why some athletes are naturally inclined to thrive under competition, what makes for a competitive culture, how we can harness competition to achieve successful outcomes etc. It’s a good read, which I would recommend to readers of this block.
One story that stuck with me described the a group of scientists at NASA. In examining successful and unsuccessful missions, it became apparent that the reasons or events for success or failure almost always occurred before the launch. Small changes prior to launch could have wildly different effects (good or bad) later on. What is more, the chances of correcting a major fault during the mission were very low. If it didn’t get corrected before the launch, the mission was pretty much guaranteed to fail.
This section of the book made me realise that the same is true of coaching: winning programmes are built before a game is even played. A championship team usually plays like a championship team all year long, and the foundation for this success is laid before even pre-season starts. Selecting the right squad and members of staff, establishing the objectives and strategy, planning the implementation. None of this can be done on the fly.
This doesn’t just apply at the global level, but also specific to strength and conditioning. Look at the most successful and productive strength and conditioning departments in professional sport. Think of all the work that is done before the athlete even steps foot in the facility. Workouts are planned, strengths and weaknesses established, contingencies put in place for high or low readiness, modifications made to account for injury history or athlete preferences.
The lesson? Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. If something does go wrong, try to find out why and make sure you plan for it next time around. And lastly, if the mission is going wrong, relax. It’s probably already too late 😉