Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Can't be an elite coach, then get into construction

Do you ever get that feeling that you're not getting to play or coach at the level you would like to? Recent research into NBA coaches might suggest that you'll never get to. The main question there is do you have to play Elite to coach the Elite.

The road to Elite playing in any sport has a huge number of factors, but the one that seems huge in my books is genetics. Are you a gifted athlete and are you tall? Genetics, arguably, plays a factor in how your brain works in competition. So, based on these factors along with hard work, where you live, good politics, and dedication you might make it into a high-level sport.

Pictured Above: Wayne and Mike get upset about wrecking my money making sports career ;)

I, personally, think I got lucky when it comes to athletic skills, but I didn't win the jackpot. I'm not sure where I sit in the percentiles, but I'm happy. I realized at age 18 that I wasn't good enough to make it in the 6 footer basketball elite, and I was probably more suited to make my way into elite hockey. I made a bad sport endeavour decision not realizing both bad location (small town Canada for basketball), and incorrect match of body type to sport (6 foot, 200 pound frame, Caucasian) were major factors. I blame the coolness of Michael Jordan along with Wayne Gretzky abandoning Canada and heading off to Los Angeles. I've forgiven both ;)

Sorry for that digression, but back to Ultimate and coaching. Elite Ultimate is, currently, not as hard a road to make in terms of being genetically gifted, but the top of the game is filled with good athletes. Every year it's getting better, and when the day comes when we have elite coaches for every team, who will take those roles?

If you don't think respect is a major part in the equation, just like the NBA, then you need to rethink the situation. Much of coaching is ego management of the stars, and then having a team buy into your system to achieve the goals of the organization. If you, as a coach or leader, are not respected by the top players on your team, then the food-chain dictates that you won't be respected by the bottom (except for those salt of the earth players that every coach wishes they could replicate their brain and transplant into the rest of the team).

So, in Ultimate, without a clear hierarchy of high school and college ranks of coaches, we're likely going to see the elite coach the elite based on needed respect alone. Fair enough, but I suggest to these future elite coaches that they take on the non-elite in assistant positions. Using a variety of voices and ideas, instead of picking help from a homogeneous group of similar minded individuals, will lead to better innovation.

That concludes my first point. My second point is for those of us who aren't gifted that you can instantly move up the ranks. Your Ultimate profile is likely missing one of the keys to the full package. Maybe you're short. Maybe you're not the fastest. Maybe you have confidence problems. Maybe you live where there's no big team. The worse case is if you don't get along with other people (see politics post).

For this group, which I include myself, I've learnt a few tricks, and I'll share my favourite today. The idea, which I personally enjoy, is build towards what you want. This isn't a simple process, but if you don't have an elite team in your area, then work towards building one. If your college program isn't that good, then get in there an build it up. If nobody thinks you know about strategy, then write what you think. Note that this option is difficult, there is lots of work, and it is not guaranteed to produce any results, but on the other hand it can be lots of fun and any accomplishments will feel great and earned.

I've always been impressed how Toronto went from a somewhat disjoint Ultimate scene with very independent goals, to one that seems to be growing and getting better every year. There's still problems, but because of people who decided to help people, build teams, and open programs the city's Ultimate output has been getting better every year.