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So You Want to Be GREAT

We all want to be great, and successful in what we do, or else why do it!

great talent code sue enquist dan coyle

Read on to discover the lessons and advice from two of the most successful individuals in the fields of coaching and writing, that can help us all go from good to Great.

Both Sue Enquist and Dan Coyle know what it takes to be great. Sue learned it on her way to winning 11 softball national championships at UCLA, and Dan Coyle learned it by researching his book, The Talent Code, as he visited 9 different places around the world that constantly produce world-class talent. Read on to learn what they discovered that can help us all go from good to Great.

Anyone who knows Sue Enquist knows she has the energy of 1,000 people and the intensity of a blow torch. From listening to Sue over the years, here are Sue’s key points for helping inspire our players to greatness.

Sue identifies 3 things that all players want to know every day, every practice and every game, and that we as coaches must be able to tell them so they can relax and develop trust in our ability to lead:

  1. Where Do I Go? – Where’s our practice or meeting or game today, or where do I go right now in practice? Players need to know where you need them to be so they can confidently get there to do their job.
  2. What Do I Do When I Get There? – What are you expecting of me when I get wherever it is I’m going (i.e., when your players go to class are you asking them to sit in one of the first 2 rows like many coaches do?)? When I get to the bullpen for today’s pitching workout am I simply working on the spins I want to, or am I practicing a specific routine that includes eliminating my best pitch? What are you asking of me whenever I get wherever I’m going? The more you can tell me about what’s expected of me the more prepared and confident I am when I get where I’m going.
  3. Will You Catch Me When I Fall? – This one’s HUGE! Will you as the coach or the teammate be there to catch me when I fail, or fall? It’s not just saying it at the beginning of the year in a meeting room, it’s doing it when I strike out with the bases loaded in an early season game. Catching me when I fall involves helping me get through the failure, supporting me when I’m tearing myself apart and giving me another chance to right the wrong instead of benching me for the rest of the season. The more you’re there for me when I fall, the more risks I’ll be willing to take, which means the greater the players I will be capable of becoming.

INFECT THEM WITH BELIEF! Everyone is trainable – from goldfish and dogs to softball players, but the first thing we must do is get them to believe they’re trainable. In typical Sue Enquist fashion she doesn’t say “get them to believe”, rather she uses a much more dynamic word – INFECT. “Infect” means to contaminate or become affected, as in action! Contaminate your players with the belief that they CAN do whatever it is they’re trying to do, instead of telling them how horrible they are!

Dan Coyle author of the ground-breaking book, The Talent Code, spent 2 years visiting 9 different hotbeds of talent around the world to discover why they consistently produced extraordinary performers. Not just good performers but world-class, best in their field performers. For example, the Russian tennis club, Spartak, has produced more top-20 women’s tennis players than the entire US – and they only have one rundown indoor court. How can that happen?

Daniel Coyle found 3 common factors that all 9 of these amazing places had in common:

  1. Deep Practice – they all conducted a specific kind of practice that increased skill up to 10 times faster than ordinary practice.
  2. Ignition – they all ignited passion in their players that helped greatly increase skill development.
  3. Master Coaching – each had Master Coaches – or Talent Whisperers – that helped inspire deep practice, ignite passion and ultimately bring out the best in their players.

While I can’t recommend this book enough to you, here are the key points and a few special nuggets I came away with after having the opportunity to sit with Dan over dinner one time:

  • We don’t learn when information flows over us like a warm bath. Instead, when we operate on the edges of our abilities, we increase our learning at a tremendous rate.
  • You Must Create a Stretch – A mistake is not a mistake, it’s an opportunity for your players to create a reach – a stretch of their skill. IT’S A GOLDEN SECOND!! That opportunity when your player has reached outside of her skill just enough to make a mistake is the only way she can improve a skill. Stretching increases improvement.
  • No Pain of Mistakes No Development of Skill! It’s like lifting weights…you don’t go to the gym and lift marshmallows because doing so would not challenge your muscles so they wouldn’t grow stronger. The same is true when building skills. Simply building skills through marshmallow actions (those things we can do easily and without any real effort) don’t make us stronger.
  • Myelin Makes it – 500,000 neurons must wrap in order to produce a complex action like a softball swing. Wrapping around neurons is a magic substance called Myelin. The more Myelin the faster information flows from the brain to the body. The faster the info flows the better an athlete performs, so increasing Myelin is key. Deep Practice creates Myelin and Myelin builds skill highways.
  • Put Something on Their Windshield – Outstanding performers are usually chasing something that’s just out of reach, as if they’re driving down the highway to excellence and what they’re chasing is on their windshield. Having something on the windshield is vital for players to stay motivated and challenged while striving for excellence. Something to put on the windshield can be as simple as outstanding softball athletes (Jennie Finch, Lisa Fernandez, Cat Osterman, etc.), or  images of USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, where the Women’s College World Series is held.

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