Friday, November 13, 2009

Judo Outliers

I really liked Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, which focuses on people who are outstanding performers in fields from music to sports to programming. Gladwell's main conclusion was that people who are outstanding don't spend more hours practicing than people who are simply good, the spend MANY, MANY more hours practicing. He estimated it took around 10,000 hours to get to the point of outstanding performance.

Today, I was evaluating the West Coast Judo Training Center, since I am the kind of person who is constantly ruminating on every aspect of life. It occurred to me that since we had started it a couple of years ago we have had our ups and downs, but the overall trend is for more people to come to practices. Some days, when part of our group is gone to a tournament, we have fewer people than usual. Gary, Victor, Sam and I discussed canceling practice on some of those days and we came to the conclusion that no, we would have practice every single Saturday, as well as Sundays when there is no tournament scheduled. (So, we will be there every Saturday this month AND both Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving so you can work off all that food you overate).

I feel pretty good about the training center, for two reasons.

First, I can see individual progress made by players who come regularly.
This is even easier for Ronda to notice because she is not home that often. She mentioned Sammy, who she is using as an uke in this photo,

"I have never seen a kid improve so much so fast, conditioning, technique, he is light years ahead of where he was when the training center started. Yeah, Frankie and Eric are good coaches and Guerreros is a good club, but you don't see all their people improving that fast, so I think it must be the added workouts at the training center."

I think that is true for all of the players who train with us. They get good instruction at their home club PLUS they get 250 extra hours a year. A person who works out ONLY at the training center will hit 10,000 hours in 40 years. Not too good. However, let's say that person ALREADY works out ten hours a week (two hours a day during the week). They'll be outstanding in 20 years. Add in the training center time and they hit the 10,000 hour mark in 13.3 years. Does that extra 6.7 years matter? Well, let's see. Ronda started judo at 11, so 13.3 years will put her at that 10,000 hour mark at age 24.3, about 16 months before the 2012 Olympics. Twenty years would have her peaking at age 31, after the 2016 Olympics. I think it will matter to her.

Second, I take a long-range view. Just as all of the other good programs I see around the country - Pedro's, Mojica's - and around the world (think the Cuban women's program, the French program) - did not spring up within a year or two, I expect development of the training center to be a long-term process as well. I am very proud and pleased we have hit our second year. Statistics for small businesses give the failure rate as somewhere between 20-50% in the first year. Okay, well, we aren't really a business primarily but we do need to take in enough money to pay the rent. Being still standing after two years and still having people coming to practice is a good thing for a new concept. We have more people coming regularly to help teach and train and I have every confidence great things will come. It just takes practice.

--------------- Judo Tip -----------------------------------------

ANALYZE your performance. For example, I was listening to how a player did in a recent tournament. She had thrown the opponent for three yukos, then was thrown for a waza ari in the last few seconds and lost the match. My question was this:

"Don't you practice transition? If so, how did you end up with three yukos? Why didn't one of those yukos end up with a pin, an armbar or a choke?"

I don't know, but I do know if I was her I would go back and look at those videos. Did she always throw the player near the edge, so that the referee called matte and she didn't have a chance to follow up to matwork? If so, she needs to work on attacking inside.

Did her opponent immediately turn on her stomach or in some other defensive position? If so, she needs to work on attacking a player in that position.

Or, horrors, did the player just hesitate in her transition to matwork? I don't know the answer to any of those question. I do know that those are the questions she, and her coach, need to be asking and answering for themselves.


Anonymous said...

Glad you liked Gladwell's book. I take it Ferguson's book wasn't as interesting?


Dr. AnnMaria said...

I am saving it to read on the plane. I have a long flight to Boston and we leave late at night so I am sure that Julia will be sound asleep in the seat next to me.

Stephen said...

One thing wrestling is good for is that it is about the transition. A wrestler is focused on the pin at the end, the take-down, the wrestler's throw, is only a means to that end.

A little wrestling helps some people see transitions in all that they do.

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read the post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I would like to read a bit more soon.

Anonymous said...

i did not say lightyears or mention guerros!

Dr. AnnMaria said...

What do I look like, a tape recorder?