Friday, May 13, 2011

The Five Habits of Highly Effective Athletes

We were working on the chapter on coaching and Jim made a comment on the difference between recreational and elite coaches.

"Anyone who looks down on coaches who are only coaching at the club level is an asshole. I'd be an idiot to do that because all of our players came from somewhere else. That guy - whoever it was - brought this person up to the level where they are motivated enough and have had enough success that they want to train at the international level. If it wasn't for those so-called recreational coaches, we wouldn't have a program here. I wouldn't say I'm better than those coaches, but I'm definitely different because we have a different focus here and when players get here, we have to break some habits."

I thought that would make an interesting topic for a blog, so  I asked him about what exactly were the habits he had to break.

First, is conditioning. They just have to get in better shape. The conditioning you need to be the best player in your state or region is a far cry from the conditioning to be the best player in the world. They have to get in the habit of doing a serious conditioning workout and a hard workout on the mat every day. That takes discipline and they haven't needed that level of discipline to get to be say, number three in the senior nationals, but they are sure going to need it to make it at the international level.

Second, they have to learn to listen during practice. If you're working out at your own club, you go every round of randori, you're the toughest guy in the room and everything is fine. When people first come here,  they are not going to be in the same shape as the athletes who have been training here for a year or two. So, a guy goes out and wants to show how tough he is, he wants to do every work out, he's going every round with people who are in top shape and by the end his legs are rubber, he can't stand up. He's sore for the next two days, he's worthless in practice and he gets discouraged and quits. I'll tell people, "You take this round off, go every other round."  As a coach, with a whole lot more experience, I want them to get into the habit of working at the pace I want, not the pace they want.

(I remember when Ronda first went to Pedro's, she was 16 years old and she would complain all of the time because he did not have her doing the same work outs as Jimmy, Jr. and Alex Ottiano. He told her, "Look, you're 16 years old. No, you're not doing the same workout Jimmy is doing. You're doing the same workout Jimmy was doing at 16. ")

That's the big attitude change that has to come about, the realization that there is a long-term plan and you need to stick with it. You don't need to train every single day, twice a day, and have a monitored plan to be the toughest guy in your local area, but that's exactly what you need if you're going to win at the international level.

Third, there's habits in gripping and this comes to listening, too.  A big one is being disciplined about getting your grip. Usually, players take the easy route. They can't get the grip they want because the other player is stopping them, so they switch and take a different grip. No! I don't know how many times a night I have to tell people if they don't have the grip they need to attack to break the other person's grip off you and get the grip you want.

(One of the reasons I thought Pedro's was a good choice for Ronda when she went there is that gripping was one of her weaker points and one of their strongest points. I asked her how it was going and she said that Jim, Sr. sometimes spent hours on the mat with her just going over gripping over and over. What you really need to do is make it a habit, so when someone gets a grip on your lapel where you don't want it, you break it automatically and re-grip to get the grip that you want.)

Fourth, there's posture, and often this is related to the gripping, too. For example, someone gets a high power grip and pulls you down. The person feels uncomfortable in that position and so bends over and puts the opposite foot forward. Now, you're easier to throw. You need to NOT do that. You need to break that grip off of you. So that's another habit people need to get into.

Fifth, there's learning not to follow. Any time you're chasing the other player, you're asking for trouble. If you're following the other person, you'd better stop because you're moving into their throw. If someone is running across the mat, they're running across the mat with a purpose and that purpose is usually to set you up for their throw. You're just following them waiting to get thrown. You need to slow the tempo down.

So, yes, there is a lot of work to change habits that were not a problem for you when you were at a recreational level - probably because everyone else had the same habits - but are going to be a problem for you at the elite level.

It really is a culture shock for most people and not everyone can handle it because all of a sudden, a lot more is demanded of you and not every player is able or willing to make that commitment.

P.S. There was a question from Jorge on whether you should also train to accommodate the other person's grip, or if you should always be breaking that grip and going for your own. I think this post may answer part of it. I'll try to give a more complete answer tomorrow.


Jeff Runyan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
plam said...

You know, it would be totally OK with me to be number 3 at senior nationals, which happen to be coming up next weekend.

Then again, I'm not training to be an international athlete; it's probably incompatible with continuing to be a tenure-track faculty member at a research university. Gotta make choices.

You've been there; what do you think people with demanding (non-9-to-5) day jobs can accomplish?

Dr. AnnMaria said...

It's okay with plenty of people to be number 3 at senior nationals. The smart people, like you are AWARE that they are making choices.

When I was competing, I was an engineer, which is work, but not tenure-track R1 level work. My career progression was slower because I did spend a lot of hours away from the office - but that's not always an option, say going up for tenure in 10 years.

When I think back to when I was right out of grad school, writing articles, writing grants and teaching my classes - yes, I think it would have been impossible to train for international competition. Friends of mine in medical school just quit competing. When my company was just getting started, I traveled so much, it would have just been impossible.

Realistically, even with a demanding job, I think it is possible to place in the senior nationals (maybe even win certain divisions), and certainly to win D & E level tournaments. It would mean not having any social life or much in other interests. If you can get in a conditioning work out every day, even a moderate one, and judo three or four times a week, you'll be doing more than 95% of the people in the country.

The key factor would be if your judo workouts were really workouts and not, as at some clubs, a lot of standing around talking about judo.

Liam & Eileen's Dad said...

Giving credit where credit due, I like that.

How come people who have big ego's shouldn't but people like you and Jim don't.

Everything is well put

plam said...

I coulda won a D-level tournament last month in Philadelphia, except that your national champion showed up and threw me.

The upcoming pre-tenure sabbatical should help for training for next season, though. Teaching took way too much time last semester.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Aaw, thanks Liam and Eileen's dad.

So, plam, how did you do in the tournament? Did you place second?

Are you writing anything cool during your sabbatical?

plam said...

Yep. Second at Liberty Bell.

I have some cool ideas that I'd like to explore, but no book or anything like that. Since I'm a computer scientist hiding out in an electrical and computer engineering department, conference publications are what I write (but the department wants journal publications).

BTW, I taught a course on programming for performance last term. Code parallelization, etc.

Jorge Almeida said...

Thank you for addressing my question in your blog. I think that the 5 habits enumerated make a lot of sense.
However, I still think there is some room for practicing specific techniques that work better if the opponent has a specific grip. A classic example would be sode-tsurikomi-goshi when the opponent has a high grip. Or allowing the opponent to enter in uchi-mata just to counter it as Pina did on the European this year
- in our club, everyone knew that doing a uchi-mata to Pina was very difficult.
My coaches would drill us on these different techniques so that we could attack from any grip without getting tired from grip fighting and do not allow the opponent to get comfortable in their grip.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Jorge -
I think you are correct. In my opinion one should always have a plan B. I'll try to write more about this once I get caught up with work. Thank you for bringing it up.