Tag Archives: Malcolm Gladwell

Slingers

I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell. I just like the way he thinks and researches things. He seems to be that kind of interesting person you’d like to talk to on a train ride across the midwest. Like I said in the last post, he might be the actual, living Most Interesting Man In The World.

One of the first articles from Gladwell I read was The Physical Genius (The New Yorker, August 1999). In the article he wrote about advanced gestalt psychology development and vision in great athletes, like Wayne Gretsky and Tony Gwynn, a musician (Yo Yo Ma), and a neurosurgeon, (Dr. Charlie Wilson). These gestalt-exhibiting athletes are able to see and perceived the whole as more than just the collective sum of the parts. Brilliant and thought-provoking stuff. 

In his book,  DAVID AND GOLIATH: UNDERDOGS, MISFITS, AND THE ART OF BATTLING GIANTS, Gladwell explores the underdog and how the underdog often succeeds by taking advantage of what the “giant” sees as disadvantages. Below is a link to a video of Gladwell talking about his spotlight example in the story of David and Goliath. It is well worth a few minutes of your time to watch and listen to this Ted Talk about David and Goliath. He talks about how David took advantage of his slingshot skill to beat the intimidating giant Goliath. The value of a “slinger” is explained in detail. At the very minimum, you will leave this video with a whole new viewpoint about a Bible story we all thought we knew.

Too many people look at things like King Saul:

  • Be like everyone else
  • Operate like everyone else
  • Stick to the convention.

Because of who we ARE, we have to approach things differently. Like I’ve mentioned more than a few times before, we aren’t big, we aren’t particularly fast, we aren’t incredibly naturally talented, but we are who we are. We have to approach things from a non-conventional direction in order to develop into a successful team with the ability to slay the giants we faced. We developed our kids to be SLINGERS to battle the giants. Mobile, agile and able to hit the opponent like a cannon shot all game long.

The successes we had almost always lined up to the times we held tight to the David philosophy and tailored everything to that particular group of kids. Our failures more often than not came when we tried to squeeze square pegs into the round holes of convention. Instead of forcing these kids into our conventions, we should have been kicking down the round-holed-wall and rebuilding it to the necessary specs fitted for the current players.

Now, where’s my slingshot?

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Coaching, Rants

My Ball!

Football has been on my mind lately. I know what you’re thinking, “Stop the presses! Hays never thinks about sports.” The general consensus has always been, even in the days before I coached the game, that a certain percentage of my total brain function is dedicated to football thought 24/7/365. This is different, though.

My latest football obsession has been triggered by a book (Yes, I said a book.). I’ve been reading (and listening) to Malcolm Gladwell’s book about the misconception of the underdog called DAVID AND GOLIATH: UNDERDOGS, MISFITS, AND THE ART OF BATTLING GIANTS. Gladwell is one of my favorite intellects currently walking this fine planet. Forget the grey-haired, elderly, beer-sipping character from a TV commercial, Malcolm Gladwell may truly be The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Many of the patterns and habit of underdogs—which, by the way, lead to more successes than expected—outlined in the book remind me of the things I learned while coaching. I’ll attempt to touch on some of these learned lessons over the next months on the blog. One of the most important lessons learned was this intricately simplistic, but incredibly effective, definition of the game of football. The “MY BALL!” philosophy of Coach Paul Lane.

In my town, we are perennial underdogs. We have the collective genetics of a lower middleweight wrestler. We aren’t big, we aren’t particularly fast, we aren’t incredibly naturally talented, but we are who we are. If you were to line our Clay Center boy’s teams up before the game at the 50-yard line against the opponent and take a vote on who’ll win from physical appearance only, we’d lose that vote in a landslide 95 times out of 100.

We are who we are.

Being what and who we naturally are, we have to approach things from a non-conventional direction in order to develop into a successful team. We have to think outside the proverbial box because we don’t have the natural athleticism that fits nicely into that box. I don’t mean to be mean-spirited because I loved coaching this tough-minded, hard-working population of kids. It is just the harsh reality—we have to develop competitive teams, not inherit competitive teams.

Coach Lane’s number one teaching point for the Tiger Defense consisted of only two words, MY BALL!. When the opponent had the ball, our job was to physically take our ball back, either by force or by making the opponent punt the ball back to us in three plays. Our goal was to be selfish by taking our ball back whenever the opponent happened to gain possession of it—and take it from them ASAP.

A beautifully simple, yet effective definition of the game that 99.9% of our teenage boys were able to grasp. They could “get it”. Football went from this apparently confusing game of rules and playbooks, and techniques to something they could wrap their young minds around. It’s all about MY BALL.

  • Get it back when we don’t have it.
  • Take care of it when we have it and move it to our special piece of prime real estate at the opposite end of the field as many times as possible.

With this simple mental framework in place, we could teach our kids their jobs and they could understand why they had to do that job. The team needed them to do their job in order for us to get Coach Lane his ball back.

Easy-peasy.

“MY BALL!” made me rethink the game of football and more importantly, rethink how I studied and taught the game of football. Two simple words, one simple philosophy that helped our underdogs as they worked to become successful. David beats Goliath playing the game David’s way and not Goliath’s way.

Until next time.

WilsonFootball

1 Comment

Filed under Coaching, Training

The Creative Process in Action: Moby on NPR

Rest Day Read (SR-24)
The Creative Process
Moby: One Song, Two Days, Three Versions
from NPR’s Project Song by Bob Boilen
“I kicked off the songwriting process by showing them a series of photographs and words…Moby and Scarr are both drawn to an image of a man in the woods wearing a trenchcoat. There is a brown suitcase on the earthen floor beside him, and his head looks like a glowing storm cloud.
Next, I gave them a series of words to chose from. Moby picks the word “flight”. Scarr chooses “Sunday”, which Moby calls “the most depressing day of the week”.
Not long after, Moby puts the card with the word “Sunday” printed on it, along with the photograph, on a nearby chair. He picks up the bass guitar and immediately starts playing a riff in the key of E. Turns out, this hastily played baseline would become the bedrock for their new song.
Just six hours later, the first of three versions of “Gone to Sleep” was recorded.”

The creative process has always intrigued me. Creativity is vital to excellence. Creativity separates, it is the cream which rises to the top. I have always been interested in what makes greatness, in particular, Malcolm Gladwells writings on the subject. The great trainers I follow, Crossfit, Gym Jones, Dan John, Mike Rutherford, Coach Rod Cole, CrossFit Kids, Marty Gallagher, Mark Rippetoe and Dr. Lon Kilgore, just to name a few, are all very creative in their expertise and approach to their craft. The great football coaches I idolized, Hank Stram, Vince Lombardi, Mike Ditka, Bill Belchick, Mary Schottenheimer, Urban Meyer, Bill Snyder all use their creativity to innovate and dominate the sport. The beauty of what they all do is truly an art form.
This article, audio file and video of Moby creating a song from a photo and word on the NPR program Project Song shows the creative process at its best. Moby is completely in the zone, absolutely, completely focused on his purpose, as he and partner Kelli Scarr attack the creation of the piece. It is pretty cool stuff. Listen, watch, learn and enjoy.
Makes one wonder just what exactly it is in the small percentage of differences in the genetic code between Homo sapiens, that allows for such variety and creativity in our species.

Leave a comment

Filed under Rants, Reads, Training, Writes

Rest Day Read 3-15-10

Rest Day Read (SR-15)
The Physical Genius by Malcolm Gladwell
“If you think of physical genius as a pyramid, with, at the bottom, the raw components of coordination, and, above that, the practice that perfects those particular movements, then this faculty of imagination is the top layer. This is what separates the physical genius from those who are merely very good.”
What makes the great ones great? The million dollar question. I have been fascinated with the concepts of this article by Malcolm Gladwell, originally published in New Yorker Magazine in 1999, ever since I stumbled across it. I particularly like the Gestalt, or the space/form recognition component.
I used to get really funny, odd looks and blank stares from administrators, parents and some other coaches when I would talk about these concepts. I would use Gestalt methods in offensive lineman drills every day so that the lineman would see the patterns the opposition would employ to stop us. Recognize and repeat, repeat and repeat over and over again until it was embedded. We would watch game film of the opposition as much as possible, then during practice a offensive scout team ran the opposition’s formation and plays. Recognize and repeat, repeat and repeat over and over again until it was embedded. Everyone knew our scout team was not as good as our upcoming opponent, but the important things was to present the patterns.
The great ones “see” (visualize and process) things in a different, advanced manner. They have the raw components, the desire to practice to obsessive perfection and they possess the factor of imagination that vaults them to a completely different level than the rest of us. For an example of “the faculty of imagination”, think of the spontaneous moves involved in a Barry Sanders breakaway run.

Leave a comment

Filed under Rants, Reads, Writes