“We do a lot of drills, but not like this,” explained one of our TOVO players recently.
I took the opportunity to explore a bit more by asking this young boy about his training back home. After all, he had flown to Spain from the US to train with us so just about everything was different- the food, the language, the culture and apparently the training sessions as well.
“What is a typical training like at your club?”
“Well, we do a lot of stuff but not this intense and they never explain why we are doing it. We just kind of go from one drill to the next. And then we go home,” he responded.
I wish I could dismiss this as in isolated case. But, having heard this story repeated far too many times I cannot ignore it flippantly.
Far too much training is merely a collection of isolated, non-sequential and menial tasks to be accomplished over 90 minutes. I would consider this “shallow work.”
“Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world...” – Cal Newport
In essence, the player mentioned was referring to his trainings as such. Tasks to be completed without intensity and without the value of learning accompanying the drills. How much tepid training do our players suffer through over a 10-year development period from 8 to 18 years of age? And in that process how much positive potential is left untapped, ignored, or uninspired?
Training is not merely glorified baby-sitting; it is a marvelous opportunity to nurture the mind and body.
The good news is that there is an alternative to realize the full potential for our ambitious players. We can choose a more effective approach to development.
“Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. Deep work is necessary to wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity. We now know from decades of research in both psychology and neuroscience that the state of mental strain that accompanies deep work is also necessary to improve your abilities.” - Cal Newport
This is not rocket science, just neuroscience. For those of my generation you may have had a grandfather who spoke so highly of something called “elbow grease.” In fact, it sounds alarmingly similar to the advice of every parent who told her child to give her best effort, to think, and to sweat a bit. Pretty sound advice that the scientists of the world have proven to be on target with how our body and brain function.
Are we doing “logistical style tasks” at training that require little brainpower? If we are, “these efforts tend to not create much new value” and may actually bore our players silly. We can tell this if we have to continually demand concentration and find them distracted. We are upset at their lack of focus. They are lost. And I am baffled as to why we do not choose more dynamic exercises that solve the issue entirely.
Dynamic, engaging, and self-regulating exercises accomplish so much more. In an intense and supportive manner, we can push “cognitive abilities to their limit.” Interestingly enough, the players who we assumed were distracted will be the very same players that train deeply. They become motivated by the challenge and their brains light up. They go into another gear and do not realize how quickly training can fly by. They are better for it and we are better trainers for giving them this deep training experience. Performance and improvement become a source of pride for our players.
There is much more to delve into regarding effective training. However, for the sake of this brief article we can do a quick three-point to do list starting today.
3 Point Checklist
- Try exercises that demand thinking, not just doing.
- Try asking players why they made certain choices and what alternative solutions might have been explored.
- Fire up the competition in each exercise to fuel positive focus and intensity.
As the young player was packing his bags for the long flight home from Barcelona to America, I asked him one last question.
And how did you find the training here?” I asked.
“It was the most intense and fun training of my life. I learned more in two weeks than I have in four years,” he replied.
This is deep training and when we provide it our young players they will excel.