Tuesday, October 8, 2013

#024 The Power of Experience

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward."  --Unknown

I have heard this statement in some shape or form by professionals in many different careers from stand-up comedian to professional athlete:

To truly master your craft, you must do it 10,000 times.

I made a habit for 12 years of going back and watching the game film from the previous season before I sat down and started to plan for the upcoming year.  I wanted to see what we were good at and bad at, but more importantly, I wanted to sit down and evaluate myself as honestly and critically as possible.  It was always a tough pill to swallow because I would always find so many errors and mistakes on my part that I simply could not believe I made.

What was I thinking?  Why would I do that?  Why weren't we better prepared for that situation?

Every spring was always a bitter-sweet experience because I would not only learn how dumb I was the previous season, but I would realize how much I learned from that season.  I was always in shock at how much better of a coach I became after 80 practices and 25 games. 
As I mentor young coaches and players, I often get asked, "how do I get better?"  The answer is usually under the context of finding ways to do more reps the right way.  Whether that be increasing the number of shots you put up each day to working more camps over the summer to experiment and stay fresh for your team in the fall, it always came back to advising players and coaches alike to improve their routine and understanding through quality repetition.

Over the course of my career now, I have re-built a high school program and two different college programs.  Some were in better shape than others when I found them, but all were in desperate need of a make-over...out of circumstance or neglect.  As a recruiter for those programs, I always wanted to bring in players during that rebuild process who were more talented than any of the returning players.  I wanted to make sure my staff was not wasting time recruiting players with similar or less skills than the players we already had.  For the most part, we always did a pretty good job of accomplishing that goal.

With that said, it was always rare for one of those talented newcomers to steal starts and playing time away from the less talented but more experienced player right away.  Just like a comic who had been booed off stage a hundred times or the pitcher who returns from a 6-19 season, the more experience a person has, the thicker his or her skin gets, and the more committed he or she gets to not allowing failure to be an option.

The hardest cuts I have ever had to make were those upperclassmen who thought experience was enough, though. 

I've been doing this for 2-3 years more.  I deserve this.

Sorry.  No, you don't.  Just like I never let those 80 practices and 25 games carry me over into the next season, players and coaches alike must continue to get better in between seasons.  Experience, like anything else, is a quality over quantity idea.  The player who takes 200 fundamental, hard-working shots in an hour will become a better player over the player who takes 250 lazy, undisciplined shots in two hours.  Experience and time are great, but if it doesn't come with a plan, purpose, and effort, you are just wasting the opportunity to gain experience.

I never underestimate the power of experience, but I also never let it get in the way of playing or hiring the person that makes the most of his or her opportunity.

Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary