Before becoming a "documentarian/running bureaucrat/anal-retentive measurer/backyard shade-tree coach" I worked as an analyst in the human factors, medical, education & communications world. Until seven years ago I hadn't developed any real taxonomy by which to break down root causes to things. I just worked by feel.After I entered my (Navy) educational internship I was enrolled into a human performance technology course track at a local university. One of the first documents I read was based on the work of Thomas Gilbert, considered to be the father of human performance technology. Gilbert was a disciple of B. F. Skinner, the human behaviorist. Think pigeons pecking metal plates in response to a flashing light in exchange for seed. Think Walden Two. Fortunately, Gilbert was thinking more humanistically.Gilbert believed all barriers to worthy performance (not just doing something, but doing something of worth to society) could be broken down into six areas; three at the organizational level, three at the performer level. Other theorists borrowed the Pareto (80/20) principle; 80 percent of performance deficiencies were caused by 20 percent of possible root causes. They believed 80 percent of performance barriers were organizationally rooted. In other words, as Gilbert wrote in his 1978 book, most workers go to work wanting to do a good job. Management screws it up by unclear communications, inefficient processes, & disincentivizing worthy performance. If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. - Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)I've always had the tendency to look more at the organizational - in my own case, coach-rooted - barriers to an athlete's performance first, and then the worker - or athlete-rooted - barriers...or I've left them alone entirely. Unless the athlete places 100-percent trust and confidence in me there's not much I can do to control an autonomous, adult, post-collegiate, recreational athlete. (I prefer to think I was more accountable to my coach; he might beg to differ.) Sometimes we want to say to the athlete, 'I don't think you want to work that hard...you don't want to train to perform that well...' The coach's job is to do what it takes to prepare the athlete to execute the plan, given their state of fitness, on the day.Lately I've been reading & noting the guidance Brett "Doc" Sutton provides to amateur age-group as well as professional triathletes he trains as part of Team TBB. He's had some great success in the ITU, 70.3 & IM world, has coached swimmers, trained racehorses & world triathlon champions. He's able to read the athlete & see through the b.s. His brand of coaching blends tough love & stoking the inward fire, for want of a better term on my part.Doc's way of looking at a problem is simple:"...in every thing, we break it up into three steps. We don't believe in making it more complicated than that, what ever it is. You come with a problem that has five or six points? "The Doc" sends you back to the corner & says 'bring me back three & we will find a solution.'"Let's take a day where an athlete doesn't perform up to their expectation. Rather than blame the coaching, the weather or the course, what about the pace they ran in the first mile, where they staged themself in the starting corral, or the warm-up that was not done? As "Doc" says, 'no discussion...we reap what we sow.'Timing or scoring issue? Get scored fourth place in your age group when you know you were third? Some sports don't allow the opportunity for 'argument, no pity-partying , or you get your head punched off by the opposition within the next ten seconds.' Sometimes you need to 'make the very best out of a...hand that is dealt. That is your hand; how you play it is up to the individual. Some get inspired, some crack.' Don't place yourself in a position to be vulnerable to the frailties of human judgment. 'Don't like it? Don't race. This is your sport; can it be done better? Well of course. But that is not on the table on race day.'
While the vast majority of us are recreational athletes & not making dollar-one from our pursuit, we can still borrow the mindset & adapt the mental toughness of the professional. Sometimes that means looking in the mirror for the first cause, then going on from there.