So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Blind Spot

Once - sometimes twice - a week I have a sit-down with a couple of guys I at an establishment a couple of miles from my home.  We drink a couple of beers, trade jokes with the bartender and observe the human condition.  My arrival, timed to hit the tail end of happy hour (after my workout and a wash), often sees the joint pretty-well filled with patrons; if Tuesday evening it's kids' night.  If Wednesday it's trivia.

However, this was a Monday, and the place was one step above a morgue.  Dead.  Winter holiday season, everyone-spending-time-at-home-with-the-family-watching-Doctor Who-special dead.  Dead enough that the front-of-house staff were in the back of the house, with the kitchen radio cranked up nice and high.  Almost high enough to be heard at the hostess station.

Which was not attended.

Steve, Bob and I marveled at the deadness of the house in between sips of beer and tapping of trivia answers.  "If a potential patron were to come in," said Steve, "they would most likely turn around and walk back out.  No staff at the front of house could come back and bite them in the backside."  I couldn't help but understand his perspective; were I the type of person who preferred to sit in the dining area.  I prefer to be up close to the beer taps, however, for me the bar is first choice.  With family members in tow, sure, it's more likely going to be a sit-down at a four-top or six-top.

But there wasn't much the staff could do short of going outside and waving traffic in, like hawkers outside of a drive-up pizza joint, or oil change establishment.  You know...the folks who flip the signs around to grab driver attention?

I could see Steve's perspective.  As long as there are factors which can be controlled, say, like the degree of welcome given to a patron when they walk through the door.  Standing in the kitchen isn't going to positively or negatively affect how Joe and Jane Local drive up the main drag.

I like to work with runners, and I enjoy the act of writing every once in a while.  When I write about training or dealing with athletes I try very hard to look at it from a balanced perspective.  Dr. Jack Daniels, in his Running Formula, described it in a four quadrant matrix, like the following:



The "non-runner" or the "special occasion, once-a-year" runner, bless them.  I'd estimate this as the population which fill up many of the large event participant fields.  They, in most cases, haven't seen running as anything more than punishment for missing a lay-up or a requirement of military training.  They're closer to the upper limit on the motivation axis and the ability axis then they think.  It might take a nudge from a friend to make them move out of that quadrant.  Sometimes they even ask me questions about running, to which I often begin with the proviso, "Well, if I were your coach..."

Great ability and lower motivation, Daniels says, are the character traits of persons who frustrate coaches.  Again, the proverbial "if I had a dollar..." athlete.  And when we talk about the spectrum of low to high motivation, this could be more of a mismatch between the athlete's motives and that of the coach.  They're going to be good to go - either on their own or with another coach - because they (often) have the answers pretty much "figured out."  Even in the presence of data to the contrary.  No need for someone else telling them what to do. 

Daniels says the motivated runner of reasonable ability are more likely going to frustrate themselves, especially if it's a biomechanical limitation to their ability.  A coach who isn't careful can, in the old parlance, demand a check that the athlete is incapable of cashing.  Bad day.  The physically-gifted runner, in this case, might only need a "consigliere" to act as a sounding board.  Pretty much the coach that Daniels said needs to say little more than, "hey, you're looking good today."

That upper right quadrant pretty much speaks for itself.  The highly motivated athlete with physical gifts; the ability to minimize deficiencies and leverage abilities, can (if the time is right) achieve their running goals...with or in spite of the help of a coach.  "Know thyself," as Socrates was quoted by Plato.

A friend of a friend took me to task last week for my lack of perspective; I carried what he perceived as a hard-line point of view about racing on certified courses, without looking at the myriad of reasons "typical runners" participate in events:
To a certain degree he was right.  I know a lot of people who could care not a whit whether the course is accurate.  Some love certain events for the post-race party, others for the great shirts.  I did not intend to put a thumb in the eye of those who support charitable causes by participating in running events, nor demean the persons who use runs as a form of "social exercise."  I'll leave the "beer thing" alone, because I've been to races (mostly outside of the southeastern U.S.) where beer is either not served after an event, or the "beer garden" is segregated, or the beer is a "value-added" (you pay extra for it) to the race.

But his perspective left him unable to see where I was coming from.  For many athletes, especially in the upper right hand quadrant, the distance thing is important.  For the athletes in the "elitist runner snob" category, and the "hobby jogger" category there are some events which are going to be as close to the Olympics as they'll ever get (I felt pretty darn good about warming up ten yards or so from 10,000 meter Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein at the Azalea Trail Run, which just happened to be the USATF 10K road national championships a few years back.  Saying hello to Bob Kennedy as he was finishing his cool-down at another race was also really cool.).  So in that case, it's an issue of quality, it's something that gets the potential (and discerning) patron through the proverbial front door.

Watch out for that blind spot.

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