The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Friday, July 29, 2011

Keeping it "Simples"

It was the eve of the 2nd Cricket Test Match England v India, and I was watching some televised interviews and film footage from the England Camp. I was just soaking up all the pre-match info, comment and banter when something involving Andrew Strauss, England Captain, that was going on in the filmed background, just seemed to catch my eye.

It set off a train of thought that came to rest around coaching - and not necessarily sports coaching - and how we all have ideas about what it is, what it entails, the preconceptions, misconceptions, methodologies and so on, and so forth.
Because of all this referencing - and the labelling that accompanies it - there is a something of a movement away from using coaching, as a concept, into other areas such as mentoring and training. Semantics and common parlance often force this change and movement, and for me - with connections in a number of paradigms - I feel drawn towards looking for a phrase that encompasses the whole domain of learning and change.

"I coach processes, I mentor people, I change perceptions" probably sums it up for me.

The Low-grade Routine

There's a routine I use when coaching batting that involves a horizontal line of (about 6-8) static balls that the batsman steps to and drives then returns to a similar start position for the next one, then performs the same action on that one and each subsequent ball.
This, on the face of it, is an extremely low-grade routine. In fact I've used this from child beginners to adult players - and sometimes the non-verbal reaction from either player, or indeed parent, reveals a huge amount about their preconceptions of what and how to coach. Sometimes this has spilt over into the implied verbal: "I'm paying you to coach me (or my son or daughter) in how to bat better - not to hit a line of static balls into a net."

Then I have to explain what the exercise tells us.

And this is why I like coaching children without parents close enough to verbally intervene, because the children just accept the instruction because they have no preconception of what the real purpose is. They learn by experience and not thinking - let alone pre-thinking!

So what does the exercise tell us?

* It tells us where the batsman's front foot steps to - past the ball, too much to the side, in the way of where the bat should be etc
* It tells us the 'shape' of the shot, ie the 'flight-path' the bat traces before, during and after hitting the ball
* It tells us the balance of the batsman before, during and after hitting the ball
* It tells us what the batsman's head, shoulders, hips are doing in the course of the shot
* It tells us about their ability to replicate the starting position, and subsequent action of this closed-skill activity

There are other things it also tells us, but in the above-mentioned alone there is a huge amount of information - and all without even looking to see where each ball has been hit to.

A very 'low grade' routine that reveals an abundance of very 'high grade' information. Its about what are we doing - what is the body doing - in the course of this simple activity, the focal point of which is that micro-moment in time when bat hits ball.

It is about PROCESS and not OUTCOME.

Now in coaching terms, understanding the balance between process and outcome - and then conveying that understanding to our clients and players - is about as simple or low-grade as the routine I've illustrated above. And yet it is the most crucial and pivotal factor in their ability to learn and change, and in learning HOW TO learn and change. And for most of us, learning is a process we are not taught how to do - it is built up in stages from our earliest steps and communications by experience and modelling.


The success of each one of us is our own property because success is an outcome. Ability is the process we apply in order to achieve an outcome. A coach can be successful - but cannot coach success. Success belongs only to the clients, the players.
A player can have all the ability in the world, but if he chooses not to apply it, then he will not achieve his desired outcome in that context.
Plus - in the Game of Life we are ALL players.

So what was it I saw Andrew Strauss doing in the background of that televised footage?

Yes - you've guessed it - he was working with his batting coach on a very low-grade routine - hitting, one by one, a line of static balls into a net.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Get a 3D Life!

Last weekend I watched my first film in 3D - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

In order to fully enjoy the film - and the 3D experience - I went into the cinema with nothing on my mind, no pre-conceptions, just an anticipation of the 3D sensual experience; which for me is all things visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.

Interestingly, afterwards I couldn't really put into words what the experience had been like, or what the film was like - rather than what it was about. There was something akin to listening live to a huge symphony, as the experiential canvas which the film is laid out upon is vast.

The thing is - because it WAS all new for me, and I went in with nothing on my mind, there were absolutely NO comparative references there for me to run my experiences past. Hence I struggled to describe it afterwards and - to be fair - I struggle to describe it now.

Interesting and curious as this might be, it is not the point I'm looking to illustrate here.

On my way into "the screen" the was a large hopper containing the 3D glasses and from which I was invited to select a pair. I say 'select' - however they were all the same so it was a case of 'take one'.

Familiarity versus Novelty

Now, there we all are - the audience - sat wearing our uniform glasses having this uniform film experience enhanced into something richer and more meaningful for each and every one of us. The thing is, each and every one of us had a different experience which was framed by our own references both before, during and after the performance.

Now I know that if I was going to watch the film again that MY experience would never be exactly the same - the only thing that would be exactly the same would be the glasses and the film. The other thing is that because the canvas of the film is SO vast that I would see and hear things I'd not noticed first time round, and that my kinaesthetic experience would be altered as well.

And all this would happen EVEN IF I could go into the cinema in exactly the same frame of mind that I did last weekend. The only 'familiarity' would be the plot and the sequential chronology of the scenes. There's an interesting question here in that, how many times would I need to watch the film before 'familiar' tipped the scales versus the 'new' - and as a consequence would I then have no further need to watch the film? Or would my wish to revisit and re-encounter and re-familiarise some of my earlier experiences override the lack of novelty?

Starring in our own Bigger Picture

They say "Life is for Living", and I think the message in it for us is that we need to get out there and fully experience a sensible balance of the familiar and the novel - and the key word for me is FULLY. Every day we need to remember the metaphor of the hopper of 3D glasses and take a pair and put them on. We are conscious - this is not our dreamscape - and we need to allow ourselves to wear the 'enhancers' in order to enrich our experience. Some people are able to encounter more new experiences every day than some others will encounter in a lifetime. Its all about having an open mind - of wearing the enhancers - so we can notice more, and also enrich the world with our presence in it.

When I hear the phrase "Get a Life" I hear it as an invitation to get out of our heads, switch off the filters that generalise, distort and delete, open all sensual channels, put on the enhancers and experience as much as possible. Being in our own film, if you like.
But we can't "Get a Life" if we are stuck in our own sense of inner ego, rather the same as if last weekend I had gone to watch the film (a) with things on my mind and (b) without wearing the glasses. The film (or Life) would have been all that it was going to be - my experience of it would have been (by comparison) dull, meaningless, not much of a pleasure - in fact pretty Lifeless all round.