As most of you know, I am not a great writer and have not had much to blog about lately. Below is a collection of random writing I have done over the past few months. Enjoy or not. Just my observations. B-Side material, but sometimes that can be some good stuff.

Phil Jackson: Genius Coach?

This week, Phil Jackson appears to have coached his last NBA game. I was not pleased with the boorish behavior of his team in their elimination game against Dallas. I feel Phil should have owned up to his role in influencing this awful display, but I have to admit: I love Phil and believe him to be one of the top coaches of all time and not just in basketball, but in all sports. He won 11 championships. I know, he had Jordan, Shaq and Kobe. Anyone could have won championships with those guys. Really? Did superstars and dream teams win the NBA championship in Miami? How about our past Dream Teams? What can we learn from Phil?

Phil was one of the first “cerebral coaches”. He was different and did not care what you thought about his “zen approach” to coaching, teaching and leading. From buying books on various diverse topics for his players, to his use of Native American rituals, Phil was an innovator and a winner. If he had not been winning championships, would this very integrative approach been accepted by both his players and fans? Probably not, but those of us in leadership roles can learn from his carreer. Below are the key characteristics I think made Phil Jackson an exceptional teacher, coach and leader.

  • Hire experts Phil’s teams were known for the “triangle offense”. Tex Winter was the coach/architect of this complex and effective system, which was given credit for giving the Bulls and Lakers a definite competitive advantage. I don’t know where Phil found Tex, but kudos for finding this guru of offense. His genius allowed Phil to focus on other variables.
  •  Embrace Diverse Disciplines  The use of Native American rituals and Zen Buddhism and getting his players to read about diverse (non sport) success stories was brilliant. He made his players become intrinsically motivated to improve and work together as a team by showing them different and creative success stories from other worlds. He challenged their minds and made them better.
  •  Created mystique  How much of what Phil did was real and how much was designed to get other teams to become intimidated and bewildered? Who knows, but I know it worked. I believe that many of his competitors were beaten before they got to the arena.
  •  Good Talent/Great Chemistry Many have said that any coach could win with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil. Maybe, but I believe that many of the Bulls and Lakers championships were won by complimentary players whom Phil was able to gel with his superstars. Many of these players could have been stars on other teams, but learned to play complimentary roles. Scottie Pippen, Tony Kucoc, Dennis Rodman, Derek Fisher and too many to name. The ability to generate chemistry was one of Phil Jackson’s major gifts.
  •  Strategic Controversy/Diversions Controversy and contrived statements can take the pressure off of your athletes if done strategically and judiciously. In this era of media scrutiny, pressure on players is intense. Instantaneously, what you say is reported whether valid or not. In his last two years, Phil was known for some pretty preposterous media statements that seemed very unlike the Zen Master. I was not really thrilled with some of these less than professional outbursts, but I believe they had a purpose. They took media attention away from his players and put psychological pressure on his opponents. Mind games. Early in the season when Phil critiqued coach Eric Spoelstra of the Miami Heat, it caused an uproar for over a week. The Heat players and management were bombarded with questions and requests for comment, and all the while, the Laker players were left alone while their coach fielded the “heat”

Phil, you were and master and as a coach, I thank you for all of your lessons.

Life is the sum of all your choices. ~ Albert Camus

The integrative approach and The Process

I have done and been many things in my life. Athlete, manager, business owner, consultant, coach, teacher, advisor and probably some things I have forgotten. Is forgetting the past always good? All this living in the present makes us think so.  Living in the moment is the ticket, but can you combine learning experiences as diverse as running a log flume in an amusement park, delivering ice cream, teaching kindergartners (not my current job), testing cardiac patients, managing life-saving medical programs and coaching professional athletes? If you want to be good, you should take time to remember, and if you are currently “stuck” you should absorb.

Almost daily I call on experiences from my past to help me live more effectively today both professionally and personally. Those experiences are not discarded:

  • When I am watching hours of film of my athletes and looking for small, miniscule movements that may improve performance it brings back memories of when I had to watch hours of 24 hour cardiac rhythm data, looking for arrhythmias. It required meticulous focus and concentration. It was 20 years ago, but it makes me good at what I do today.
  • When I am at the race track in the hot sun for 8 hours at a time, I remember sitting 100 feet up on that log flume for 8 hour shift with no shade. That made this easy.
  • When one of my athletes talks about one of their children having school issues, I remember the year I taught school and I try to provide advice on how to help them with their children.
  • When I was dealing with “elite talent” cardiologists, I learned the skills of compromise and communications with select and gifted minds. Can you say elite athlete. Not much difference. Believe me.

How do you learn from and benefit from your experiences? Embrace the process. So many people I talk to despise their work or look at their current roles as steps to a greater position or job that may or may never happen in the future. Life is about the process and if you embrace it, good things will happen.

The Miami Heat Loss

What is the right blend of stars and role players?

 The Miami heat loss in the NBA finals to the Dallas Mavericks demonstrated that a “team concept” many times, can and did beat a “dream team/superstar” group. There are many reasons that the Miami Heat lost to the “out talented” Dallas Mavericks. Here are my observations.

  • Depending on superior talent and a big payroll can be a mistake. Chemistry is needed. Complacency and arrogance kills superior physical advantages.
  • Chemistry + Proven System + Role Players = Success. I have always been a big admirer of Coach Mike K. While the Duke Blue Devils have had their share of superstars, most of their top players do not do that well in the NBA. Why? I believe Coach K recruits to a “system” and for “chemistry” No one player is the emphasis. This was not the model of the Miami Heat. While the initial Olympic Dream Team was successful and dominant in the 90’s, subsequent Dream Teams were less than successful, and in fact ,were embarrassing failures. I suspect one reason was the name “Dream Team”, and that leads to reason 3.
  • Unneeded pressure and Hubris.  Declaring that you were getting together to win 6-7 championships was arrogant and stupid. Did LeBron, Pat Reilly, Duane Wade not know that players like Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, Dan Marino etc. played years and never won championships? Did they know how hard winning championships is? Certainly Pat Reilly should have. He has won them. Pressure in athletics is already overwhelming without basically crowning yourself as the “chosen ones”. There is a difference between strategic braggadocio vs. flagrant braggadocio. Holding major media events to announce your leaving Cleveland and going to South Beach to win championships was the beginning of this failure. I believe it put an unnecessary burden on LeBron James, which crippled him when it came time to delivering in the clutch. Hall of Fame coach Pat Reilly should shoulder much of the blame for this failure. He knew better. Championships are won from intrinsic motivators, not extrinsic ones.

Random observations from a day in NYC

Recent studies have shown that an urban lifestyle is detrimental to your health. Maybe. Studies like this are burdened by many confounding variables. This one-man study says balance is the key. There is good in all lifestyles.

While I walked the streets of Manhattan with a friend, I heard lots of thank yous, pardon mes, and saw lots of smiles. Maybe I was visiting on a bizarro day, but I felt the energy of a community. I don’t feel that in the sterile suburbs of Charlotte where I live. Don’t get me wrong; I love it when I get out on the lake and out in the country. It energizes me in another way, but I felt another kind of energy in the streets of New York City today. Thanks Big Apple. Time to put on some Frank Sinatra.

We can get good things (renewal and restoration) from both urban and rural settings. Mix it up sometime. There is good all around us in our communities.

Golden Tate, wide receiver with the Seattle Seahawks started a firestorm in the motorsport world by questioning why 5-time champion Jimmie Johnson should be considered an athlete.

As a sport physiologist with 30+ years testing and working with endurance athletes (running cycling triathletes), professional soccer and basketball players and motorsport pit crews and drivers, I will weigh in from my professional opinion. Here is a list of athletic components that can define what an “athlete” is or is not. Granted, there will be a debate as to whether more components can or should be added.

I guess the key question is: How many of these components do you have to possess to be called an athlete?

  • Accuracy – controlling movement in a precise manner
  • Agility – controlled change of direction
  • Balance – the ability to control the body’s stability while moving or stationary.
  • Body Composition  – the ability to maintain the optimal ratio body fat/muscle.
  • Cardiovascular Endurance – the ability of the body, process and deliver oxygen.
  • Coordination – the ability to combine several distinct movements
  • Efficiency – the ability to perform movement with minimal exertion.
  • Mobility/Flexibility – the ability to move freely and easily.
  • Muscular Endurance - the ability of muscles to contract repeatedly
  • Muscular Power – muscular force exerted over time
  • Recovery - the ability of body to return to its pre-activity state after exercise.
  • Response/Reaction Time – the ability to react quickly to external stimulus.
  • Motor Skill - the ability to develop gross and fine motor skills to refine technique.
  • Speed – the ability to move as quickly as possible over a given distance.
  • Muscular Strength – the ability to exert a force against resistance.
  • Mindset – the ability to remain focused and deliberate during performance
  • Environmental Stress – heat, cold and other external stimuli

Okay, so is Jimmie Johnson an athlete? Based on my working with and collecting various data on racecar drivers, here is Jimmie’s score:

  1. Accuracy – racecar drivers live by precision based movements and proprioception through their entire bodies.
  2. Body Composition – weight is important but not critical. Lighter is always better.
  3. Coordination – very important with clutch/throttle and hand eye.
  4. Muscular Endurance – G forces make this important, more at some tracks than others.
  5. Recovery – this component is what performance enhancing drugs is all about. Don’t let any athlete tell you different. The ability to recover from the mental and heat related stress after a 4-hour race determines how you will perform the next week.
  6. Response/Reaction Time – no need to comment here. Can I say re-starts?
  7. Motor Skill – split second decisions by vision transmitted to muscles critical to success. This along with Response/Reaction time may be genetic and lends to argument that drivers are born not made. I put eye hand coordination under this item.
  8. Mindset- very important and why many athletes with all of the above fail.
  9. Environmental Stress- heat stress is major factor here and on occasion carbon monoxide, which can affect aforementioned mental function. Noise also major factor.

Now for Mr. Golden Tate – Football player, specifically wide receiver. I have not worked with football players, but it’s not hard to assess the requirements.

  1. Accuracy – precise route running makes a wide receiver
  2. Body Composition – not many fat receivers.
  3. Coordination – no brainer
  4. Muscular Endurance – try being part of 2-minute drill.
  5. Recovery – critical in some offenses, particularly hurry up offenses
  6. Response/Reaction Time – very important in turning and catching already in the air ball.
  7. Motor Skill – routes, patterns, eye hand…
  8. Mindset- very important and why many athletes with all of the above fail. To be honest, you can’t be a successful athlete without disciplined mindset.
  9. Environmental Stress- heat, cold and noise.

10. Agility – critical to wide receiver. Changing directions is what it’s about.

11. Balance – how about sideline ballet catches? Avoiding tackles? Critical component.

12. Speed – you don’t make it in football without this one.

13. Mobility and flexibility – critical for most catches

14. Muscular power – this is critical component of speed acceleration, deceleration and jumping.

15. Muscular Strength – a key component in muscular power but also holding onto footballs etc.

So, Mr. Tate beats Mr. Johnson 15-9 on the Lepp Athletic Scale. Does this mean that Jimmie is not an athlete? Not at all. Many athletes I have coached have less than 9 on this score. I consider Tiger Woods an athlete, but I would guess he would be in that score range. Lance Armstrong is a tremendous athlete, but would not accumulate a high score.

My point of this exercise, is that defining  athleticism is very difficult. Do you need to have 3 of these components? 5? 1? I know where Golden Tate was coming from. We need to stop reacting to these casual comments. Athleticism is made up of many components, some of which I have surely missed. Who do I think are the best athletes in the world? How about Seal Team Six. I guarantee it.

I got this question from a dedicated exerciser this week. Thought I would share my answer because I see this as being a major issue with many exercisers.

Very often, lack of energy during an exercise session is not related to what you are eating right before exercise, but from incomplete feeding a day or more before. More specifically, right after your last hard exercise session. You should have no more than 3 training sessions per week that take you over your anaerobic or lactate threshold. Following those training sessions, you should consume a carb/protein type beverage (I like PureSport or Endurox) This should be consumed within 30 minutes of exercise termination. I guess some of the science is saying chocolate milk may also suffice, so try that for a cheaper alternative. Provided nutrition and hydration strategy has been good in the days leading up to your session, what you eat right before should have no effect on energy levels during training. Now, if that does not work, I believe that some apple slices with some peanut butter is best. Eating a pure carbohydrate tends to cause an inuslin rise and sets the body up to not burn fat predominantly during exercise. I often see athletes “squeezing off” an energy gel prior to training or drinking a heavy energy drink. Big mistake unless you want to have less energy and store unnecessary calories.

6:00-7:00 – Reading todays news. It was big overnight with the death of Bin Laden. Love the approach of the Navy SEAL’s, and actually use some of their core principles for our athlete training, primarily organization and mindset. They are an incredible group. Broke out this book, and am going to read it again.

Keep this book above my desk at work. Seemed appropriate this morning. Good stuff.

7:00 – 7:30 – Handful of walnuts, some blackberries (the ones you eat), and some Macadamia nuts. 2 Bottles of Dasani water, one with Nuun electrolyte replacement tab. Feeling a bit dehydrated.
Walk into work with intermediate stop at Starbucks for grande red-eye.

8:00 -10:30 Mondays are debrief day. This is by far the busiest day of the week for me. The primary objective of Debrief Monday is to carefully analyze data from the weekend’s races, the good and most importantly the bad. You learn from the bad, so it’s not bad. This data includes, overhead high-definition video cameras, helmet monitored cameras, “eye in the sky” video and sometimes heart rate data. Data may also include more subjective observations from crew chiefs, drivers etc. My first primary job is getting the video into the system and this can take a while. If we had particular problems from the weekend, we analyze them quickly so they can get into performance meeting at 10 am, otherwise we get preliminary times from stops and a preliminary practice plan for week is developed. A more complete analysis of stops will then be performed. This includes timing of over 20 movement segments. (We time from time car stops to when jack drops as total time, but an example of a timed segment is time when car stops to when tire changer hits first lug nut, time from last lug hit on right side of car to first lug hit on left side) This is a long process and can take up to 2 days. This is critical data that will be used in identifying the multiple small gains that go into a sub 13.

My office on Debrief Monday. I have a great set-up.

We are at the point in the modern pit stop where times are gained by small changes. These may not just be related to the actual stop, but possibly in preparation and with components as simple as sleep and recovery. The motor skill required to hit 5 lug nuts in less than a second is right up there with hitting a 90 mph fastball!

I also put on my amateur meteorologist hat and look at the 7 day projected weather. We are a dry weather sport and planning practices around possible inclement weather is critical. We do not have an indoor facility at JGR, and moving practice times to beat the weather often necessary. I use the following apps to help me plan and predict.

I use all of these weather apps to help me with practice planning and at the race track.

10:30 -12:00 – Reports on injuries etc from our medical staff and plans of treatment. Matching film up with our race engineer’s reports and other things I can’t mention. Hey, I can’t give away our competitive edge.

12:00-1:00 – Working on some new training and recovery systems.

1:00-2:00 – Home for lunch – Some scrambled eggs with fresh spinach integrated, guacamole and some bacon and for desert blueberries in coconut milk.

2:00-3:00 – Worked on some administrative and personnel issues. I usually take this time to analyze scouting information on other athletes and review Nationwide series data. This is usually the time I find out if any teams have or may be going to release people.

Last year, many became aware of the “crew swaps” on the 29 and 48 during the Chase. Many people have expressed opinions on this philosophy and whether this is fair or acceptable. My opinion: Yes it is. It is the hardest part of what I do, but being on a pit crew is professional athletics and no different from a pro ball player. Professional athletics are high risk/reward and totally performance based. 400 peoples livelihoods are dependent on the performance of our race teams each week. Pulling someone or releasing someone is part of professional athletics and you hope it can be done without embarrassing someone, but in this intense media era, that’s hard to do.

With that said and on a positive note, I often hope to pick up someone for our teams via these unofficial “waiver” periods. Sometimes guys struggle because of a system or just plain bad chemistry on their teams. All coaches believe their system is the best. We have to. I love it when we can take a “released” athlete and bring him back to life on one of our teams.

3:30 -5:30 – Team film review, sometimes practice if we find something on film we need to work on, recovery protocols, visits with our athletic trainer if needed, strength and cardio workouts.

6:00 – Done early. Walked home.

7:00-11:00 – Caught up on DVR, made some notes, read some inspiring stuff.

Okay, some of you sent me some questions, so here goes:

When trying to lose weight & build muscle what do you think is the best approach? (i.e. 3 days weights/3 cardio or 4 weights/3 cardio)

Above is most common question I have been asked. Here are some points:

• Age. For example, most people start losing muscle tissue at varying rates in their late 30’s, so more strength training, as you get older is prudent. So, weight training and gaining muscle tissue – lift heavy 2 x per week at the most. High repetition is your enemy. 3 sets of 8-10 rep max, in other words, a weight you can lift 10 times to fatigue. You should have no more than 8 exercises that emphasize large muscle groups. You can’t spot reduce; so don’t waste your time on small muscle groups. There is little return for the time invested to strength train everyday. Doing upper and lower body days is not conducive to weight loss. You are making your body go “anaerobic” to many days of the week.

• Chronic cardio is counterproductive to weight loss. I said it, and I am a cardiovascular physiologist. I used to wonder why clients would go to spin class 6 days per week and not only not lose weight very quickly, but actually lower their resting metabolic weight. 2 interval cardio sessions per week, and those should be no longer than 30 minutes. One or 2 easy cardio day with your heart rate no higher than 60% max.

• Losing weight with exercise alone is very difficult. I recommend a low glycemic/slow glycemic type diet. No grains. Sorry.

• Ideal week: Day 1= hard strength train. Day 2 = Easy cardio Day 3 = Cardio Intervals Day 4 = Off or easy cardio Day 5 = Circuit (hard) strength. Day 6 = Easy cardio. Day 7 = Off or play – Long walk – explore

What is the best time to exercise?
It is best to exercise when you feel like you will be able to put in your best effort and are completely recovered from a previous hard session. I know that is vague, but by taking the approach of getting the greatest return with the least amount of effort (I know you did not ask that, but it’s I have been for 30 years), your training must be done precisely to get it to “absorb”. This may mean delaying a training session from morning to evening. There is no evidence that training is better morning, noon or night, but if you get up at 4 am to go to the gym on Monday after a hard weekend, you are much better off sleeping in. The training will produce a “micro over trained” state, and will not be effective.

Do you often find yourself hitting plateaus? How do you deal with them?
Yes, but most plateaus are from poor training plans and overtraining. Athletes reach plateaus almost always from doing too much vs. too little. When you are dealing with biology, plateaus will occur, but I find they can me minimized by proper training plans and periodization of both nutrition and exercise. I will completely change my training modalities (if using elliptical, I will go to steep grade walking on treadmill or use the rowing machine) if using free weights, I will shift to the TRX trainer. But, most often, I will take time off. That’s right, do less and pay attention to my recovery modalities. Plateau ends.

Hey coach, you have all these gadgets to help get you fit, I don’t have access to them. How can I possibly lose weight?
Rule of thumb: Equipment does not help you lose weight and get fit, you do. Period. I am a big believer in self-experimentation and quantification. I want to know if there are tools that can be used to speed the process. These tools simple provide data and information. Now, that said, most of what I have access to is less than $500. That is less than a yearly gym membership. In and upcoming blog, I am going to demonstrate and document all of the technology I am using and prioritize which I think can be useful on your journey.

The above answered every question I got! So. Above is workout plan I am going to follow. Each Monday, I will publish my schedule and show you how to fill in the blanks. What things can you do for hard cardio? What is hard strength training? Circuit training? iPhone video in hand, I will take you along. Stay tuned.

During most of the season, recovery from races is on Mondays, and when you see how Mondays go, you will see how that is difficult to do. Since we raced on Saturday night, despite getting home at 2 in the morning, Sunday is not a day of recreation for me, but a day of recovery and restoration. I believe that the person who recovers most effectively from periods of high intensity (hard days at work, heavy training sessions and periods of high stress whether predictable or otherwise), will lead more healthy, productive and energy charged lives. Recovery does not happen by accident. It must be planned for just as prudently as training. There are many techniques that will promote recovery, but most people do not allow for it. The “racer” mentality actually discourages it.

One of the primary benefits of performance enhancing drugs is to shorten recovery cycles and allow more high intensity training to be performed. Have you noticed that many athletes that were suspected PED users had their careers shortened? Our bodies can only take so much. PED’s are not just abused by athletes. I know some business people and some stay at home moms who take their children’s ADD medicine, some actually get their personal physicians to prescribe it for them. They love the “boost” and the energy they get from this acceptable “speed”. They “perform” better.  Ultimately, the body will fail. You can’t cheat recovery and restoration. Never.

Race days are extremely stressful, primarily mentally. The amount of focus and attention to multiple processes can take its toll. I covered 7 miles walking during race day. The heat of battle is taxing. My primary recovery modalities:

  • Hydration -pre, during and after
  • Sleep leading up to event and day after
  • Nutrition – proper pre-event and post
10:00 – 12:00 – Reading the Sunday news from iPad in bed
12:00 – 3:00 – caught up on DVR and napped
3:00 – 6:00 – Reviewed notes and unpacked. Starbucks red-eye.
6:00 – 7:00 – after reviewing some new cookbooks, headed to Trader Joes for some weekly groceries.
7:00 – 8:00 – Primary recovery meal – I always pay attention to nutrition on day after races – Lean meat, sautéed mixed vegetables, blue cheese slaw, guacamole, strawberries/blackberries on coconut milk.
8:00 – Made some notes and outlined tomorrows schedule.
9:00 – Midnight – Played some video games, read some magazines, tweeted.

Race days are long and busy. This is the day you get to compete and hopefully realize the benefits from all the deliberate practice and training. It’s not just the specific training over the last 4 days, but often your performance is related to preparation up to 2 years earlier. This preparation involves recruiting the right talent and making sure they mix with your current athletes. Are they coachable? By coachable, I mean, do they understand instruction and how to apply a problem solving approach to “fixing” things. Do they deal with slump properly? How do they recover from adversity? These are attributes that can be taught, good athletes often have this “hard-wired” into their circuitry. It can be taught and approved upon, but some seem to have it. This is the Athletic Mindset.

When I recruit athletes, I am not just looking for athletes with physical abilities, but with athletic mindsets. This mindset is more critical to long-term success than great physical abilities. Don’t get me wrong, physical athleticism is critical. A donkey is never going to win the Kentucky Derby.

The Athletic Mindset skills:

  • Knowing when to go hard and when to turn in back a notch. Going hard all the time is often detrimental. Working smart and not just harder.
  • Problem solving adversity and slumps – quickly. Then applying a clear plan to recover.
  • Taking complex tasks and making them simple and then applying
  • Effectively processing and dealing with adversity along with all of the mental static it can cause. Constant mental static is not conducive to skill development and successful outcomes.
  • Zone out and slow down. Great athletes see things in slow motion, but move quickly
  • Screw your negative critics. Hug your positive ones.
There are many more components of the athletic mindset. Did you know that the above can apply to your business, health and fitness/weight loss program? Absolutely they can. Slumps, adversity, complexity, mental static – they are not just unique to sport. Joe Gibbs was not a racer, but he applied many of his coaching skills to his racing business, and business ventures.
7:00 – 10:00 – Reading calming books and non-athletic type books (I try to develop a calm easy mindset on competition days. Dealt with some logistic issues related to our 30 car crew guys. – Met up with Boris and a good friend for some breakfast.
10:00 – 2:00 – Picked up some technology at the Apple Store to be used on some of our helmet cams. Nice lunch of salmon and spinach + broccoli.
2:00- 6:00 – Start working lots of checklists I use. These include checking out the pit-stalls, looking for anything that could hurt performance or possibly any competitive advantages. Below is the pit stall layout for Richmond. I study this during pre race and develop a plan for race – tracking our athletes and other teams I may be watching. I usually check with our guys for any injury issues, remind them of hydration and nutrition needs.

Pit Stall selection from Richmond with our cars highlighted with arrows. My map for the day

6:00 – 7:00 – I usually try to find a quiet place to review notes etc. I also take this time to read something motivational and calming. Often times this is something from a devotional book/or little motivational and calming stories that put things into perspective. I keep all of this on iPad.
7:00 – 10:30 – Race. I spend my time during race supporting my athletes, scouting athletes on other teams and writing tons of notes from observations.
10:30 – 11:00 – We won. The process pays off. I usually only briefly go to victory lane to congratulate my guys. Headed to hauler to get my backpack and headed to car. This is usually a long distance away and we walk out through the stands and with the fans. Last night I observed a bunch of fans heckling with horrible language and insults, a young guy with a Kyle Busch shirt on. I have never understood how a grown adult can fire off foul language in front of their children. We saw what overly zealous fans can do, but the horrible incident at the Dodgers game earlier this year. A group of fans nearly killed a San Francisco Giant supporter. Well, I had enough of it last night. I usually grab a handful of hats from victory lane and on way to parking lot target out kids to hand them out to. I had one more left, and in front of all of these hostile idiots – I awarded this poor young guy a victory lane hat. I was either going to get my ass beat or shut them off. It was the latter.

Travel day to Richmond.

8-10 am Caught up on reading. Syncing iTunes with movies and new playlists for iPad/iPhone.

10-12 – Went by office to check on miscellaneous odd and ends. Ran over to mall to pick up a couple of undershirts. I am picky in that department.

12-3 – Headed over to airport. I can’t tell you grateful I am for us having our own airplanes. No boarding issues. Walk out onto tarmac, board and off you go. I have flown commercially a few times in the past couple years, and I have no idea how you guys do it. We also have a great aviation department. Go to fly up front with them today. I think I would be a pilot when I come back in next life.

Flying upfront on way to Richmond. Love it.

Joe Gibbs Racing Saab 2000 - One of two we fly each week to races.

3–4:30 – Short detour to my old neighborhood. More on this later. Here is house I spent 1956 to 1965 in. I thought I lived in a mansion back then! Wow. Have any of you ever returned to a childhood residence and noticed how small everything seems? I thought I lived in a massive world back then. I  thought it was 10 miles to walk to school (in the snow of course, that’s what I tell my daughter) Noticed today it was about a mile!

My early childhood home. I thought I lived in a mansion when I was a child!

I also visited the first place I experienced sport. I have spent the majority of my career working in sport, and it all began here on this ball field. I was a pretty sporty baseball player! I experienced the highs and lows of sport here.  The emotions that still come with winning and losing, life lessons and probably why I do what I do today started here.

My first ups and downs of sport, experienced right here.

4:30 – 10 pm – Richmond International Raceway – One of the most critical pre race rituals I have is finding a quiet place for reviewing race notes, recruiting goals and most importantly, contingency plans/checklists for when things go wrong. Who would I put in if someone gets hurt etc. When races start, you must be ready for anything and must respond quickly. One bad pit stop can cost you a race and a championship. Since I have been at JGR, we have missed the “playoffs” and a championship by as little as 8 points. That’s 2 positions!! Over the years, I have learned that preparation critical. Mental rehearsal of various scenarios that may occur are very important. I take this quiet time to perform this ritual. Now, finding quiet spots at a racetrack can be difficult.

Flying up front today allowed my to observe our pilots and the extensive checklists they use in the cockpit. I am a huge believer in checklists, and believe they can be useful in all aspects of life. I have multiple checklists I use for practice and races. My iPhone and iPad allow me to review them and check off on critical items for each race. Reviewing these checklists before race is last thing I do.

10:00 PM We won. Mission Accomplished

10:30 – Like to compete at night, but late dinner is part of it. Chicken wings and beer with my good friends. Told some old stories and enjoyed time with teammates and good friends. Love what I do.