Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

“I find my greatest pleasure and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.” ~ Thomas Edison
Over the years, I have observed the importance of deliberate goal setting and planning. Whether it be personal, health business or sports, goal setting is critical to success, or sometime failure. Goal setting is tricky, if you are going to climb the ladder towards a goal, you better make sure you have leaned it against the right wall. Modification, reassessment and occasional improvisation are critical to successful attainment of goals. Many have difficulty with this. We call it change, and we know how most of us deal with that.

With all of that said, I find the most succesful people in business, health improvement and sports are more focused on the process rather than the outcome or goal. That does not mean that you lose focus of it, but that you only “glance up” and occasionally check that ladder.

If your goal is to lose 30 pounds in 4 months and this extrinsic goal ( remember pros and cons of extrinsic vs. intrinsic goals from previous post?) is only deemed successful when you get there, you probably will experience some un-fulfilling days.  My goal each week is to train my guys to generate sub 13 second pit stops, which will hopefully contribute to the outcome of winning a race. That sub 13 only happens about 30% of the time.  It’s like being a .300 hitter in baseball, which makes you a superstar, but you are still “failing” 70% of the time. Analyzing and learning from the over 13’s creates the sub 13’s. It’s a process and you must pay attention to it. You must absorb it. Experience it. The process is how you get better. It’s where you improve. Most of us have no idea it’s happening, because we are staring up the mountain at the ultimate prize.

Failure to experience and appreciate the process is not just common to sports. I have seen this in weight loss and fitness improvement programs as well. A person is so focused on the far off outcome or goal, that they fail to realize and celebrate the process on the way. Why? They feel better, cloths fit better, people compliment them, but…I have not reached the final outcome, the weight goal.  Many become discouraged because they are not getting “there” fast enough. They quit.  If I want to summit Mt. Everest and all I do is stare at the peak, the ultimate prize, I will die by falling into a crevasse or off the mountain completely!

We need to embrace the process, because ultimately, it’s where all of the good stuff happens. Believe me, some of the most depressed athletes I have ever coached, are the ones who have just “won” or reached the “summit”. As a coach, it’s some of the worst and most difficult times I will have with athletes. I call it the Now What Syndrome. Lance Armstong mentioned that he felt down after some of his big Tour de France wins. No one loves the process and preparation more than Lance. I have seen it after big weight loss goals have been reached. A woman who had just lost 60 pounds told me she was miserable after hitting her weight goal. When I asked her why, she said “My boyfriend still thinks I am a loser, just a skinny one”. Of course. Being overweight did not make her a bad person, but  she had set an extrinsic goal of making someone like her more vs. an intrinsic one of feeling better, gaining control of her life and enjoying the process of mastering lots of things. When we went back over all of the data (heart rate information from all of her training logs, tests,  the miles of riding her bike etc.), she finally realized she missed out on the really good stuff.) It’s the same with athletes who compete simply to make lots of money. These athletes seldom succeed long-term.

I have experienced the same feeling of being down after reaching big goals. The picture below,  from about a week ago, when I was cleaning out a drawer. I found  2 championship rings and one Brickyard 400 ring buried in the bottom.

The Buried Rings

I have never really put any of my “winnings” on display, not because I am not proud, but I just don’t feel like it. Don’t get me wrong, I love setting big goals and winning, but I believe that the ultimate feeling of success comes from embracing the day-to-day process.

“Chop Wood, Carry Water” Zen Saying or Do Work SON

8:30 -11:00 – Today is my off-day prior to the Richmond races. I slept in, caught up on reading from my iPad, played a video game on iPhone “Left Brain, Right Brain”, and worked on a new sleep improvement strategy I want to implement starting next week. Ate a handful of macadamia nuts.

11:00 – 1:00 pm Starbucks grande red eye. Took time to mingle and interact with the best baristas in the world, and went outside to sniff for honeysuckle. Went to JGR office and reviewed notebooks and pit stop data from last years races at Richmond. Philosophized to Paul for a bit. I do that sometimes. Packed my Oakley backpack with my road stuff.

2:00-6:00 – Came home, at lunch of scrambled eggs with fresh spinach, guacamole and some bacon. Caught up on some shows on DVR. Barca v Real Madrid game from yesterday.

6:00 -8:00 – Grocery shopping. Dinner of fresh ground beef patties, steamed spinach and asparagus, home-made blue cheese cole slaw, Dos Equis, fresh strawberries with coconut milk.

8:00 – 12:00 NFL draft for about 5 minutes, then self administered weekly haircut, packing, reading a magazine article.

Today was my Friday! What does that mean? Thursday is my Saturday and Friday is my Monday this week.  Saturday is my Tuesday and Sunday is my Saturday. Put simply, I fly to Richmond for Nationwide race on normal people Friday and I have Sprint Cup race on Saturday. Sunday is my Saturday Does that make Monday my Sunday? I have a headache.

630 to 800 am Read news on my iPad, loaded the backpack, ate some almonds and macadamias and took off on my hike to work with intermediate stop at Starbys for the Grande redeye. Listened to Butthole Surfers playlist. “You never know how to look through other peoples eyes”.

8-11 am – Worked on 30 cup car logistics and putting together pit stop “playbook” for crew chief. David Stremme drives this car. I like David.  Started to break down heart rate software for various monitors I will use this weekend. Meeting with our PR director on various appearance logistics for May. There is a ton of them.

11-1:00 pm – Reviewed data we get from Toyota on pitstop metrics. Interesting. Produced some spreadsheets from this data. Can’t share.

1:00 – 2:00 Lunch and Barnes and Noble with my partner in crime, Paul Alepa.

2-3:00 – Meetings with travel, credentialing of 30 car pitcrew. Report from our team doctor on various injuries. All good on that front. Making sure I have rental car at airport in Richmond.

3 – 5:00 – Practice. Meeting with crew chief during practice. Confirmed with crew chief that he knew what car he was crew chief for. (See stupid rumors on Jayski, and why I ignore media when they are irresponsible) Brief meeting with my boss and engineering.

5:00-6:30 – Meeting with recruit. Told him why he was great and that we were great. We will see if he believes me.

7-9:00 – Dinner at Red Rocks (top-secret)

9:00 – Reading all emails (43 from today). Responding.