Trusting The Process
Trust just in general is such a difficult thing. In the world we live in these days it becomes harder and harder to trust things. The media, politics, science… What is right for YOU?
When it comes to sports, we have heard time and time again that we need to “trust the process”, but what does that mean? What IS the process? I often have parents come to me as a beach volleyball coach and say, I played baseball or basketball, or softball as a kid but I really don’t know anything about beach volleyball. So as a parent who is trying to do what is best for their kid, what is the process that myself and my kid are supposed to be following?
I had a conversation with an athlete following one of her matches this weekend. She came off the court after a loss frustrated, as she often is when she loses. She told me that she feels like she is regressing and that people are passing her up. I was trying to explain to her that as she develops her game, the big jumps get smaller and she has to refine things in order to take more steps. I equated it to a pie, like you can see below. When she started playing we were working on her whole game and it came fast because we were just filling up the pie. The whole pie represented her whole game. She learned to pass and set and hit and block and where to stand on the court as simple basics so she went from zero to a full game quickly. None of those things were done in depth, they were just basics to get her moving forward. Her pie was full.
Next, we cut that pie in half. We worked on defense first. We developed her movements and where to pass the ball. That half of her game went to the next level but the other half of her game was still left on the basics, so only part of her game got better so the growth was slower. Her pie was half full at level 2 and half full at level 1. Her game got much better but only half of it did. Then we had to catch that other half up.
After we developed those two pieces of her game, we cut one of those halves in half again, we no longer allowed her to just hit the ball into the angle, which is what she was so good at and what was winning her games at the level that she was at. We began to develop a line swing as well. Now we were only working on one half of her offense. Her angle swing got a little rusty while we developed the line swing as well because she wasn’t getting as many reps at that, and we weren’t focusing on her defense as much so that wasn’t as sharp either. Half of her half was now at level 3, the other half of it was at level 2 and her defense was at level 2.
As we keep adding pieces to a player’s game, we begin to focus on smaller and smaller details that begin to truly make a difference. Vision, angle of attack, strategies… each piece takes a small piece of that pie from a level 1 or 2 to level 10 or 11 or 12 one step at a time, one small piece at a time.
Each time you are so hyper-focused on one small piece, it will ultimately boost all of the others but as you get better and better at the sport, the pieces become smaller and smaller and there are more and more of them. Each piece has a base level and in order to get to the next level you have to build all of the pieces of that level first. Often players and their parents want to skip steps. They see another player being able to do “x” skill and want their player to be able to do it as well.
Any player who can set a ball and hit a ball can run a back-set and hit it. It may look cool and the player who ran it might be successful with it because the defense hasn’t learned how to defend it. It is the coach, however, who takes the time to make sure that the pass is in the location they want it at the height, and tempo they want it to be, and that the hitter comes on the angle they want them to come on, whose players will ultimately be MORE successful than the player who was able to do it first. Often times you will see a player who was really successful at a young age get passed up as she gets older. This happens because she may have been more athletic than other players and therefore skipped steps in her process because coaches allowed it to happen. The fundamentals for that player may not have been right but she could get away with it because she was more athletic than others.
For many players and their parents, they will never truly be able to understand all of the pieces of the process for a specific sport, the order that those pieces go in, and which steps truly need to be mastered before others can become a part of their game. This is where the trust piece comes in. I have seen it first hand, over and over, a coach promises an athlete the world. They tell a kid to "come to their program" or to "leave the place they are at" because they will give them x,y, and z and that they are a better option for their kid because their program offers x, y, and z, or their current program or coach isn’t giving them x, y, and z. Those coaches are counting on the lack of knowledge of the process from parents and players.
So the problem becomes, if you don’t understand the process, how can you truly be sure that one coach or program's process is better than the next? How can you be sure that you are in the right place? This applies to clubs as well as potential colleges you interview as you decide on where you would like to play. No one has time to truly break down their entire process for you. It would take a really long time and most of it you couldn’t understand anyway. It’s like an Engineer trying to explain to you all of the intricate details of how to build a bridge. You know what it looks like in the end, but could never fathom the process that engineer went through to learn how to build it. What is a parent to do then? The ONLY thing that truly matters is that you do your homework before choosing a place to play. A good place to start is to seek out people that have gone through that process with that specific coach or program. Seek out both ones that were happy with it as well as ones who were not. It is just as important to understand why it worked for some as it is to understand why it didn’t for others. Then compare, are there other viable options? Do those other options fit your goals better? Is there a reason that one program or coach is more successful than another? Is the environment or culture something that is conducive to your own personal growth as both an athlete and a person? Every single one of these things plays a part in your process and you SHOULD do your homework before making your choice. Trust is a difficult thing in every part of life. Ask the questions up front, do the homework up front. Once you have done the homework, you then have to be willing to give yourself fully and without reservation, to the process you chose for it to truly work. If you are constantly second guessing, it will slow the process down. Do the work up front. Know what you are getting yourself into, and then dive in.
Recently RPM had 4x Olympian Jake Gibb out to do a clinic in Scottsdale. At the end of the session, he took about 45 minutes to sit and do an Q and A session with the kids. One of our athletes asked him, "If you could go back to being our age, what would you do differently, or what advice would you give us?" Jake listed off 3 things. The first of which was to find the right coach and to trust that coaches process. He said, "you chose the program, the more you bounce from coach to coach the more you miss pieces of that coach's process." When you skip steps, you ultimately have to go back and learn them anyway. As athletes we have all heard of having to "break bad habits". Those bad habits usually are just products of skipping steps. So, my advice is to do your due diligence. Don't just go to the club that is closest to you or to the one that your friends are going to. Don't just choose the college that offers your first or the one that is the highest in the rankings. Do your homework FIRST. Get into a place where you truly feel like the process is right for YOU. Then buy in. Trust the process. I can't stress enough how important that trust is to your growth and if you did the work up front to figure out where to be, then it's time to dive in and trust!