That’s Just How We’ve Always Done It

“That’s just how we’ve always done it.”  This could quite possibly be the worst phrase in all of coaching. Perhaps even the death of desire, progression, and learning.  Being a great coach is hard.  Changing is often difficult.  However, coaches need to evolve if their athletes or team are going to progress.  A stagnant coach will in time produce a stagnant team.

Like in any industry, a lack of evolution still exists among coaches across all sports.  Even with the amount of technology and ability to share information there are still coaches out there running their practices for 4-5 hours at a time,  or their weight rooms the same way they did in ’92 while showing kids how to upright row, because, that’s just how they’ve always done it.  In situations like these there’s typically no actual reason as to why.  It’s merely,  you guessed it, “That’s just how we’ve always done it.”  Or, “That’s how we used to do it back when I played.”  Well guess what.  The times they are a changin’.

The trick is you have to study and then be willing to experiment a little.  Now, I can see why this might be a problem for some.  Year after year who wants to keep studying?  Winners.  As you get older who wants to listen to someone younger than you and possibly take their advice?  Someone looking to always get better. And finally, experimenting can be risky.  It might lead to finding out that you were previously wrong or that more work will ultimately be required.  Please understand that I’m not suggesting change simply for the sake of change.  What I’m arguing for is having a solid understanding and reasoning WHY you choose to do things the way do vs. because that’s just what you do.

MMA is still a relatively new sport in the grand scheme of things but fighting has been around forever. Greg Jackson is known as one the best MMA coaches in the game and not too long ago I was listening to him talk about training.  The gist of what he said was this:

Intelligent sparring is still new.  We were so dumb growing up, we just didn’t know.  Instead of taking time off or making what we now know is the smart decision during training, we didn’t want to be seen as weak so we kept going.  There is still a lot of it day.  Every time we have a new group of guys come in to train at our gym there’s always a few guys with the old school mentality.  When they come from instructors that have been doing this the same way since the 80’s then that’s just what you do.  But you have to evolve, grow, and get new information.  Otherwise, as a coach, why are you doing this?  For me coaching has to be fun and a challenge.  You gotta learn stuff and move forward.  Otherwise I might as well be in a cubicle.

Recently I read a few articles from coach Tony Holler.  My favorite being “New Ideas For Old School Football Coaches”. Some of his coaching methodology would be considered utter blasphemy by traditional standards. The funny part is he has been doing it a long time and rather effectively.  I don’t think it’s meant to be contrarian but much like Greg Jackson, it’s evolved over time and just more intelligent on many different levels.  Here are a few points to give you a tease:

  • Maybe winning has more to do with your opponents doing dumber things in practice than you do.
  • 500 years ago, Paracelsus said, “Everything is a poison, nothing is a poison, it all depends on the dosage.” Football coaches are 500 years behind the times. They fail to recognize the poisonous effects of too hard, too much, and too long.
  • If a receiver runs a max-speed 5-second route and then must run back to the huddle, then quickly run back to his position, his next route will be sub-max. Should coaches accept routes at half-speed?

The bottom line is that if you’re leading a team there should be legitimate thought and reasoning behind why it is you do what you do.  If you’re unsure and the best you have is “That’s just how we’ve always done it” consider change with your team’s best interest in mind.  As I heard Thomas Plummer say recently, “Don’t be the pager guy stuck in a smart phone store”.

  • Mike Baltren