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  • Writer's pictureHugh Lawrence

Coach Lawrence said "Just saying".

Of course, not a lot of the standard sayings we have as coaches are original. Often we appropriate the clever words of others and use them to inspire, cajole or critique our athletes. One of the best known in that category is "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

The great Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi did indeed say that, but it's probable he heard it for the first time from UCLA Bruins Coach 'Red' Sanders who is reported to have said "Men, I'll be honest. Winning isn't everything......Men, it's the only thing!"

But being sure about the source of sayings isn't my main point, it's the context in which you use them that matters. My athletes are well aware of what I mean when I say "Do or do not. There is no try!" I'm not trying to channel Yoda (well, not most of the time), nor am I suggesting they're not trying. But in our squad sessions, that phrase has come to trigger thoughts of determination, a focus on success factors (process goals), the pre-performance routines and a commitment to succeed.

I do have a set of well worn sayings. But like "do or do not...." they are used to engender a shared understanding of what we are trying to achieve and, importantly, the effort that everyone will put in. Weightlifting is numbers driven. You lift it, or you don't. You lifted a double or a triple. But when we get to the maximum lifts 100% plus, then a new element must enter athlete thinking.

It's the law of diminishing returns. To lift 100% requires much more effort than say going from 80% to 85%. Going to 100%+ is more then you've ever done before - by definition. So the effort and commitment to the lift is much greater than anything the lifter has attempted before. And like the sprinter who can't go faster until he goes faster, elite athletes regularly enter the world of the unknown - "to boldly go where that lifter has not gone before" (apologies to Star Trek fans and haters of the split infinitive).

One of my favourites "leave everything out on the platform". And the lifters all nod eagerly "Yes coach - let's do it!" Unless you train for what that means - it's easy to say and hard to do. While you don't want to leave your best performances on the training floor, practicing going into that new territory is essential. For the lifters, it's a double with 95% instead of a single, or a new max' squat and so on. Every sport has opportunities to "boldly go etc etc..." and practice "leaving it all out there".

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