Sometimes taking risks is the only way to improve: Take a chance!
But we've always done it this way. With those words progress has been stopped in its tracks since the beginning of time and they continue to be heard in meetings and boardrooms around the world. In sport associations doing things the way they have always been done is a sure way to never make any progress at all. Indeed the plan of many sport bodies seems to be to keep doing the same old things and simply hoping for the best.
One may wonder why this happens. Basically because it's the safest course of action. Do just exactly what everyone else is doing and you really can't go wrong. No one can say that you're doing anything wrong if it's the same thing everyone else is doing.
"But we do it better," you say. Maybe. And maybe you will continue to be better until someone finds a different way. A way that pushes the envelope. A way that, as the Apple commercial puts it, "pushes the human race forward."
The long-term athlete development model uses the Japanese concept of kaizen to emphasize that coaches and sport administrators should always be looking for better ways to do something. They won't always be right but never changing anything and falling back on the tired old argument that "we've always done it this way" means that no improvement can ever take place. Running good sport programs requires, yes requires, coaches, administrators, and athletes to push the envelope, think outside the box, or whatever you want to call it.
In sport, coaches are always looking for better ways to train athletes. If they're not then they're not very good coaches. The same old things in sport coaching may get you good results, but they will never be the best results. Those will come to the coaches and athletes who look for new ways, who take risks, and who honestly assess their efforts. These are the sportsmen working in the true spirit of kaizen.
But what about administrators? Is there such a thing as an adventurous sports administrator? Yes there is. Though rare these are the people whose deeds we talk about and remember.
For example, remember when invitations to competitions used to come in the mail? Sport clubs would spend a lot of time and money preparing the materials for a swim meet or a gymnastics competition before putting them in the mail inviting other clubs to come and compete. But during the 1990s somebody decided that they weren't going to do that anymore. They would simply post their invitation on the internet, on their new website and anyone who wanted to attend could download the information.
You know that there was opposition to this idea at first because it was different, it was out of the ordinary, it went against the way it was always done. But that simple decision moved sport forward. It embraced new technology and all but said, "If you want to come to our competitions then get on board with the new technology or you will be left behind." They didn't discuss it or vote on it. Someone just did it.
Progress is full of small but bold steps like that. It wasn't a Man Walks on Moon moment but it changed things, for the better. Something we take for granted today was revolutionary just a few years ago.
As a coach for over 30 years I have learned that there are times when administrators have to throw out the old book and begin writing a new one.
Bill Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the owner and Chief Data Scientist at Sportkid Metrics.