High Performance Cannot Be Found in a Spreadsheet

Written by: Kevin Cann

Powerlifting seems to be in this fad of “evidence based” coaching and tracking every piece of data, to “individualize” the program for each lifter.  The internet eats this shit up too.  Why wouldn’t they?  It is much easier to just pay someone for a fancy program than it is to actually develop the skills required for high performance.

This means that when things do not go right, there does not need to be accountability.  The coach can go back through their data and the lifter can blame it on some metric found in there.  I do not care what your volumes and intensities were if you do not possess the skills of high performance.  Yes, it is a skillset that is well researched and pretty standard across any field from chess, music, research, and athletics.  Those that perform at the highest levels, have these traits in common.

First, we should define what high performance is.  Most reading this will immediately go to certain numbers in their heads.  However, have you heard of the story of Chris Norton?  Chris was a college football freshman that had his spine severed in a hit.  He lost all movement from the neck down.

The doctors told him that he would never walk again.  His father told him that he was in charge of his outcomes and not his doctors.  Chris told himself that if he could do a little more than he was comfortable with each day that he knew he would walk again.

He worked his ass off over the next 7 years.  Stayed faithful during times when progress stalled or rolled backwards.  He set a goal to walk across the stage to get his diploma.  A few weeks before, he lost the ability to take those steps.  However, he showed great grit and persevered and ended up walking across the stage with the help of his girlfriend.

He said that he was as nervous to do that as any game he has ever played in.  He made his next goal to walk his girlfriend down the aisle at their wedding.  He accomplished this as well.  Is this not high performance?

This is as badass as it gets.  This isn’t a football game, this is losing the ability to fucking walk and staying positive, stepping outside your comfort zone, and displaying grit when times get grim.  This is the definition of high performance.  Think about this the next time you cry about not hitting a PR.

High performance, as defined by PPS, is always betting on yourself.  The ability to use fear and frustration as a weapon to work for you and not against you.  Stepping outside of your comfort zone and facing unpredictability head on.  Lastly, exhibiting grit to continue to show up with commitment when things are not going your way.

This is a far cry from a larger muscle has greater potential display strength.  A larger muscle on a lifter lacking self-awareness, discipline, effort, and grit, will not lead to a greater potential in strength.  It will lead to beginner gains, frustration, and burnout.  However, the coach can see that PRs that came in the past and pat themselves in the pocket protector and keep plugging away at equations in an Excel spreadsheet.

“But the science!”  This is where evidence based coaches miss the mark.  Your narrative is not the only evidence.  A lack of perspective is not evidence based; it ignores so many other facets of the human.

Coaches “Bands and chains are not supported in the literature.”  When you look at the real world, it does work.  Ask a different question.  One coach had said he even used them.  He had lifters stand on a band while deadlifting.  Dude, that ain’t using bands.

Coaches need to stop reading and start thinking.  Also, if you change the question, science has their best guesses.  If we ask what creates high performance?  This is a topic that is beginning to get more and more traction in the literature.

Anyone can add some weight to someone’s total.  Making someone stronger is really not that hard at all.  However, making someone a high performer is a much tougher and more uncomfortable journey.  There is a lot of frustration and self-reflection that needs to come from it.

Most will struggle to adapt.  That is why most are average.  However, the ones that do buy in and truly work on themselves, they see the biggest improvements and not just on the platform, but in life as well.  Like I said before, high performance is high performance, it does not matter what the task is.  It requires the same skillset.

It seems every great coach has taken on the “Wooden Philosophy.”  Of course, John Wooden was the legendary coach for UCLA that turned out 10 national championships and produced some of the greatest players in NBA history.  

His philosophy was to teach his teams to prepare themselves to the best of their abilities, never worrying about the opponents, and the results will take care of themselves.  Here is a quote from the legend himself:

“Success is a peace of mind which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”  He speaks of discipline and “paying the price.”  People usually know what they have to do to be great but are not willing to do the work aka paying the price.  He NEVER mentioned winning and losing to his teams.

Coaching is a skill.  It is the skill of getting people to be their best versions of themselves on and off of the platform.  It is not developing an algorithm on an Excel spreadsheet.  There is no algorithm that can teach someone to have the championship character required to strive in life.  This actually improves quality of life too.

If you value yourself by your numbers, or your lifters by theirs, you are weak in the skill of coaching.  It gets easy to shrug this off and say, “Well my lifters are strong, this stuff doesn’t matter.”  However, if you are evidence based like you say you are, you will realize your statement is flawed.

John Wooden, Bill Walsh, Nick Saban, John Kavanaugh, Pete Carrol, Bill Belichick, there are so many high level coaches that follow in the footsteps of John Wooden’s philosophy, and they have done it with the highest levels of success at the highest levels.

Sports can teach everyone how to be successful in life.  This requires a coach.  Programs are nothing more than fancy marketing tools with built in excuses and scapegoats.

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