Risk, Failure, and Trust

A few days ago in our Strength and Conditioning classes, we threw a “changeup” at our students… we introduced front squat instead of the normal (back squat) lift we do on our squat emphasis day.   I have documented our philosophy behind these “changeup” days before in this blog, (Throwing a “Changeup”, Jumping Mental Hurdles) essentially forcing the students to adapt and compete when something unexpected is thrown at them.

question mark eye

As I glanced around, looking at a room full of athletes with big question marks in their eyes, I asked them the rhetorical question “would I ever ask you to try something that I thought you couldn’t do?”

Of course, when you teach 7th and 8th grade student there are no rhetorical questions, and immediately a chorus of blurted out answers filled the weight room….

An emphatic “NO” was pretty much the consensus each hour….

But…. in each hour there was also the dissenting vote of “Yes… yes, you would”

When I quizzed those dissenters as to WHY they thought that way… why they thought I would ask them to try something that they may not be able to do, their answers were…

  • “you always want us to push ourselves”
  • “you want us to go to our limit”
  • “you always think we can do more.”
  • “you like for us to do difficult things”

And that is correct… I absolutely would ask them to try things that are difficult … that they may not be able to accomplish.

Now, I understand the thinking of the masses in each class… trusting that ‘ol Coach Floyd wouldn’t put them in harms way by asking them to do something unreasonable… and that is true as well.

But, as I explained to each class, failure is OK… it is an option. In fact, Failure is your ONLY option.

For, until you fail, you really do not know what your limits are…. if you never fail, you probably are not adequately stretching your boundaries… if you fear failure, you continually look to put yourself into situations that success is guaranteed.  When you do that, you are missing out on growth opportunities.

As their teacher and coach it is my responsibility to push them… to challenge them.

It is also equally my responsibility to make sure that they understand that failure (I failed) is an action and not an identity (I am a failure).

I want them to trust that what I ask of them, including their resultant effort, and possible failure, will, in the long run, benefit them as an athlete and/or a human being.

Failure is a learning opportunity.

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Remember – You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It!

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com

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Testing… Strength and Conditioning – Standardized Tests

Recently I was having a conversation with a colleague. His question was… “[in your strength and conditioning program] what do you test on, and how often do you do it?”

At this time of the year, after just finishing MAP tests in our school and district, it got me to thinking about testing in general.

In answer to his initial questions, we test on our four Core Lifts (Bench, Squat, Hang Clean, and Push Press) for anyone that is new to the program. We test on a multi-rep max, and use this conversion chart so we can enter it on their workout card, which calculates their workout percentages while they are in our program.

We also give a battery of tests that we feel provides us with some good information regarding their athletic progress:

  • Weight
  • 40-yard dash
  • Vertical Leap
  • Pro Agility

And their card calculates:

After this initial testing, we do not test on their Core Lifts again … ever… and here is why.

Testing takes time away from what I really want them to do…. train to be better athletes! I am really not overly concerned about what their “maxes” are, other than how that relates to their athletic improvement. Their workout card provides them with information so they can gauge their progress (see Breaking… it’s a good thing) and know what their new “maxes” are…. without retesting.

I am not training members of a powerlifting team, but members of the football, basketball, and volleyball, etc. teams. I want their training to transfer to the court(s) or field(s) of their choice. If it does, then both the athlete and I are happy… if it doesn’t, no matter how strong or how well they tested, then I have failed as a strength coach.

And this is how it relates to testing in the classroom… to MAP or STAAR (insert your state/ district standardized test name here) testing.

I am amazed annually about the amount of time, (instruction time, professional development time), energy (student, teacher, administrator), and angst that is put into the preparation and administration of these tests.

Our teachers administer all kinds of predictive tests in prepping for the MAP test… STAR test, Acuity test, and many also give an EOC exam in their classes. This year they also had to spend time practicing the MAP test because of the new, tech based test.   They (teachers and administrators) spend an amazing amount of time dealing with all of this… prepping for all of this… and worrying about all of this… for a test score.

And that is my point… and how it relates to strength and conditioning…

I have to belitestinglearningeve that in the long run our students (and teachers and administrators) would be much better off if they could spend ALL of the time they now spend in test prep on actual instruction…. Imaginative, Innovative, IndividualizedInstruction.

Instruction that is geared toward learning… learning skills that will transfer and allow them to excel in the “real world” rather than excelling on a standardized test.

Are we interested in creating a legion of good “test takers”… or do we want to send out into the world students that are inquisitive, lifetime learners, problem solvers, and adaptable?

In my strength and conditioning class I am not interested in training members for an Olympic Powerlifting squad, but I want them to be better athletes in their respective sports.

In the classroom I think we should be more concerned about training better, well prepared citizens rather than great test takers.

Just my opinion.

BTW… we do test on the 40, vertical, shuttle, etc. annually… but even then try to be efficient in our administration and condense it down into the shortest amount of time possible as not to lose training time.

You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It! 

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com