Systematic sport development

Sport systems have always fascinated me, even before I started coaching. When I was in college, we played the great San Diego State Football teams coached by Don Coryell. It was obvious they had a system and played to that system and recruited players for that system. My junior year in college we had a clinic at Fresno State and the defensive line coach at San Diego State, John Madden, was the featured speaker. He gave insights into the system, how he selected players for the positions and what he did to develop them. Needless to say, that confirmed what I had seen on film and on the field, it left a deep impression on me of the need to have a system if you wanted to have sustained excellence.

At the same time, I watched Bud Winter’s great San Jose State track teams. The knock on them was they had talent, so it didn’t matter what they did. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bud Winter took that talent and refined it and developed it through a well-defined system. The lesson here to me as a young coach once again that even if you have talent it is only through a system can you maximize that talent.

My next exposure to a systematic approach to athlete development was the Bowerman system at University of Oregon. I would say that this had the biggest influence on my subsequent coaching regardless of the sport.

In 1969 when I stared coaching, I was interested in developing my own system that was eclectic or if you will a hybrid of the systems that I could study and that I had seen firsthand. The more I studied and observed I could see that consistent performance was a product of some kind of a system. Sometimes very rigid and clearly defined and other times less structured. The proof was always in the pudding. Systems beat chaos. Systems with talent produced repeatable sustained excellence.

52 years later I am still enamored by systems. I have developed and refined my system over the years. It has been a process. A system lends order and structure to enable the coach and athlete to focus on the process. A viable system is not rigid and confining, instead it is organic and liberating. It provides a framework to build on. The system was always designed to fit the athlete, not the other way around. The system revolves around a well-articulated philosophy and clear core beliefs that everyone lives by. If those core beliefs are not well articulated and practiced, you have no system

I urge you to take a look at your system and other systems. What can you learn from others? What are you doing well? What can you do better?

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