Championship results require championship behaviors from both athletes and coaches. Having guided multiple men’s and women’s teams at the highest levels, volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon knows a thing or two about what championships behaviors are. On this week’s GAINcast he joins us to share his input on finding intention, putting skill acquisition into practice, coaching, and more.
Hugh McCutcheon is an assistant athletic director and sport development coach at the University. He served as the team’s head women’s volleyball coach from 2012 to 20222, leading the team to three Final Fours. From 2001 to 2012 he coached in various capacities for USA Volleyball, including the men’s head coach for the 2008 Olympics and women’s head coach for the 2012 Olympics, winning a gold in 2008 and silver in 2012. He has also coached at several other universities and clubs throughout his career.
The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:
- The GAINcast is sponsored by GAIN and by HMMR Media. Join HMMR Media to get access to a vast library of online training resources, video, articles, podcasts, and more.
- You can learn more about McCutcheon’s background in his University of Minnesota biography. If you like this podcast, we highly recommend his recent book Championship Behaviors: A Model for Competitive Excellence in Sports.
- Coach Clay Erro has talked more in detail about the role of rules in coaching. Our HMMR Classroom GAIN Video 3 has a detailed presentation from him on the topic. Erro was also a guest on GAINcast 90, where he discussed similar topics.
- Wade Gilbert was mentioned as another top expert on championship behaviors. He presented in HMMR Classroom GAIN Video 15 (highlights here), as well as discussions on GAINcast 7 and GAINcast 121.
- We mentioned a couple of New York Times essays over the years on flow and focus. Most recently climber and philosopher Francis Sanzaro wrote about “When I Stopped Trying to Self-Optimize, I Got Better” and philosopher and former dancer Barabara Montero’s “The Myth of Just Do It.” We also wrote some comments on Montero’s work here.
Key quotes and topics
- 0:00 – Introduction and new GAINcast format.
- 5:15 – McCutcheon’s background and path to coaching.
- 8:30 – Key coaching influences.
- 11:15 – Motor learning: “Time is the most difficult constraints that we have to manage: we only get so many hours of the day to train, to practice. How can we make the most out of the hours that we have?” “I think skill acquisition was part of it. But what I found was that skill application was also needed to be a part of the construct.”
- 14:00 – The fundamentals: “Oftentimes fundamental mastery not only becomes a competitive advantage. As you go further up the food chain everybody at the highest levels has the physical tools to be great. So it comes down to fundamental mastery. Can you continually replicate these skills under pressure or whatever that is consistently time and time again?”
- 17:15 – Putting skill acquisition in practice and finding intention: “Coaches tend to want to operate with controlled inputs leading to controlled outputs and they look great and it looks pretty. But it’s not the game. It’s not controlled. There’s a lot of randomness. And so you’ve got to, you’ve got to embrace that and you’ve got to train to that.” “Practicing without intention is working out and you can do that on a treadmill down at the gym.”
- 20:30 – Chasing perfection and flow: “You might find flow 5 to 15 percent of the time, which is great. But what do you do with the other 90 percent of your day? How do we learn to live in that space and still figure out how to excel?”
- 25:00 – Coach development and helping coaches.
- 33:30 – Coaching men vs. women: “I found there to be way more similarities than there were differences. Before we’re men or women were people. And if you treat people treat them with respect and invest in their development and all that kind of stuff, it tends to work out just fine.” “Guys, broadly speaking, operate from a position of ego. Generally female athletes tend to operate more from a position of insecurity. And so you got to maybe chip through the armor with the guys to get to the core to where you can be vulnerable enough to make change. I think for our female athletes, you’ve got to help them believe they’re as good as they are, and keep them in that space where they can believe that they’re the warrior that they are.”
- 36:45 – Buy in: “Unless you can help the athlete understand why the change is going to improve their performance or improve their ability to execute, it doesn’t really matter. If we can’t sell it, if we can’t get the buy in, then we’re not going to be able to make change of any significance.”
- 38:00 – Rules – “Lots of rules produce rule followers. People do what they’re told for fear of a consequence. There’s nothing complex about that. We’re controlling we’re not empowering.”
- 41:45. – Advice for young coaches: “Try as best you can to develop some guiding principles. Remembering the principles aren’t traditions, their truths.”
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