It’s the little details that are vital. I think very definitely it’s the little things that make big things happen. – John Wooden
You have to practice every day the way you are going to play on game day. – Jerry Rice
I enjoy training athletes in Beast, but I am rarely completely satisfied following any training session. In my eyes, there’s always room for improvement; in our programming, in our coaching, in the way our athletes perform and focus, and in our attention to detail. I see all the great things our athletes do, but I see the shortcomings too.
In 2010, following pre-season Football Strength and Conditioning sessions, Chris (Bogannam) and I would frequently sit down for hours (sometimes, candidly over a drink at Marisa’s) reviewing what had transpired during the session – who impressed, who really dogged-it and underperformed, and what we could do to improve the quality of our programming. The little things definitely matter and as trainers of young athletes, we have to avoid complacency at all costs.
Doing the Little Things
On Friday, during our 5:30 Strength & Conditioning for Athletes, I shook hands with each of our athletes. I wanted to make sure they knew how to shake hands “properly.”
When we work with young athletes, it’s not just about strength training and translating the gym work to on-field performance. I view part of our engagement as mentoring and helping equip these athletes for life’s many challenges – both on and off the field. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.
… so, back to Friday night and the “handshake drill’ – there were only six athletes on hand. I have to say, much to my surprise, they all did a good job (if you’re not aware of this phenomena already, you’d be shocked how frequently we stumble upon young men that are apparently unable to maintain eye contact while shaking hands).
“Over the course of your career a good handshake can help you earn $100,000 more than you would otherwise earn all other things being equal,” I said.
“What?” One of our athletes responded.
“Over the course of your career a good handshake can help you earn $100,000 more than you would otherwise earn all other things being equal,” I repeated.
“Do you really believe that?” one of our athletes asked.
“I believe it 100%. I don’t have a study to back it up, but I know it’s true,” I responded. “I know it’s true.”
For those of you young athletes who are curious as to what (in my humble opinion) constitutes a proper handshake, here are the considerations:
- Not too limp or weak – can convey a lack of confidence
- Not crushing, but firm – if too strong, can convey hostility; if you feel bones grinding together, you are squeezing too hard; this isn’t a Captains of Crush Gripper Exercise
- Good Grip with the entire hand (not just the fingertips)
- The shake itself should be smooth and not overly enthusiastic
- Maintain Eye Contact during the entire handshake
- Duration ~ 2 seconds
For those of you who think I’ve flipped my lid (you may be correct), but consider that John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood,” arguably the best college basketball coach of all time, winning 10 National Championships in 12 years (7 in a row), drilled his players on how to properly put their socks on.
I repeat myself over and over when I’m working with young athletes, because I want to ensure they are properly coached – I want to drill them in the important aspects of training; I believe almost every “work set” should be coached.
I’m a stickler for the little things, up to and including the proper way to return the bar to the power rack after a set of box squats (i.e. walking the bar all the way back into the rack, a much better practice for an athlete’s safety, versus trying to place the bar into the J-hooks and risking a plunge to the floor).
“Walk, walk, walk …” – I repeat it over and over because the little things do count. They really do. Anyone and everyone that has been around sports, youth and other levels, has heard the saying, “you play the way you practice.”
It’s absolutely true.
Don’t forget to pay attention to the little things, do the work, and reap the fruits of your efforts.