I am an avid listener of a podcast called Finding Mastery (www.findingmastery.net), hosted by high performance psychologist Michael Gervais who has recently worked with USA Women’s Volleyball in Rio as well as the Seattle Seahawks. According to his website, “Ultimately, Dr. Gervais’ goal is to unpack, then decode, how the greatest performers in the world use their minds to create amazing journeys while they pursue the boundaries of human potential.” World-class performers in a variety of fields are interviewed each week, and their insights are extraordinary. But the real key to the podcast’s success and appeal, in my mind, is the questions Gervais asks – questions powerful enough to cause the best in the world at what they do to reflect, consider, and take a deep dive into their beliefs, routine, process, philosophy, mental approach, and what really makes them tick.
I recently listed to an episode of Finding Mastery featuring legendary Nebraska Head Football Coach, Tom Osborne. Toward the end of the interview, Gervais asked Osborne some “rapid fire” questions including one that really stood out: “A high performance coach is…?” I was driving at the time and remember pausing and asking myself how I would define a high performance coach. How would you define it?
Osborne’s answer was inspiring. He said, “A high performance coach is one who gets the most out of his players, cares about his players, not only wins games but tries to enhance their personal lives, their personal capabilities, helps them be the best they can be, athletically and as people.” He also referred to knowing and being friendly with the great John Wooden, who also embodied the attributes of a high performance coach.
The most important take away from this excellent definition is that it goes beyond winning. Others might define a high performance coach as simply one who wins a lot of games or championships over a long period of time, since that is not easy to do and is often what others expect. By contrast, Osborne’s definition focuses on the person , using football as a vehicle to teach his players to succeed and excel both on and off the field. As we strive to find mastery in our own lives, let’s ask ourselves some Gervais-inspired questions.
Do you get the most out of your players? Are they reaching their potential under your leadership? Do you care about them as people? Do you take an interest in them beyond their role on your team? Do you try to enhance their personal lives by listening to them and being there for them? Do you have their back? Do you give them your time? Do you call them by name? Do you teach them values that go beyond your sport such as hunger, effort, process, quality, consistency, humility, teamwork, and perseverance? Do you challenge them to go beyond their personal capabilities by helping them set goals and achieve them? Are they growing, stretching, and learning? Are they taking pride in doing the little things that it takes to be the best? This is indeed what Coach Osborne did as a high performance coach and why he was on a podcast called Finding Mastery.
According to Wikipedia, “Osborne was one of the most successful coaches in American college football history, with a career record of 255–49–3, 13 conference championships, and three national championships. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1999. Osborne was later elected U.S. Representative from Nebraska’s 3rd congressional district. He served three terms, from 2001 to 2007. In 2007, he returned to the University of Nebraska as athletic director and retired as AD in January 2013.”