Motivating Your Athletes with Success

About the Author: Eric Cressey

In about eight hours, I’ll hop on a plane to head to Chicago for a Perform Better Summit.  There are some great presenters on this year’s agenda, including Mike Boyle, Gray Cook, Mark Verstegen, Martin Rooney, Alwyn Cosgrove, Brian Grasso, Robb Rogers, and even some schmuck named “Cressey” who probably ought to just be the guy carrying all their luggage.

Kidding aside, at this point, I’ve now lectured in fourteen states and four countries.  In the process, I’ve talked about everything from corrective exercise and to performance enhancement.  This weekend, over 500 people will come from all over the country to hear all these presenters talk about those two topics and many others.  However, two stones have largely been left unturned both in writing and presenting: MOTIVATION and ATTITUDE.

I feel strongly that the assessments, programming, and coaching at Cressey Performance is top-notch and unique within this industry.  However, I feel even more strongly that we can attribute our success as much to our environment as we can to our knowledge.  When you create a training system, it isn’t just what’s on paper; it is how that programmig is carried out.  It’s been said that a bad program done with a ton of effort will always outperform a good program done without much effort; I couldn’t agree more.

It was a good week at the office for our baseball guys.  On Monday, Lincoln Sudbury senior Sam “The Landlord” Finn tossed a 13-strikeout no-hitter to go to 2-0 on the season.  Not to be outdone, Algonquin junior John “J-Mac” McKenna threw an 11-strikeout perfect game on Wednesday.  Meanwhile, Weston junior Sahil Bloom popped 91mph on the scouts’ guns as he struck out 12 batters in six innings of work; he’s now leading the league with 24Ks in 13 innings of work on the season.

I bring these results up not to brag (okay, maybe a little; I’m really proud of these guys), but to show you what a good training environment can do for athletes.  Here are three guys who compete against each other during the season (Sam and John actually were on opposing sides in the state title game last year), yet they’ve all trained alongside each other and pushed dozens of other CP athletes to higher levels.  Put athletes in an unconditionally positive environment with quantifiable goals, turn the music up (and make sure it’s not Justin Timberlake), and coach your butt off, and just watch what happens.  Young athletes do not need personal trainers; they need people to write solid programming and put them in an environment in which they can succeed.

Speaking of success, I think it is quite possibly the best motivator there is.  Within 60 minutes of each of these pitching performances, all three guys had called or text messaged me to confirm the time for their lifting session the subsequent day.  I can’t help but laugh when I hear coaches complain about how getting athletes to lift in-season is “impossible” or a “chore.”  If that’s the case, these coaches haven’t shown them enough improvements to win them over – or just haven’t created a motivating environment in which they can have fun.

Now, I want to make it perfectly clear: having attitude in a facility does NOT mean allowing guys to get away with crap form on any exercise.  We lift weights to get better at sports, not put ourselves at risk of weight room injuries.  It never ceases to amaze me how some coaches will let athletes get away with murder on form – and it amuses me even more when these coaches will throw up videos of that form on YouTube as promotional material. If they were in collegiate or professional sports strength and conditioning, they’d be out of a job quickly, as the stakes are a lot higher with multi-million dollar contracts and athletes who aren’t as resilient as 16-year-olds.

So how do you avoid becoming one of those guys who looks like this?

1. Do a thorough assessment with every athlete – and program accordingly.

2. Coach all the basics hard early-on.  Variations are easy to teach once you have the basics down cold.

3. Don’t add more external resistance until the movement is perfect without it.

4. THEN, add in the environment – music, enthusiastic training partners, different training stimuli, and regular quantifiable progress checks (built-in tests).

Now, with all that said, back to my original point as I wrap up: I don’t care how good your program is if you don’t have attitude and constant motivation to keep pushing the bar higher.  It’s why I love watching my buddy Todd Hamer of Robert Morris University coach.  Todd is a bright guy, but acts like he really couldn’t care less what the books say; hell, he’d probably rather use the books for two-board presses.  However, he is the single-most energetic coach I know, always has the music playing, and is constantly throwing new things at his athletes to keep them interested and motivated.

To take it a step further, among the “Guinea Pigs” for the 16-week program in my new book, the two guys who trained at Cressey Performance while following the program were the ones who made the best progress.  The other guys all improved tremendously, but the CP guys really stood out the most.

So, with all that said, here are my challenges to you for the next week:

1. Stop thinking about programming for the short-term.

2. Take out a piece of paper, and in the left-hand column, write down everything that distracts you when you are about to train.  It could be traffic, cell phone calls, what’s going on at work – you name it.

3. In the right-hand column, write down what you can do to fix that problem to get yourself in the right mindset.

4. Rank your current gym environment on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the absolute best environment you could possibly imagine in light of your goals.

5. if you wrote “5” or less for #4, start looking for a new gym.

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Feedback on Maximum Strength

“Maximum Strength is a guide for those who truly want to make meaningful changes to their bodies. Eric Cressey has created a program that will challenge any individual to push themselves to levels they have never been before. In the years that I have known Eric, his goal to help people achieve maximum performance and get the most out of their bodies has never wavered.”

Michael Irr – Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Chicago Bulls

For more information, click HERE.

I’m off to Chicago.  Have a great weekend!