As a high-performance and executive leadership coach and a former director of strength and training during the NY Yankees’ 2009 championship season, I have developed insights into the core principles that produce results, on the diamond and off. Here are some prime drivers for performance success.
1. Mindset: Players can have the best plan in the world curated and customized specifically for them, but, if they do not have the mindset to execute, they will never get the results. Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, says, “Slow things down, quiet the noise in your head, and do one thing at a time.” Often times, we do not want to train because we have too much going on. Most of which is just stuff that will give us nowhere near the return on investment energy that our training will give us. Make training the first thing you do each day. Make it priority #1 and your compliance will go up dramatically. Schedule your training as a non-negotiable appointment. No meeting is more important than your training appointment.
2. Training: When training the top performers in the world, professional and Olympic athletes, the training plan must be specific to the individual. Focused on the exact needs and points of weakness the athlete possesses. At the start of Spring Training, or pre-season, players go through an extensive analysis, from body fat measurement to movement pattern study to see where they need the most training. This also gives us a starting point as to how to design a program based on “The Elephant in the Room.” This is what we call the most important thing this player needs to focus on. For a player like Alex Rodriguez, this was his hip mobility and lower body flexibility.
3. Fueling: We eat for two reasons. First, for energy. Second, for recovery. Food, when we make the right choices, provides us the calories we need for sustainable performance that keeps us free of energy dips. When we consume the right ratio of macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) it allows our body the foundational fuels needed for healing and recovery. When we really get these ratios right, in a manner that is specific to the player, we will also see a radical change in player physique and the reduction of body fat. This in turn makes the player more efficient, economical and at a reduced risk of injury. The biggest result though is renewed energy. For the last 5 years of his career, Derek Jeter employed a full-time chef to help meet his needs from a fueling standpoint.
4. Recovery: For every hour of training, I advocate 30 minutes of recovery work. If we are going to train our body hard, we must give the body’s tissue time to recover. This also allows us to “turn-off” our mind and give our entire system a rest. Using hot water soaks, contrast baths between hot and cold, sauna, steam, recovery boots, cryotherapy, meditation, active/passive stretching, and massage have all shown to work very well for athletes in recovery. Recovery must be done on a daily basis. Usually, athletes will take 1-2 full days off from training each week to recover, in addition to receiving what is called a “download” or low-volume training week every 5-6 weeks for optimal recovery. The goal is to keep the athlete feeling fresh, light on their feet, free of muscle tension, and loaded with energy. After his starts, CC Sabathia would take a bath in his hotel room to recover his body.
5. Influence: Once we get the four drivers above right, we then become a true influencer of others. As our bodies, mindsets, and energies improve, others become very interested in what we are doing and what is leading to this change of behavior and results. When we get ourselves right, we begin to truly impact others—becoming what I call a “high performance leader.”
You can find out more in my book, Habits of a Champion: No One Becomes a Champion by Accident. danacavalea.com