“Be quick, but never hurry.”
That’s my favorite John Wooden quote of all time.
Quickness means competence, decisiveness and execution, but hurry usually spells disaster. Time urgency creates anxiety, which completely short-circuits intentions, disrupts ability and tosses preparation out the window. How universally helpful this phrase is, and not just for adults.
I was surprised at how my players latched on to it, too. Of course, they want to be quick, but how often we hurry them. … into the car, onto the field, up to the “advanced” group… usually because we’re in a hurry.
What if we made that our mantra? Be quick, but never hurry.
- Be quick to praise, but slow to criticize.
- Be quick to instruct, but don’t rush to tell.
- Be quick to catch them being good, but slow to point out their errors.
- Be quick to teach, but slow to force.
As coaches and teachers, we’d be…
Quick to challenge, but not rush progress.
Quick to accelerate, but rarely have to slam on the breaks.
and … Quick to apologize, if our hurry has gotten the best of us.
The biggest training error I see on the youth sports field today is our hurrying the kids along to the outcome we want, or the future we see for them. But you can’t hurry the cycle of progress, you have to abide by it. Challenge must be followed by time to adapt and recover before the next “assault.” A challenge too big leaves them feeling incompetent, and too little recovery results in injury.
Somehow we have forgotten that each action must have an equal and opposite reaction. (Newton’s Third Law of Motion!) We have to teach them to burst but also to slow, to jump but also to land, to accelerate but also to decelerate, to dive but also roll, to sprint but also cut. What goes up must come down, but the beauty of movement and, ultimately the effectiveness, comes from the balance.
It may not look like much at the start, but persistent progress pays dividends. Hey, slow and steady wins the race, especially if we’re patient. But, as a philosophical friend observed to me, high school is where the tortoise passes the hare. They both ran a good race, but the hare has got nothing left in the finishing kick. He’s exhausted and spent while the tortoise is just reaching cruising speed.
If we’re willing to spend time letting our young athletes show us their perfect progress at their perfect speed, we can be quick to guide without hurrying them along. The pace, after all, is theirs.
I like a new expression I heard from veteran coach Liam Shannon at the Golden Boot-Drake Soccer camp I participated in recently:“You don’t have to go 100 miles per hour, just give 100 percent effort.”
First, get it right; then, make it fast.
Now that’s coaching that I think would satisfy even John Wooden.