The world of sport and high performance is becoming more and more competitive and the age of champions and world class performers is in general becoming younger and younger. Today’s parents and coaches of talented youngsters are in a very challenging position. They know they need to do something if they want their child to reach his or her full potential, for their child to be the next Tiger Woods or Serena Williams. Even if they want their child just to achieve what Mom or Dad couldn’t or didn’t have the opportunity to, they are not sure what to do to enable him or her to do so – and if they are sure, many are not aware of the pitfalls of their particular strategy until it’s too late. Parents intuitively know that they need something to develop their child’s potential, and oftentimes LOTS of something.
But what is that something?
Using ‘what worked for me as a child’ or what you think Earl Woods or Richard Williams did based on articles and interviews you have read or seen can be equally dangerous and limiting. Their strategies and styles require more context of their circumstances and a deeper understanding of how the talent development process works to be successfully adapted into other homes.
So, again, what is that something?
This is an especially difficult question when many of the ‘poster boys’ and ‘poster girls’ for young-prodigies-turned-world-champions are facing career threatening or even career ending challenges. Tiger Woods has been the epitome of the ultimate sportsman; however the revelations about his infidelity threaten all that he has worked so hard to achieve. In tennis, Justine Henin was World Number 1 when she announced her (temporary) premature retirement in 2008. Ian Thorpe left competitive swimming without achieving all that he could have with his prodigious ability.
How do parents know they are doing the right thing for their child? Is the right thing only measured in performance, or is it measured in general happiness and well-roundedness? Will they have to choose between (trying) to develop a superstar and having a well-rounded and generally happy child? Do you have to make that choice?
Well, the answer to that question is yes, you do have to make that choice – that is, if you look at the world of sport and high performance in general in the last 20 years – and no, you don’t have to make that choice, not if you read and then apply your mind to the principles, thinking and methods in this book.
We believe that we have fine-tuned a method to develop talent whilst simultaneously focusing on becoming well-rounded and being generally happy; although this is a challenging task, our experience is that it is very possible. We come from a unique perspective. As Executive Coaches we work with people trying to develop that elusive work/life balance whilst also trying to develop their potential and get the most out of their life and job. We also work in the world of high performance sport; in multiple sports we work with the best of the best to be better more often.
In the world of sport some of our clients are children, more recently a lot of our clients are children. We have developed a model for coaching elite athletes to ‘zone’ as described in our book In the Zone with South Africa’s Sports Heroes, and although that was still the basis of what informed our questions when working with children we soon realised that a different strategy is required because there are different dynamics at play.
We set about discovering, understanding and learning what the key dynamics and challenges are for developing children’s talent. We utilised those principles to inform the coaching we did with children and young adults. We soon realised that we had started to map out the process of fast-tracking potential into performance – not just a child’s potential, but anyone’s potential, regardless of whether or not they were considered talented. As we researched, learned and discovered more, our thinking became sharper and our principles better defined. Eventually several models and techniques emerged and were refined from that work. This book is the story and context of these models and techniques and how they may apply in your home.
This book’s aim is to inform, teach and empower parents, coaches and athletes about high performance. We don’t believe we have all the answers, or even that the answers we have are one hundred per cent right – they just happen to be our best thinking based on our research and experience in this specialist field. We don’t want you to follow our principles blindly. Instead we want you to trust your judgement and your instincts and do what you feel is right. We believe that the ideas, stories, techniques and principles taught here will help you be more effective at doing that.
Although this book is aimed at parents more than any other group, the principles can be applied to any talent development at any age. We use these processes and models to successfully fast-track the performance of the executives, elite athletes, business and sports teams we work with as well as when developing our own skills in various interests and sports.
In this book we provide a quality self-coaching programme and a solid foundation of high performance theory so that performers can begin to fast-track their development without having to use a mental coach. After a certain point in a performer’s career it would make sense that he or she may require specialist mental coaching to take them to the next level and this book aims to support more people to get to that point and beyond. There are obviously several scenarios and challenges that will require specialist support for a performer to reach his or her full potential. However, we believe this to be the most powerful self-coaching programme currently available so that now, more than ever before, more can be achieved by the determined hard-working individual.