What Makes Us Perform To Our Highest Level?

By Coach Cameron Hudson

I have never played rugby. Growing up in Texas, football was the law of the land. But, I didn’t play that either. That is neither here nor there,but lately I have become fascinated with rugby and specifically what makes some of these teams so much better than everyone else. As with any new interest, I went to YouTube and began watching all the rugby videos. I was then told about a book written by James Kerr called Legacy. The book goes behind the scenes of the New Zealand All Blacks and begins dissecting what makes them the winningest rugby club of all time. Without turning this into a book review, there were a couple of things that stood out to me and I believe the lessons are applicable to any athlete at any level.

The All Blacks as an organization places a lot of emphasis on staying humble throughout wins, losses, highs and lows. You are never too good to avoid doing something or looking down on someone. In fact, they clean their own locker rooms after games (sweeping the sheds). Imagine you’re the best rugby player in the world playing a game in London and you just became a world champion. Now imagine yourself cleaning up the locker room after the festivities. The lesson here is not that they are excessively tidy or have this militaristic method of doing things, rather that they know where they came from and don’t let the success go to their head. When I think about this notion and how it can be applied to athletes of any level, I think of higher athletes avoiding “beginner” drills and skills, because they have already achieved the movement. For some it might be that they truly think they are above practicing that skill, others might just neglect it really for no reason at all. At the end of the day, we can always sharpen our skills. Make a movement more efficient, more fluid or simply try a new style to shake up the routine. I realize this analogy is different than cleaning a locker room, but the fundamental lesson is the same. Remaining humble will lead to a better appreciation of things to come; it will also allow you to continue growing. The standard you set for yourself will continually raise, as it should.

This leads into one of my bigger takeaways:

Performance = Capability x Behavior

The All Blacks also recognize the importance of an athlete’s mindset; furthermore, they realize that even a player with all the talent in the world cannot rely solely on talent alone. If you’ve read my blogs before, you knew it was only a matter of time before this turned into a mindset piece, so hopefully you’re not tired of them yet. But, this really got me thinking. Often times, as athletes we focus so much on our talent (capability). I can do ring muscle ups, I have strict handstand push ups, insert any other feat of capability here. Where we go wrong, is that we think that is the only factor that matters in whether we are successful or not. This equation takes capability (talent) into account, but also places equal value on the behavior of an athlete. How an athlete carries themselves during training, competitions, interactions with other athletes and even their mindset. I think we are starting to see a shift in how coaches and athletes go about how they do things, but still not many teams (at least not openly) acknowledge how much emphasis is placed on an athlete’s behavior, both internally and externally. If we take an athlete who checks off all the boxes of what makes an athlete talented, but they lack the behavior side of the equation, their performance will suffer. You might be thinking, “well, so and so has a really shitty attitude, but they still dominate.” Sure, maybe they do, but could they be better? Are they playing to their full potential? On the other side, I have seen athletes/teams with less talent come in and win. Call it the underdog syndrome, but these athletes/teams usually have their behavior dialed in. Which when multiplied with capability will skyrocket their performance. How many post-game press conferences have you seen where a coach or athlete says something along the lines of “we just didn’t show up today”? To be more specific, the talent was there, but they lacked the behavior component. How did you warm up? What sort of inner-dialogue were you having? Were you committed to what you were doing? A multitude of factors come into play and how our behavior is affected. Talent isn’t everything, but neither is behavior. They must not only coexist, but they must thrive in unison.

Everything we do as an athlete factors into how we perform; our internal dialogue, our natural capability, how we behave towards other athletes and coaches, humility and the list could go on and on. Regardless of what level you are at, the more you start to think about the equation of performance being a result of your capability multiplied by your behavior (internal & external), the more aware you will be of what you can augment. Having too narrow of a focus on one or the other (capability or behavior) will cause the other to suffer and as a result, performance as a whole. Work the equation backwards and ask yourself:

  1. What kind of performance do I want to have?

  2. What level of talent is necessary to get there?

  3. How can I improve my behavior to match or exceed the necessary capabilities?

Once you have answered these questions, formulate a plan and attack it. Keep in mind that you are never too good to do something. Ensure that your behaviors, both internally and externally, reflect the performance you want to have.