Off-season Effort Leads to Performance Gains

Key Takeaways:

  • Discipline and consistency are musts if you want to achieve results.
  • Repetition reinforces outcomes.

Fresh off yet another wildly popular football season here in the United States and worldwide, organizations, teams and individuals are all diligently at work, training for the season to come in just six short months from now.     

Football, as this author will argue, is unlike any other sport in that the off-season requirements in terms of time and effort, as opposed to the actual playing time accrued on the field in-season, are not even in the same ballpark. Consider this, most football seasons will begin in the month of August and wrap up by Thanksgiving. (A lucky few and the NFL will play into and through the month of December). All told, that’s roughly a 16-week playing season, meaning the off-season is 36 weeks for most players and teams.

During this 36-week period, every player and coach on every team feverishly search for the keys to winning games. Amidst all the conversations, meetings, weight and speed training, coaching clinics, seminars and film study, the one common denominator that holds true for every team is hard work.  Al Pacino once starred in a football movie called Any Given Sunday, where he portrayed an old, grizzled veteran football coach.  At the zenith of the film, Pacino gives a pre-game speech to his team about football being a game of inches.

“The inches we need are everywhere around us,” Pacino utters at one point. The “inches” he’s referring to are what makes off-season training so vital, not just in athletics, but in every arena of business and life.

Off-season training — or, put another way, training and enhancing your skills in a non-critical period of time — is vital to execution during the most high-pressured times. What most people see as the output of success is really an illusion. Consider an iceberg: what you see sticking up out of the surface of the water is a mere hill of snow and ice, while under the surface sits a gargantuan mass of ice the size of a small mountain.  Such is the work of highly motivated and successful people.

The output we see is the ability of the best athletes, coaches and teams to execute at high levels at the most critical times. What we don’t see is the mountain of time, effort, strategy and rebuilding done to prepare for those moments.

Off-season preparation is really about effort, something I consider to be a product of discipline and consistency. When the calendar turns to January 1 every year, what do people do? They make a New Year’s resolution. They say, “This year I’m going to do x, y, or z because it’s a new year and a new me!”

And almost always, without question, most people fail at their resolutions because they lack the discipline and consistency that it takes to create the habit or habits they seek. The off-season is so vital in sports, business and life because it enforces and then re-enforces the discipline and consistency necessary to achieve in critical situations.

Repetition in all arenas is the key to success in critical moments. Gaining reps, good or bad, reinforces your response to events. A good response will elicit a good outcome, and a bad response will do the same with a poor outcome.  Multiply this same equation repeatedly over a 36-week macrocycle called an off-season and the individual, team or organization will most assuredly be better in moments of high stress than they would be without the consistent effort given leading up to those moments.  Tim Kight, the founder of Focus 3 — a leadership and culture building organization — often speaks and writes about these critical situations. He says that in those moments your training leads you to one of two scenarios:  Either you a) flinch or b) you don’t.

Without the off-season repetition of consistent, disciplined training, critical situations will come and go, leaving you flinching at every turn.  Daily effort, enhancing, failing, learning, relearning, failing, learning some more and having the discipline to consistently get quality repetition at what you’re trying to achieve is what makes off-season training so vital.

Success is the byproduct of that mountain of time, energy, and effort that few if any actually see!  Just doing the work, by no means, guarantees you lasting success. But without it, in critical situations, expect to flinch.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.