Mark Gillett

Come back frequently……

Performance or Not? More words

with 5 comments

One of around 15 performance athletes who enter the MdS each year.. Mohamed Ahansel

In my last post I talked about words and how we can use them positively for ourselves.

This post is about one of my bugbears. It is another use (or misuse) of words but often for financial gain and persuading people you are a better coach or sportsman than you are and assuming most people do not know better.

When it comes to business and sport it really irks me that so many use terms or latch on to words that they do not know the real meaning of but can gain from using them commercially, often just buzzwords for a year or so………but still monopolised for as long as possible…

When I first started playing tennis my coaching was either private or group. At that time I did both and I trained in the ‘county squad’. The word ‘squad’ was widely used to describe a training group of ‘better’ players so you were identified by this as being good or very good. Anyone in a ‘county squad’ was believed to be the cream. Even me at the time, until I learned that it was really not that special or even true..

In the 70’s and 80’s tennis grew exponentially, clubs sprung up all over America with many having 20 plus courts. Tennis became big business as these courts had to become productive and a return on investment was necessary to survive.  This began to happen in the UK eventually too but not the high number of courts, just coaches and business and indoor clubs.

‘Squad’ soon became diluted as every club had squads so even the recreational player was in a squad as clubs have to make money… New names were required…. Enter the Elite!!!! Wow, this must be good if you are Elite – Actually the truth is that everyone who was good enough for the first squads 10 years earlier became ‘elite’ and all those who had seeped in for business reasons remained as squad players…..But the best were no better just described by ‘elite’. Soon ‘elite’ became politically unacceptable so a new word came into use; ‘performance’. If you were a performance player as defined by our hugely successful national body, the LTA – (a very successful business, just does not produce the quality. Probably a bit like Microsoft compared to Apple; makes load of money but produces absolute crap.) – then you were the best of the best and got funded… Get it? All those in the ‘elite’ group now became performance, and elite disappeared. Squad was still for those other masses!

The true meaning of performance in sport  is any sportsman/woman or child who gives total dedication with a goal of achieving their full potential. Read my post Talent

Now defining performance this way really gives the word substance as there is a recognised way of reaching your potential. This means that the word performance cannot really be played with as it is has a well-defined meaning – If you are a performance athlete you are endeavouring to achieve your 10,000 hours and reach your potential. Anything less and you are merely recreational or simply competitive (squad). Certainly not performance. I believe this is how the word is now defined across sports/athletes in the UK and I believe much of the competitive sports world too.

Back to what irks me…. people who use the word performance to describe their ability or coaching when clearly they are just recreational or competitive.

So, if your coach claims ‘performance’ or sells you the performance treatment, make sure you are getting your moneys worth….Also if you are claiming you are a performance athlete make sure you are fulfilling your 10,000 hour obligation….

Now we have the ‘performance business coach. Or the executive coach…… In business I can accept the term more as it really is just down to the true dictionary meaning of the word. But! Our latest buzz word is ‘high performance’.  Can wait to see these people!!!

All good stuff really…..

Written by markgillett

January 6, 2011 at 1:05 pm

5 Responses

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  1. nice couple of posts Mark – Happy New Year.

    can you extend the 10,000 hrs analogy into business. The 10,000 hrs needs to be focused hard practice. I wonder how much business coaching helps people to identify weaknesses/areas or improvements (it’s how we spin it) but then falls short at helping people understand that if they are going to try something new, they may initially fail or need a lot of practice before it becomes effective.

    can they afford to try out new strategies in the business environment ? can they afford not to ?

    also in relation to practice, perhaps, there is nothing better than the deep specialist sector knowledge acquired through a timeserved apprenticeship.


    January 12, 2011 at 12:54 am

  2. Hi Kes,

    Good to see you back….

    Yes, I think you can and the 10,000 hours starts at school… Your education which is rounding you for your future. I believe a lot miss the point and with education put things into an incorrect priority. For example, creativity and often sport come at the bottom of the pile.

    Your ability to cope with failure is learnt in sport as much as other subjects at school. Your ability to deal with pressure, adversity and team environment too. Creativity is wholly important in your ‘training’ but this is often given lip service only while a student will spend hours reading books and taking notes purely to pass exams, which in turn are not really designed to help the student but are more a measure of the education system for political reasons…… See the Ken Robinson talk on TED….

    Once in the work place companies can not afford to allow too much failure but for a business to set up a research departments would be very forward thinking. In tech or pharmaceuticals its quite natural to have research & developement so why not in other sectors?

    Failure is a huge part of success. Good business will know this and accept certain failures. How often have Richard Branson or Alan Sugar failed in a bid to buy or finance a business. Often I am sure…. But its their ability to deal with this failure, learn from it and use what they have learn to succeed later. However, its a lot easier for a company owner to fail as he or she is judged on the overall success (Bottom line) not one failure. An employee will often be judged on current performance and if they lose a company money in a deal, its ‘bye bye’…..

    Business coaching is good as is life coaching but where a culture change is needed then the job becomes much more difficult as the whole team or company may need to sign up to the training…… I think the coaching growth we have now would not be so prevalent had our education been more creative for the last 30 years.

    Keep well.



    January 12, 2011 at 8:43 am

  3. in short – i agree

    the confusion of govt edicts, curriculum and targets has made it a nightmare for educators.

    ultimately a system still relatively unchanged from that designed by a group of post war academics in unlikely to serve the business world very well.

    I have great admiration for how teachers continue to do there roles with enthusiasm and energy whilst drowning in the miasma of targets and directives


    January 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm

  4. Very true, and its a shame that they are expected to do their work in such conditions….


    January 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

  5. mark, further to this discussion thought you might be interested in this article about teaching, creativity and leadership –


    January 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm

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