Why Quality is the Key. Not A Lot, But Much

I was an average Latin student. It was one year of my life and I have a scarce list of retained learnings.

One is a joke: Siempre ubi sub ubi (“Always wear underwear”).

Another is a favorite English phrase: Cum grano salis (“With a grain of salt”).

My philosophy teacher had a saying that really stuck with me and informs my thinking. Turns out it was from Greek, not Latin: ou polla alla palu (“not a lot, but much” or the more familiar phrase “quality not quantity.”)

Not a lot, but much

How would it change your coaching if you framed more of your teaching around this phrase?

Take your film sessions for example.

What if instead of trying to provide examples of multiple problems in every session, what if you were to put together three clips and then really discuss each clip with smaller groups of athletes? You ask questions. They tell you what they are thinking. What they see.

You learn about their processing as athletes, they learn about an aspect of the game from watching.

Instead of racing through many clips in a short period of time go deeper into a couple.  Look for thematic moments in games and group your teachings.

Let the clips inform each other.

Depth Beats Breadth

Josh Waitzkin in his book The Art of Learning has a great phrase for this, “depth beats breadth.”

He makes a compelling case that it is better to go deeper into learning, know a few things really well, then to try to learn all things at a superficial level.

“It is rarely a mysterious technique that drives us to the top, but rather a profound mastery of what may well be a basic skill set. Depth beats breadth any day of the week, because it opens a channel for the intangible, unconscious, creative components of our hidden potential.”

Waitzkin, who had been a chess champion as a teenager, became the world champion in Tai Chi Chuan after picking the martial art up at as an adult. The “depth beats breadth” approach meant that he learned fewer techniques than his opponents.

But he learned them really well.

He cites this as critical to his success.

(As an aside: Waitzkin was the subject of the movie Searching for Bobby Fisher. )

not a lot but much

Shorter Training

There’s another opportunity we can take advantage of as we get deeper into the season. We can shorten the length of our training, but deepen the commitment to quality.

Maybe we take on one or two topics like set pieces or back line defending or service in the box. Or, if you are a basketball coach you might be thinking about focusing on how to build counters to your opponents tactics.

Deepen your commitment to improving the one thing, or handful of things, that might change your outcomes instead of tackling all the perceived problems.

Always Quality

We need our training sessions to be at the highest quality. It’s not about shortening training times, or reducing film clips, or reducing our load just for the sake of it.

It’s about establishing high quality training environments so that we get high quality performances. So that what we do in our training session transfers to performance on the field or court. And, ultimately transfers to results.

Use the time with our teams to either get back on track. Or, take ourselves to the next high point.

Not a lot, but much. Ou polla alla palu. Quality over quantity.