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Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Back when I was pretending to be an athletic coach many years ago I learned a powerful lesson about LEARNING (many of them, actually).  

When coaching young high jumpers we never placed the bar at the world record height from the start.  We began by setting the bar at a height that was within the young athletes' ability to clear.  We gave them a taste of success, of how it feels to clear the mark, and the subsequent rush that almost always follows success.    

We then trained, 
                            cheered, and 
                                  (with small doses of cajoling) 
the athletes in short bursts aimed at increasing their 
strength, flexibility, stamina, and understanding of the mechanics of high jumping.  

The bar was then raised only slightly, commensurate always with the athlete's improved skill.  And, very rarely were they all jumping at the same height.

Incrementally, one inch at a time, we moved the bar up.  Always raising the expectation, but never placing it out of sight.  Interestingly, as the athletes improved in their high jumping prowess, the coaches also improved in their own knowledge and skills related to coaching the high jump.  The growth, the learning, was reciprocal in nature. 

By the way, we never coached a world champion.  Just a bunch of athletes that got a little better every day.

The same approach works for the learning process in any context, whether we're teaching 1st graders, coaching a junior high basketball team, pushing a crew of workers on a job site, working with a school faculty, growing a family, training a SWAT team, or directing any other group of people tasked with achieving some kind of performance goal. 

Raising the bar, incrementally,  with tons of support, training, and encouragement seems like such a reasonable approach to learning (and thus, improved performance).  Wondering why I see it continually ignored or perverted. 


  1. Really enjoyed this today! I also think it's valuable that you never had an ending height for each jumper also. You kept pushing them to their own ability, which was different for each one. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yes 'um. Sky's the limit (with lots of different limits). Thanks for reading.


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