Belief in Belief
“Sometimes we have to believe in someone else’s belief until our belief catches up.”
This quote may resonate with some individuals, it may also be confusing to some people who have never truly experienced what the quote is touching upon. Many athletes go through their athletic career with doubt. They hold doubt in their ability to perform, their ability to improve, their ability to execute. They know they have put in the work, they know they have put in tons of effort and TIME but they still have doubt in their capability. This doubt might be rooted in their upbringing, in the way their parents handled them, it may be rooted in the way they were coached as a youngster, it may also just be a reflection of their personality. Some people hold doubt close to their chest and engage with doubt, embrace doubt and they let doubt conquer their actions for various reasons.
This is something that I believe is especially consistent with younger athletes. The reasons are rooted in various experiences, mostly because many younger athletes simply have not had the time to develop their brain training, their mindfulness, they have had enough life experiences to understand that EVERYONE has doubt and everyone struggles with stress but the people who are most successful are the ones that conquer doubt and manage stress effectively.
Where does this topic stem from? The story is an entertaining one, not overly negative but instead of a reflection of my own coaching ability and motivation. I like to play the role of a story creator. Over the years I have developed a special ability to recognize potential in individuals, I have had thousands of experiences with athletes and can reflect character traits and performances and compare current situations to past situations with like-minded athletes. As I analyze my athletes and their ability, I create a storyline. Programming becomes my wand of creativity (Click here for a custom program). My verbal banter becomes the megaphone toward success while my brain plays the guide for the story development. Overtime I develop the storyline, I begin to see their potential well before they are able to sense their own ability to harness success in their respective sport.
Again...where the hell does this topic stem from? I have been privileged enough to coach alongside Pyrros Dimas over a half dozen times. Pyrros and I hold a good relationship, he provides incredible knowledge, he is patient in the warm-up areas and analyzes situations well. Multiple times we have been in situations where my lifter has been forced to take a heavy attempt that he may not fully believe they are capable of hitting. During Junior Worlds in Fiji, I had Kate Wehr take an attempt at 96k and Hayley Reichardt took an attempt at 98k. These were their second attempts. I was giving them hype up talks, telling them how good they were and they needed to smash the lifts. Each of them missed their attempt. Kate stood it up and missed the jerk, Hayley clarked it. Dimas came over to me while talking to them and said during both situations, “Dane, you always want the lift more than your lifter wants the lift.” At first, I got offended and didn’t respond. I ignored him, spoke to the lifters and they went out and each hit the same weight on their third attempt.
He wasn’t wrong. Dimas was completely accurate, I wanted the lift more than my lifters did. Did they end up hitting the lifts? Yes. Did it take an attempt for them to truly believe in their potential? Yes.
This brings me to Pan Ams in Ecuador last week. Anna Mcelderry took the stage at her first international competition. She went 3/3 in snatches, stroking 87k (they actually disallowed this lift because of a technical timing error of which Dimas and I lost our minds but she still smashed 87k nonetheless). Anna went out and smashed her first two clean and jerks, locking up the silver medal at 106 kilos on her second attempt. Dimas knew I would want something big. He knows my tendencies too well, he knows my aggressive nature and sometimes illogical approach to coaching.
Anna’s best clean and jerk ever was 110k. She just hit five straight lifts. I went over to her and asked her what she wanted on the bar. Typically, if a lifter hits five in a row, the last lift is theirs to choose. Her response, “Whatever you want on the bar.” I wanted 111k. Would it be a tall order? Absolutely. But I knew her strength, I know how she operates and if she was in a clear state, she would execute.
Dimas’ response? “Dane, you want the lift more than she does.” I looked at him and laughed (I wasn’t mad, he was right), we were in a good spot, silvers all across the board locked up, I decided 111k was the call. I did want the lift more than she did. But I knew what she could do, I know how she competes, I analyzed everything quickly in my head.
“If she makes the lift, she proves to herself how incredible she is as a lifter. If she misses 111, she still went 5 for 6 and is hungry to come back for more the next time she competes!”
It was a win/win in my mind. Put 111k on the bar. What happened? She went out and cleaned the shit out of it.
Check out Anna's 111kg attempt!
She got set for the dip, dipped a bit forward and left everything way out front on the jerk. Her technical error cost her the lift.
Looking back, maybe I did want the lift more than Anna, but maybe I didn’t. That really isn’t what matters. As coaches, we forget that missed lifts are ok. We always want our lifters to go 6/6, we always want them to win. But there are significant lessons to be learned from missed lifts. If you miss a lift, how will you come back from that? How will you train over the next 3-4 months knowing that lift was yours?
Anna is 17 years old, she has no idea how good she will be. She has no idea how strong she is and she has no idea how mentally strong she is. She does know her coach believes in her to no end. This is a belief that she believes in. She has a belief in my belief! This will cultivate a champion. This will lead to Anna embracing her ability, challenging herself more than ever and remembering that she very well COULD have hit the 111k clean and jerk. This may be the motivation that kicks her training to a whole new level. This could be the lift that sparks her to be the next great lifter from Garage Strength. Having a belief in someone else’s confidence and belief is healthy and that is the sign of a developing champion.
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Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of elite athletes building comprehensive programs for strength and sports performance. Several times a year he leads a seminar for coaches, trainers, and athletes.