Archive for February, 2014

The Most Important Coaching Research Ever II

February 24, 2014

The title for this post comes from a post Mark Lebedew wrote a few years ago about the Hawthorne Effect. Indeed, the studies of Elton Mayo & Co formed the cornerstone of modern motivation theory in the workplace replacing the medieval notions of financial reward and punishment. However, I recently read a book which would have to be up there in significance. I would go as far as to say if you only read one book about coaching, it should be Mindset by Carol Dweck.

For the last 30 odd years psychologist Dweck has dedicated her life researching how a simple idea in our minds can profoundly influence the way we approach challenges and adversity that appear along the road to success. In short, Dweck describes two types of mindsets: The “Fixed Mindset” where a person believes their talent, intelligence and character are innate and unchangeable; and the “Growth Mindset” where a person believes their talent, intelligence and character can be cultivated through effort.

For fixed mindset people there is an urgency to prove and validate themselves over and over again (and avoid situations that might disprove their talent or intelligence); for growth mindset people, there is a need to continue improving and getting better at things.

In one famous test (see video above), a group of children are given a math puzzle to solve. Afterwards, half are praised on their intelligence (promoting a fixed mindset) and half are paused on their effort (promoting a fixed mindset). The kids are then given a harder puzzle – the kids praised on their intelligence give up earlier, want to go back to the easier puzzles or lose interest completely; the kids praised on their effort try for longer and are keen for harder challenges. Afterwards the kids are asked to write about their experiences to students at the next school and give their results. The kids praised on their intelligence lie about their results and always in the same direction (upwards). Just by giving a kind of feedback was enough to change a group of students into liars.

Mindset gives plenty of insights and advice into how to promote the growth mindset in educational, parenting, sports and professional contexts. Some stuff I thought was useful:

Fixed Mindset Growth Mindset
In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself
Failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Losing a tournament. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means you’re not smart or talented. Failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.
Effort is a bad thing. Like failure, it means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. Effort is what makes you smart or talented

On stories like “The hare and the Tortoise” and “The Little Engine that Could”

The problem was that these stories (The Hare and the Tortoise) made it into an either—or. Either you have ability or you expend effort. And this is part of the fixed mindset. Effort is for those who don’t have the ability. People with the fixed mindset tell us, ‘If you have to work at something, you must not be good at it.’ They add, ‘Things come easily to people who are true geniuses.’

Dweck suggests praising people on successfully completing things quickly and without error is a bad idea:

Speed and perfection are the enemy of difficult learning: “If you think I’m smart when I’m fast and perfect, I’d better not take on anything challenging”

Instead it is better to deny praise and apologise for wasting their time on something too easy.

Dweck’s research is important in that everything seems to point to it. It’s cited in “The Talent Code”, “The Goldmine Effect” and works by Gladwell (she’s just the kind of character who’s spent her life  researching a counter-intuitive niche concept that always pops up in his writing). After years of academic research, Mindset was written as the kind of New York Times bestseller list book that could be accessible to a broad base of readers. The book was on the required reading list for the USA women’s team under Hugh McCutcheon and the Arizona State University Sun Devils volleyball team.

Read it. You won’t regret it



Running DataVolley on an Apple

February 23, 2014

I’m a big fan of DataVolley/DataVideo, but one of the things that sucks about it is there’s no OSX version. I’m partial to my Apple MacBook and take it wherever I go. Which means I’ve had to take both my MacBook and Windows laptop the last few times I’ve travelled (one of my “first-world problems” is having to take out my laptop at the security queue of the airport, so 2 laptops sucks).

The IT organisation I work for focuses on consolidating our IT infrastructure from 240 server rooms with a lot of hardware to cloud-based shared services  on virtualised services. So with that I tried installing DataVolley and DataProject on a virtual machine on my MacBook. With a bit of fiddling, I got it to work. A friend laughed that it wasn’t anything new and plenty of people have been doing it for years. Since I couldn’t find any articles about it online, I thought I’d post my solution on this blog.

  • Virtual Machine software: Oracle VirtualBox (the good thing about VirtualBox is you can set a size limit of the VM, but the space is allocated. So what hard drive space you don’t use stays on OSX)
  • OS: Windows 7
  • Also need to add the dongle as a USB device in the settings.
  • After that, I still had issues getting the VM to recognise the dongle, so tried running VBoxWindowsAdditions, and installed  Eutron InfoSecurity SmartKey update. I’m not sure why it worked but it did.
  • It’s also worth changing the keyboard preferences to set all the F1, F2…F12 keys as standard function keys without having to press the Fn key in tandem, and giving the trackpad a “right click” function. there’s no “Page down” or “Page up” key so you have to use Fn + cursor to navigate down the codes.

Looking forward to carry one less laptop in my bag when I travel next!

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 10.14.58 pm

Setter Following the Receiver

February 23, 2014

Commonly, most teams play now with the setter following the middle blocker in the rotation (the middle is clockwise to the setter). It’s considered common wisdom this is the way to play that we assumed everyone always played this way. Having the setter following the receiver is often considered a bad idea – the setter has to run a long distance on reception when in 5 behind a receiver; it’s hard for the middle to run an attack on reception when the setter is in 1; you need a receiver who can hit from the right side.

Curiously, watching the USA Men’s team play in the Olympics in ’84, ’88 and ’92 on youtube, the team always played with the setter following the receiver. The obvious benefit being that in their 2 receiver system, 5 out of 6 rotations, the receivers passed on the same sides (a left side receiver and a right side receiver).

I spent quite some time in the AVL season last year scouting a team that ran this lineup. One thing I noticed is they scored a lot of middle attacks. The obvious reason was two of their strongest attackers were the middles. Looking at it more closely, in most of the rotations it’s a lot easier for the middles to run an attack on reception (not much lateral movement manoeuvring around other players) – and in more rotations, the setter can see the middle in front of them before setting. Maybe sometimes it’s not such a bad idea.