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Issue 366 - Overlearning = Autopilot = Peak Performance (Don Shula Part Two)

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 9 Issue 366
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



Don Shula led the Miami Dolphins to two Super Bowl victories and to the only perfect season in the history of the National Football League He led his teams to six Super Bowls. He had only two losing seasons in his 33-year career as a head coach in the NFL (1963-1995) Shula holds the NFL record for most career wins as a head coach with 347.
In his book with Ken Blanchard: The Little Book of Coaching, Shula discusses the importance of Overlearning:
"Overlerning means that the players are so prepared for a game that they have the skill and confidence needed to make the big play. More than anything else, overlerning—constant practice, constant attention to getting the details right every time—produces hunger to be in the middle of the action. When players have absolutely no doubt about what they're supposed to do or how to do it, they thrive on pressure. Overlearning causes people to play at a higher level of expectations, raising the standards for everyone.
People in organizations should develop a fascination with what doesn't work. If you spend some valuable time concentrating on eliminating practice errors, you'll also eliminate a good amount of the second-guessing that goes on come performance time. Every mistake should be noticed and redirected on the spot. There's no such thing as a small error or flaw that can be easily overlooked. As a coach, if you let errors go unnoticed, you'll ensure that more of them will occur."
A coach should recognize the limit of how much information each student can learn and then execute without thinking. Shula refers to this as autopilot. Bill Russell and John Wooden both said: "If you have to think about it it's too late". Shula described how autopilot results in initiative and creativity which improves performance:
"If your people are worrying about what they should be doing, they have a tendency to hold back. You want them out there turning it loose. I wanted my players so familiar with their assignments that when the game started, they were operating on autopilot, the way you do when you drive a car. You're not thinking about what your hands and feet are supposed to be doing, you're just doing it.When an orator is really prepared for a speech, he or she is able to improvise and be creative in ways that significantly enhance the presentation. The goal of autopilot in the business world is to release people to do on their own what they've learned reflects the values, goals, and standards of the company—and to be creative the rest of the time."
Are you giving a team member too much to learn? What mistakes do you never ignore? Are your team members operating on autopilot or are they thinking first and holding back?

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman




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Application Exercise



The Spendthrift

He died a poor man, so they say,
Few were the dollars stored away
By him while he lived, and yet
His memory I'll not forget.
A spendthrift! True, but not for self
He scattered thus his hard-earned pelf;
Not that he might in splendor roam,
But for the ones he loved at home.

A spendthrift! That he was for those
Who, weeping, watched his eyelids close;
For them he toiled, for them he spent
His pittance and was well content.
The best in life to them he gave,
Denied them nothing just to save;
For those at home his coin he blew,
I would the world more spendthrifts knew.

Edgar Allen Guest (1881-1959)






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