Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Value of Experience

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we have two teams in the National Football League. Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders have been experiencing growing pains the last few years. Some might argue our choice of words here. Each team had a common and unusual occurrence this season: both head coaches - Mike Nolan and Lane Kiffin - were fired mid season and replaced by interim coaches from the existing staff.

It has been interesting to watch these coaches, Mike Singletary for the 49ers and Tom Cable for the Raiders, adapt to their challenges. Through the sheer force of his will and storied personal history of experience and success, Hall of Fame member Singletary has reshaped the attitude and performance (in that order in our opinion) of his team.

Tom Cable has done a remarkable job in the face of overwhelming odds against his success. But the point here today from our perspective was a quote from him in the SF Chronicle on Monday the 22nd of December following a winning game against the Texans on Sunday the 21st. Cable played a lot of younger players with very limited NFL experience. Keep in mind that nearly all NFL players get to the league because they are fine athletes. They have played countless number of games in high school and college. One of the things that make the NLF so different is that you have only the best of the best playing. Everyone is bigger, stronger and faster than they were in college.

The same is true in swimming for those who move up the ladder. Most college swimmers and certainly those at the international level are stronger, faster and smarter than they were in age group and high school swimming. But we digress...

In Cable's comments after the game he said regarding his young players, "You get explosiveness on the field, you get speed. You can't do anything about the inexperience; they just have to grow through that."

We don't know if Cable will get the label of "interim" removed this winter or not. What we do know is that here is a coach who clearly understands the limitations of inexperience and the corresponding value of experience. He demonstrates a level of patience that many coaches lack.

In swimming, coaches have many fast swimmers on their team. These kids go really fast in practice routinely. Yet when the day of the meet comes around they often don't have what the coach expected to see. And much of it has to do with experience. There is no substitute for racing to learn how to put your practice skills to good use. This is why racing is so important to the overall development of a swimmer. And at the same time they must feel the support of their coaches and parents to be able to make mistakes so they can grow.

Mark Twain is quoted on this subject. "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment." Enough said.

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