Why Do Plateaus Occur?- Part I - by Ron Wolforth
Whenever a young man breaks a record at the Texas Baseball Ranch, I will as a habit, make the comment... "Wow... just think, if you can improve that much every week, by the time you are X (typically I add 10 years to their current age) you'll throw it 132 mph... and that'll be a record!"
Everyone laughs. But my point is made. Big jumps in velocity or bat speed, while nice, can't be expected every single week or month. While we all know that intellectually... emotionally we just can't seem to get our head around a plateau. We just assume we must improve from yesterday and give it no more thought than that.
But on the topic of plateaus, we must take a cue from the stonecutter. Sometimes what appears on the outside as zero progress... in fact on the inside is just the opposite.
Most of you know how much I like numbers. Let me give you some numbers to chew on. Let's just call it a friendly reality check into my world as a professional teacher.
Let's say we have a 12 year old boy and he was very slightly above average in velocity at 58mph. 1% of 58 mph equals .58 mph... or roughly half of a mph.
So I ask you... how about a goal of let's just improve one quarter of a percent each week? That goal SOUNDS VERY reasonable right? That's just .25 mph per week.
If this young man improved just one half of 1% per week, in one year he would gain 15 mph… so at 13 he would be throwing 73 mph, which certainly places him in another level far above average. Well done!
But if he just kept up a pace of just half of that gain for the next 5 years... or one eighth of a percent each week... or .125 mph per week... or in other words gain 6.5 mph per year until he was 18 years old... he would be:
80mph at 14
86mph at 15
93mph at 16
99mph at 17
105mph at 18
And that... ladies and gentlemen... would indeed be a record.
Here is my point.
Week to week, small incremental gains of .125, .25 or even 1% are very, very, very, very hard to notice... EVEN if you are measuring on a regular basis.
And if you aren't the obsessive record keeper I am? Tougher still.
And if you are like 90% of the population and don't measure at all? It's almost impossible to detect small incremental gains. And that's in fact how all of us improve... incrementally... and painfully slow... over time... which can be a big problem if we don't routinely measure our progress.
If we don't measure, we obviously will be even more susceptible to being discouraged or disappointed by our 'apparent' lack of progress and the occasional failures and setbacks that invariably litter each of our paths.
Maybe that disappointment is justified... maybe not... but if we aren't measuring it... we are even more vulnerable to any hint that we are just not making progress.
Without objective feedback it is very easy to be distracted or derailed from our stated mission or purpose.
And even if we measure... because of the natural ebb and flow of human events... we may even appear to be going backward in any one snapshot in time.
I remind everyone... it obviously doesn't take large gains for someone to develop into a phenomenal talent. What it does take is persistence, perseverance, attention to detail and hours (around 10,000) of deliberate practice.
In Part II, I will discuss some of the systematic steps we take when our athlete's measurements are trending down. But Part I's messages on plateaus are these 4 concepts:
1) Plateaus are natural parts of EVERYONE'S growth. I've been doing this for 15 years and have had dozens and dozens of amazing improvement stories of 12-15 mph in a year... but no-one has ever improved 1% every week for a year. In fact, small 'plateaus' happened even within these incredible stories of growth.
2) Very frequently I see solid and steady incremental growth being categorized and labeled by athletes and parents as 'disappointing' and 'discouraging' simply because the gains were 'so small'. They want to be 'there' already. But instead, through their own erroneous and short-sighted assessment of their progress and the negative words they used to describe their situation, they have actually sown the seeds of their ultimate failure.
3) To truly be exceptional you must first learn to become discouragement proof...or at the very least... discouragement resistant. And truly understanding plateaus and small incremental improvement is very important to that end.
4) At The Ranch we say... "To become great, you first must learn to enjoy the plateaus."
Until Next Week!