What does Sport have to do with Learning Guitar?

Screen shot 2010-04-20 at 8.41.35 AMWe often underestimate the value of a coach.  In the NRL St George have now won 2 straight premierships under the coach Wayne Bennett. Whether you like the sport or not one can’t help but admire a great coach. Wayne Bennett has miraculously taken a team that has not won a premiership in over 30 years or a minor premiership since 1985 to the top 2 years in a row. Wayne Bennett’s record with Brisbane was also very impressive. Bennett will go down in history as the sports best ever coach.

Australia’s Olympic Record

On a 60 minutes program earlier this year they featured a story about how the Australian Olympic athletes were not going to do so well in the up-and-coming Olympics because our secret to success was now out. In both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics Australia ranked fourth place in the world because we had a secret. Keep in mind the fact the three countries in front of Australia have much larger populations. USA with 307 million, China with 1.3 billion and Russia with 140 million. Compare that to Australia with only 21 million. This in effect means a country like China should get 61 times as many medals as Australia to be comparable. 2004 Australia won 49 medals and China 63. China would have needed to win over 3000 medals to be comparable by population.

Bad News Predicted for Australia
Now the story on 60 minutes was actually predicting bad news for Australia. In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing Australia slipped from 4th place into 6th place in the overall medal tally. For many Australians this went unnoticed but slipping two places was significant. The most notable threat to Australia was Great Britain who more than doubled their gold medal tally in 2008 compared to 2004. So what is really going on here?

Aussie Secret Revealed

The reason behind the success of Australia in the past has come down to ‘superior coaching’. The Australian government had a very generous budget which was spent on ensuring our athletes had the best coaches and that our coaches had the best coaches (yes good coaches have coaches) and access to the latest technology. In other words we were one step ahead of the competition not because we trained harder or had naturally better athletes but because we trained smarter and recognised the advantage of a good coach.

Train (practice) Smarter 

So how does this relate to learning guitar? While guitar and music also have an artistic component becoming a technically great guitar player is similar to becoming a sports champion. It’s not enough to simply train harder you must train smarter. The message in this story is the power of a coach. Australia’s significant advantage in the Olympics has come about not as a result of superior athletes but as a result of superior coaches and technology. The reason Great Britain has dramatically improved its performance is because they increased the budget allocated to training their Olympic athletes. In other words they now spend a lot more on good coaches than they did prior to 2004 even poaching some Australian coaches. Apparently they fund their Olympic training program through the national lottery.

Find a Great Coach

The moral therefore to this story is simple. If you want to be good at almost anything start with a good coach. If you want to be great then find a great coach. Successful people know that trying to achieve success alone while a noble idea is not the choice of champions. The 60 minutes story was perhaps trying to create controversy over the fact that some of our best coaches have now defected to Great Britain but was also pointing out that whoever has the best coaches will win. My conclusion and advice is to make sure you have a good coach.

David Hart – Program Director


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