I am sure that you have heard the following kinds of phrases in your coaching of athletes and teams, and perhaps you have used some of them yourself:
Coaching and participating in sport has many dimensions: The task is easy and hard at the same time. It is enjoyable and frustrating, simple, yet complex. In order to make sense of this reality and keep things in perspective, I would like to introduce a term from outside of sport that may be useful: Simplexity.
The term – combining the words simplicity and complexity – was coined by consultant Anuraj Gambhir for use in the telecommunications industry. Simplexity has to do with the process where human nature strives toward simple ends by complex means, where the complex and the simple intersect in a dynamic relationship between process and outcome.
Simplexity applies at the professional, collegiate, secondary, and youth levels. Consider a professional athlete, who is embedded in a complex environment (e.g., contracts, agents, expectations of others), but who also has a simple task of execution. Likewise, a youth athlete just learning a sport also is involved in a dynamic relationship of the complex (e.g., school, family, friends, rules of the sport) and the simple (e.g., seeing the ball and making contact with it). No matter the level of competitive play, good coaches strive to ensure that the complex is recognized, while emphasizing the simple, both for the sake of themselves and but also for their team.
A great example of someone who has been able to recognize and balance the simple with the complex is Cleveland Indians Manager Terry “Tito” Francona. During our run to the 2016 World Series, Tito was outstanding at ensuring that each player had a daily plan that was clear and basic, while also talking to the players about a range of complex demands, such as increased media attention, that were of concern in the post-season environment.
In contrast to a Major League Baseball manager, I also observed the same quest for balancing the complex with the simple in one of my grandchildren’s baseball coaches, leading five and six-year-olds. How can you, as a coach, leverage simplexity in your work with athletes and teams?
Consider the following guidelines: