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Member Since 02 Aug 2009
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In Topic: Cam Newton and the Adult Learning Model

02 March 2013 - 04:06 PM

Really interesting OP--though I agree with many of the follow-up comments.

FWIW, many of these observations are reflected in neural network research. I'm not an expert in this field, but I practice in one that's closely related. I'll do my best to explain, but Dr. LeeRoy Jenkins may want to weigh in.

As we learn, our brain builds neural connections enabling us to recall the information taken in. If this information is recalled frequently, connections are reinforced, making the network more robust and efficient. A psychomotor example: Think about a child first learning to walk. It's a very conscious effort at first, but over time the child learns how to balance, step, transfer weight, step, etc. Before long, walking seems to be accomplished without thought. But in reality, the neural network controlling these functions has become extremely efficient. Before long, even an unexpected bump from a sibling can be compensated for without falling. This unexpected nudge wasn't specifically "learned", but the brain's neural network diagnoses the anomoly and compensates in blindingly quick fashion. The child didn't have to consciously think about the correction--a robust network seeming does the thinking before a person could consciously think about it.

A more cognitive example (such as reading defenses): Neural networks have been referenced since almost the advent of psychology, but they used different terms. One such term is "schema." As in the example above, schemas that are created and reinforced become more efficient, robost, and in many cases they also become more complex. As quarterbacks learn to read defenses, their conceptual understanding as a rookie is less sophisticated than those of veterans. They might recognize the basic formation, but when defenses disguise their formation they can be fooled. As quarterbacks' schemas become more sophisticated they are able to recognize key indicators of these disguises. They can see through the disguise, which helps them make better and quicker decisions. The ability to learn is central to this process. Just as their physical motor skills are reinforced through repitition, their abilty to read and react becomes more effective as well.

Thus, over time a high-caliber quarterback will improve physically and mentally. Emotional maturity can certainly factor into this as well--as could their ability to manage stress and keep a clear mind under pressure. It's a combination of many, many factors that determines an individual's ability to adapt to the NFL. Some can, others can't. In my opinion, the signals related to Cam Newton are extremely positive. He's able to compete now based on natural physical ability and a basic understanding of the game. As he develops further, his ability to react instinctively, read defenses, and have mental bandwidth left over to manage the executive (e.g. leadership) functions of the game will increase. I believe the future for him and the Panthers is bright.

In Topic: Dear Mr. Accorsi...

21 November 2012 - 10:23 PM

And wouldn't you say that culture has to start with the coaching? That it is almost impossible for it to carryover from the players, who generally aren't around for the many years it takes to establish an identity?

That was my point in the whole leadership rant, that this can't be about players failing to lead, but that at a systematic level there is a failure of leadership.

Still sorting out the posting process. Sorry for the multiple posts.

Not discounting the coaching piece at all. It definitely starts there--hence my Patriots reference. I'm simply supporting the notion that leadership in football is relevant, that successful teams have it at the management, coach, and player levels, and that it can be developed.

In Topic: Dear Mr. Accorsi...

21 November 2012 - 10:14 PM

Who says good leadership means everyone is happy & satisfied? There are lots of examples of organizations with turbulence in their culture, but also excellent performance against the competition. Steve Jobs was known to strike terror in Apple employees...but his leadership was undeniably effective. Mean and brutal at times, but effective. And there are cases the other way, too. Well-run organizations where people are hard competitors externally, but get along internally. Leadership and conflict are not mutually exclusive.

In Topic: Dear Mr. Accorsi...

21 November 2012 - 10:09 PM

I never said I didn't value leadership, only that I know that the outcome of football games have almost nothing to do with it. Anyone with a modicum of NFL history under their belt would remember the long line of dysfunctional but talented teams that won consistently despite fielding some of the most selfish, infighting and downright stupid players imaginable.

Football is a game, not a company, and all this squawking of "leadership" issues overlooks the real problems (like idiotic coaching.)

In Topic: Dear Mr. Accorsi...

21 November 2012 - 10:05 PM

At its best, leadership development initiatives are designed to fit the needs and issues of the client. Some help people get along in an organization, some focus on individual development, some focus on culture change...and those are only a few examples. My graduate degree is in that field and I work in that business, too. Just cautioning the board not to assume leadership development is a cookie-cutter process.

As far as program effectiveness is concerned: While there may be examples of "neutered" top performers in some cases, I'd hesitate before painting leadership development initiatives with such a broad brush. Research simply doesn't support that notion. I respect you may have personal experience that says otherwise, but let's be careful about generalizing.

Leadership development in athletics is interesting. We tend to equate "leadership" with on-field performance. If a player shines as an individual performer, we call him/her a leader. Our judgement isn't generally informed by whether they do less obvious things to enhance a team's performance. Are they agile learners? Are they effective communicators and teachers of one another? Can they reflect on what was successful and what wasn't (and adapt accordingly)? These attributes are essential in all high-stakes, high performance contexts. Look at the Patriots. They succeed with several superstars, but lots of few JAGs. The right combination and chemistry of JAGs can outperform star-laden rosters. We like to think Belicik is just that brilliant. But if you listen to his players after they retire, you'll hear stories of leadership from coaches and players. Not just on-field leadership, but a culture, a discipline, and an identity focused on achieving the team's objectives. I'd say that's relevant to football.