Brought to you by http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/trainingpeaks/XAlX/~3/5XIv6vl3BPA/

The Infinite Game

Starting your own coaching business is always a risk. This is especially true when you already have a successful career that you can depend on, even when your true passion might not lie there.

Richard Thompson, while waiting for the Australian Supreme Court to rule on a case he was working on, found himself checking the latest results from IRONMAN Melbourne. That’s when he knew that helping other athletes achieve their goals was the life he wanted to live.

Since then, Thompson has helped build the successful T-Zero Multisport company and is now giving back to the coaching community that has given him so much. After speaking to fellow coaches at TrainingPeaks University Melbourne, Thompson sat down with Dave Schell to discuss how he found his “why”, how T-Zero approaches hiring new coaches, and how viewing coaching as an “infinite game” has helped him see past short-term wins and ultimately benefit his athletes.

Stand-out Quotes

“What’s important for us is to ensure the service to the athlete is not compromised, and to ensure that we foster an environment for the athletes, but also the coaches to ensure that they feel like they’re part of the family. They’re part of the fabric that is T-Zero.”“We would hate to have 12 people that coached the same way as I do because who’s to say that what I’m doing is right or otherwise? I’m doing the best I can, but we want those different experiences. And the connecting piece here is that whilst every different coach brings their own experience, which particular athlete might connect with.”“If you can accept that then a fair weight comes off your shoulders and as a business owner, and you understand that you’re in it for forever or for a very long time. There’s no rush. There’s no rush to growth. And, if you just focus on your own backyard and focus on what you’re doing, then everything else will take care of itself.”

Resources

The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan HolidayEgo is the Enemy by Ryan HolidayThe Triathlete’s Training Bible: The World’s Most Comprehensive Training Guide by Joe FrielT-Zero Multisport

Episode Transcript

Introduction:               

On today’s episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, your source for the latest information about the art, science, and business of coaching. If your coaching business was a game, what type would it be? Are you looking for short term wins or are you in it for the long haul?

Dave Schell:                 

Hey guys, Dave Schell here. On this episode of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast, I had the pleasure to sit down with Richard Thompson from T-Zero Multisport based out of Sunshine Coast, Australia. We sat down after TrainingPeaks University Melbourne and discussed some things such as finite versus infinite games, finding your “why”, and company culture. Hope you enjoy.

Speaker 2:                   

Welcome to the TrainingPeaks CoachCast. I’m your host Dave Shell. And this week I am coming to you from Melbourne, Australia right off the back of TPU Melbourne. I am joined today by Richard Thompson, one of the co-founders and directors of T-Zero Multisport. Richard, thanks for joining us today.

R. Thompson:              

Thank you so much for having me, Dave.

Dave Schell:                 

So we had you speak at TPU here and we had you talk a little bit about business because you are running, you and your other coaches are running a very successful business here in Australia. I wanted to have you speak to these coaches in attendance about running a business. Before we get into that, and talking to the listeners about business, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up in coaching because you weren’t always a coach?

R. Thompson:              

No, that’s right. I was a triathlete, uh, first and foremost while I was studying law and accounting of all things at university, and I was doing, um, I think I started coaching on the side back in 2010. We did that part time for a couple of years and then for number of years, um, as I think a lot of coaches do, they use it as a hobby or a sort of side business. And the critical year 2015 where as a lawyer I was at the Supreme Court in Queensland. And we had an incredibly successful case be decided in favor of our client. Something that ordinarily would set your career up as a lawyer and it’s a topic that I won’t bore you with, but, um, it was really important, I guess crossroads, it would be a very important crossroads as a lawyer. And I remember the Monday when the judge was handing down the decision, I was far more interested in checking the, uh, IRONMAN Melbourne results the Sunday before and making sure that my athletes were okay and were doing well, um, the day after the race rather than, um, the result coming out of the, out of the Supreme Court. So it was obvious to me that my passion lied with, um, with coaching. And, uh, at that point, a very close friend of mine, Scotty Pharrell, he was in a very similar boat, uh, with his career as a teacher. And we, uh, he was doing the part-time coaching thing as well. And we sort of sat down together and thought, what, you know, we sort of just looked at the books and thought, what would we have to do to, um, coach as a full-time occupation? And so we ended up, it was a scary prospect at the beginning to think that you could do this by yourself and for yourself, but when you boil it down and work out your expenses and workout what you, you know, what you can, what service you could provide it, it seemed pretty achievable.

Dave Schell:                 

You know, it’s, I can see, and I don’t know how it works here in Australia, but in the US people would say that teachers don’t make a ton of money. So I could definitely see transitioning from a teacher to a coach, but in the US lawyers seem to make quite a bit more money than a teacher does so I would imagine that a little bit more scary prospect when you’re looking at transitioning to full-time coaching.

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, money for me, I think it’s just, it’s just one form of currency. Um, what, uh, whilst law certainly I’m provided a great salary, there were costs to that as well, uh, in time and that away from the family. And it came around the same time as when we had our first child as well. And I thought, um, there’s not enough money in the world to keep me away from my family for 70 hours a week. So, um, that side of it was, accepting that be earning less initially for sure. And but that wasn’t very difficult to, um, to sell to the family, to the family unit. Um, but yeah, we saw that, that we thought there was a, uh, I guess a place in the market for T-Zero, um, the values and the beliefs that we had as a coaching unit, we thought we would do very well as a business strictly because of the service that we wanted to provide.

Dave Schell:                 

In the beginning, you were coaching part-time, Scotty was also coaching part-time, and in 2015 you came, you joined forces.

R. Thompson:              

Correct.

Dave Schell:                 

So, how long did it take before you had a viable business?

R. Thompson:              

Um, that’s a good question. Maybe, maybe I think about nine months. And over that time we both, uh, I had the opportunity to drop down our previous employment with as a lawyer, as a teacher, we were able to, I guess go a bit part time on both whilst the coaching business was growing. We were able to supplement that with other income, um, until such time that we were able to, I think my last, uh, my last day as a lawyer, as a part-time lawyer was in the of 2016

Dave Schell:                 

And now, fast forward to today. It’s not just you and Scotty. You have other coaches that you work with as well?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, we’re fortunate enough to have 12 coaches now, and a wonderful stable of athletes. And, it’s, um, it has its own challenges, you know, and Scotty does a wonderful job in looking after the coaches, uh, in their right as coaches. And, um, what’s important for us is to ensure the service to the athlete is, is always, is not compromised. Um, and to ensure that we foster an environment for the athletes but also the coaches to ensure that they feel like they’re part of the family. They’re part of the fabric that is sort of T-Zero.

Dave Schell:                 

Just going back to, um, what she had said a little bit ago, you had talked about the culture and in talking with you offline and talking to you at lunch today, it sounds like that is one of the core pieces of T-Zero. It’s not just about performance, it’s, it really, it all starts with the culture. And what would you say sets you apart from other coaches or coaching companies when it comes to culture?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, I think, um, when I started in the sport of I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to be coached by some very high profile coaches as an athlete. And I think looking at how they operated all the tools in their toolbox, they were either wonderfully good at the coaching side, the analytical side, but they struggled with the human connection, with the human communication piece. Whereas others are wonderfully, are wonderfully gifted at the communication and how you had that bond. But they were probably lacking in the scientific, or at least the art of coaching in terms of that detail. So we thought the place in the market for us at T-Zero was the wonderful combination of both. To have the intellect and the science and the all the education you can, um, so that you as a coach can give your athlete the very best program and you supplement that as well with the best communication and, this relationship you can have with your athlete. So it gives the, and we go by the, I guess the adage of live your potential. It is that culture, um, that, and I give this example that why should someone who wants to break 15 hours in an IRONMAN, that goal be any more or less important than someone who wants to qualify or win their age group or qualify for Hawaii. Everyone brings their different, their own experiences, and their are strengths and weaknesses to the table. People have got different time availability as well, and, and other balls in the air. So we don’t, we look at everyone’s goal as equally as important. There’s no ego. And we, we just want the very best for each athlete that we coach.

Dave Schell:                 

Talking with you at lunch, we were talking a little bit about, um, I had asked you what is it your experience that would make somebody want to work for another coach or be an assistant coach in a group of coaches. And something you said kind of caught me by surprise and that was that you had said that you really go out of your way just like you do with the athletes to treat those coaches with that same respect and with the same regard and so that they don’t want to leave and they, that it’s, it’s almost better to be with you then to be without you.

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, we’ve got a wonderful opportunity, I think to give so much value to our coaches and make them, help them be the best coaches that they can be. If they wanted to, um, start their own business, they can. There’s no, we don’t have any qualms with that. Um, so just similar with the athletes, they can leave tomorrow if they wanted to. Um, but that keeps us on our toes and we always are thinking about ways in which we can continue to develop that environment and help and promote that learning. And it’s an incredible thing and it’s something that people just don’t see back of house at T-Zero, that we’ve got a, you know, a communication software whereby someone will ask a question, a theoretical question about let’s say FTP and then within six hours there’s five different respectful opinions about their experience of what they believe, what they’ve read or a journal article about this. And it’s just the extended learning that’s happening in the environment that’s being created is amazing.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. I think that’s a, it’s really interesting to hear you talk about that and that another thing that came up was you’re not requiring your coaches, it’s not the T-Zero methodology that each coach coaches in their own way. And it’s really the unifying theme is how they treat the athletes at the end of the day.

R. Thompson:              

Correct. And we don’t want, we would hate to have 12 people that coached the same way as I do because who’s to say that what I’m doing is right or, or otherwise I’m doing the best I can. But, um, we want those different experiences. And the connecting piece here is that whilst every different experience, every different coach brings their own experience, which, you know, a particular athlete my connect with. So they’ll say, “yeah, I like that coach over anyone else.” But it’s the shared learning of those experiences. I think between us, we have about 87 IRONMAN finishes. You have something like 25 World Championship qualifications between the coaching group. And that’s not to say that we just great athletes, it just shows that we have that, um, collective experience unlike any other so that we can put our hand up and say in the, and the environments they had to say, I, I’ve got an athlete who is always running into shin problems whenever we do this. Does anyone else have an experience with that? And then everyone will jump in on that. And it is a wonderful environment to be a part of.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah. I’m uh, I’m kind of jealous hearing about that cause I, I think about when I first started coaching and it was, uh, at least for me it was very isolated experience. And when I first started working at TrainingPeaks, I was so excited to finally have other people to talk to about training. And I, we were talking about it the other day and it, it seems like the newer coaches in the beginning think they have the secrets. And so they’re very tight with that and they don’t want to tell anybody else. And then the more experience you get, the more people are willing to share. But to be able to have that community that you can go without judgment and bounce questions off of people and get feedback is,

R. Thompson:              

And that’s all just for the end of the day becomes the benefit of to the athlete.

Dave Schell:                 

Right.

R. Thompson:              

Because you’re tapping in not to just one coach, but to a bank of of 12 or exponential number of coaches and their experiences and that’s experiences. But then we also focus on can we have a continual practice development program or CPD program whereby we give the coaches guidelines and requirements to have external learning throughout each year. Um, we bring them to a central location each year as well to help them with other areas of the, of coaching like linguistics and ways of better communicating with athletes. Um, it’s, and providing some sort of support to help them with that learning. So it’s not just the, not just the shared experiences that we were leaning on, but it’s the actual getting out there and learning the latest and greatest of training methodologies as well.

Dave Schell:                 

Right. So what if a coach is, is out there doing it on their own and they don’t have access to somebody like this? Do you have any advice for them to like where are places they can seek out this knowledge?

R. Thompson:              

I think, um, I think I, it’s an interesting point you made about how lonely it is and I think it can be really lonely and even, it’s something that we’ve always focused on is bringing the group together, whether it’s a monthly Skype chat where everyone can see each other. Um, but if you’re doing it yourself, I think the best thing would be to reach out to somebody who’s a good, who’s an experienced coach, um, and see if you can be the, you know, see if you can tag along or catch up with them once a month just for a chat about, uh, you know, almost like a mentorship. I think there’s a lot of coaches out there who would be very happy to be a mentor and it wouldn’t have to be a financial transaction if they’re willing to impart that knowledge. Um, yeah, so I’d encourage them to, to look, you know, look up a coach that they aspire to or they think that they respect or otherwise think is doing a good thing for the industry and reach out to them and see if they can bounce some ideas off. And it’d be, I think a lot of people would be surprised how open a lot of those coaches are.

Dave Schell:                 

So when you are presenting today, when you’re presenting at TrainingPeaks University, one of the things you talked about that I had never heard before, but it kind of resonated with me was the difference between a finite game and an infinite game. Can you speak a little to that?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, so James Costs as the author, I think back in the 80s and maybe Simon Sinek has jumped on it, um, in more recent times. But, um, I think the premise of it is to work, to understand the game or the business that you’re playing. And I think a lot of people, uh, and especially in triathlon, but also an old businesses, they are very ego driven and wanting to be the best or the top 10, they want to be in the top 10 of something or there’s always so many. I mean, we’re in a data driven environment in any event. But as a business, you’re always thinking, wanting to be the best or wanting to be, have some sort of metric as to work out where you lie within the industry as a coach. But the definition of finite and infinite is it a finite game is known players, uh, fixed rules and the act and the, the goal is to win, you have a winner and a loser, so baseball, cricket, AFL which you’re attending tonight. Um, the infinite game is, uh, unknown players. The rules are there, but they change often. Um, and the objective is to perpetuate the game or to at least, uh, not leave the game. You cease playing the game if you, um, you lose the will to keep playing or you lose the resources. And so things like, uh, as I gave the example today is being a parent. You know, you are, you can’t be the best parent in the world. You can’t be the top five mother or father or you know, it’s a, it’s a forever game. Um, and the rules always change. The players always change and, um, but it’s, you know, the same with business. That’s essentially the moral of the story and it’s just as ridiculous as it is to say that you’re the best dad in the world or the best dad in the country is exactly the same as saying you’re the best business or triathlon business for example, in the country or your state. Um, you know, what metric are you using? Is it the quarter, are you basing it on sales for this quarter? You basing it on athletes, number of athletes you have, but how successful you are as a coach? So I think if you can, if you can focus on understanding as a coach in your business that you’re playing an infinite game, then your driver is being the best that you can possibly be. The only competition then becomes you. Um, and now I think if you can accept that, then a fair weight comes off your shoulders and as a business owner and you understand that you’re in it for forever or for a very long time, there’s no rush. There’s no rush to growth. Um, and, if you, if you just focus on your own backyard, and focusing on what you’re doing, then everything else will take care of itself.

Dave Schell:                 

So I have to ask, how did you end up finding that book? Is that something you had read before or did you happen upon hard times that you were trying to grow this business?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, I think, uh, I think, um, you listened to I guess on podcasts. Or you listen to business successful business people. Um, not, not in this sporting industry, but just business in general. Um, and you pick up on what, there’s a common thread of, of literature they listened to or they prescribe to. And I think it was, um, the CEO of AT&T actually, that, um, first referenced that when I thought, oh, I should get that and have a read.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah.

R. Thompson:              

Um, but by accepting that you’re playing an infinite game, that will then determine how you spend your resources and whether you’re chasing that a number one ranking, which means nothing, which in fact, uh, isn’t actually in existence because you’re the one determining, um, that ranking. Or whether you’re, conversely, whether you except you’re playing an infinite game and then you can put the resources to things that are much more, you know, uh, help you, um, play that infinite game and be the best version of a coach that you can be or the best business owner that you can be with disregard to what the competition’s doing. You’re just focusing on your own service.

Dave Schell:                 

Um, earlier today, again at TrainingPeaks University, one of the things you talked about, and it’s, it’s probably something that’s familiar to a lot of people now, but it’s so simple, yet it’s so important is finding your why. And so would you just speak to that a little bit? Is it, is that something that you’ve found over time that like you weren’t doing it for the right reasons, or is it what motivated you to take this step and move on?

R. Thompson:              

Yeah, I think it’s a question that a lot of people don’t want to ask themselves, whether they’re an athlete or particularly as a coach, you don’t really understand why you want to do it. And if it’s for, I think external reasons, whether it be ego, whether it be monetary, I think you’re applying it pretty short term game. Um, whereas if you sit down to yourself and work out what you’re actually wanting to achieve, what’s, what’s driving you. And it’s a pretty, it’s a wonderful industry, wonderful profession to do because you’re essentially, you’re being, you’re being given the ability to shape someone’s athletic prowess and they have dreams and goals and hopes and you’re in charge of that. And that’s an incredible, uh, honor and a wonderful position to be in. Um, but further than that, you’re, uh, you’re helping them become better people through that journey. And so if that’s what’s, you know, so if you think if you sit down with yourself and go, “I want to help people change their lives or help assist them have better lives” then the why or whatever your why is, but as long as you understand it and as long as you really can define what that is, then you can, then that’ll get you up in the morning. You know, when times are tough or it’s a difficult period of, of business or otherwise, you know, you can lean back on that and go, no, I’m here for these reasons, not for anything else. And that will always send to you and bring yourself back to, you know, bring your compass back to true north and you can keep going.

Dave Schell:                 

Yeah, I agree. I think that’s very important. I agree with you too. And that sometimes it is uncomfortable to acknowledge why you’re doing things. And I just, in my experience, I’ve seen some, it’s ended some athletic careers because when an athlete realizes that they’re doing things for the wrong reasons, for those extrinsic motivations, and it’s all of a sudden they have to take that hard look. And so I think it is such an important thing to find out why you’re doing things.

R. Thompson:              

Yeah. And that infinite and finite game is so attributable to athletes as well. And the why piece, because I think a lot of, a lot of athletes, you know, a good age grouper, or just weekend warriors, they don’t know where the finish line is for their career as triathletes. So they will at some point go into the umpteenth IRONMAN and don’t really understand what they’re trying to achieve or why they’re in, why they’re doing it in the first place. And I, I’m, I, I’m really honest with the athletes. You sort of go, well if you’d rather do rock climbing then do that. Like life is so short to do anything that you don’t want to do. And unless your, whatever your goal, it’s okay to take a break from the sport. It’s okay to not do this sport. Um, if it’s not, um, if it’s not contributing to your overall, your overall why, but if you. So it’s important to keep going back to that as athlete, as an athlete to go, you know, what am I doing this for and where is my finish line?

Dave Schell:                 

I’m sitting here smiling as you say that because I was just reminded of the, one of the slides you had up today. And it’s the quote: “One life. Just one. Why aren’t we running like we are on fire towards our wildest dreams?” So is that from you or is that, who is that attributed to?

R. Thompson:              

I don’t know where I got that one from. I don’t think it’s this, I don’t think I’m that intellectual. Um, but totally, I, you know, in my, I mean, my background as an athlete was that I wasn’t, I wasn’t athletic at all as an adolescent. I was an overweight goalkeeper because it involved the least amount of running. Um, and I’ve been able to achieve, you know, some incredible feats as an athlete. But, so that’s shaped I guess T-Zero that, you know, we think that whatever your goal is, you can, you can achieve that. Just, and the same with business. You can, we can, you can make, you know, gone are the days that coaching is just a part-time pocket money, you know, side project. It’s, it can be a full time career now. And we, you know, we really encourage that at T-Zero and, but for the athletes, we, we sit them down and work out their why but also set some massive goals and say, why not? Why, why can’t you, why can’t you achieve something that you absolutely right now believe is not possible to achieve. Because this sport is an endurance sport. It, it’s not, uh, apart from the, the swim, it’s not really a technical, not like, you know, not a technical sport in that sense. So I’ve seen athletes go from, you know, 14-hour IRONMAN athletes to Hawaii qualification really, you know, over over a couple of years. It’s not insurmountable. So I’d encourage, on the lines of that quote, whatever you want to achieve, you know, set some massive goals and just be brave and go after them.

Dave Schell:                 

That’s fantastic. And I feel like that’s an awesome place to end. So before I let you go, do you have any recommended reading for the listeners, either reading or podcast or YouTube videos, whatever it is, are there two or three things that you think would be really beneficial in building your coaching?

R. Thompson:              

As coaches, I mean, I, and this isn’t, uh, this isn’t, uh, a plug. Joe Friel’s Bible is incredible. Um, outside of that, um, I would encourage anyone or every coach to get their hands on, um, or listen to interviews with coach John Wooden. He’s a, uh, arguably, uh, he’s a very successful basketball coach in the United States in college. He’s now passed away. But the philosophy of his coaching style I think needs to be employed or adopted far more in all coaching circles. So with our coaches, I always recommend them to, uh, to listen to his interview. Especially the one in, um, with Tony Robbins. It’s a two-part interview.

Dave Schell:                 

I bet that’s fantastic.

R. Thompson:              

It is incredible. Um, and then, other than that, yeah, I think, Ryan Holiday’s Obstacle Is The Way is a wonderful read. Um, that’s probably my most gifted book. Um, as well as his second book after that was the ego. Ego Is The Enemy. Yeah, that’s about it in terms of getting the mindset around understanding that, what’s that anything is possible, but also understanding that I think the humbleness and having that empathy, being empathetic enough to be a very, very good coach.

Dave Schell:                 

Thanks again. Those are absolutely great recommendations and we’ll be sure to put those in the show notes so that the listeners can find them. And thank you, more importantly, for making the trip from the Sunshine Coast to come and share your knowledge with the coaches today at TrainingPeaks University.

R. Thompson:              

Thank you, Dave. It was an absolute pleasure for T-Zero to be here. Um, and we started with TrainingPeaks in 2011. Um, so approaching 10 years now. And, um, yeah, we are very privileged to be here.

Dave Schell:                 

We appreciate it.

Hey guys, Dave here again and I hope you enjoyed my chat with Richard Thompson. As I mentioned, we talked after TrainingPeaks University Melbourne. If you yourself are interested in attending a TrainingPeaks University to learn how to save time and be more efficient as a coach, you can go to TrainingPeaks.com/TrainingPeaks-University and see all our upcoming events. We’ll also make sure to link to it in the show notes. Until next time.

The post CoachCast: The Infinite Game with Richard Thompson appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Filed under: endurancesports

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!