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Cross Training

Old school sports fans will remember the “Bo Knows” campaign (circa 1989-1990) and the Nike cross trainers he promoted. The commercials were built around the notion that Bo Jackson played every sport known to humankind and he could do so in one pair of shoes. This was in the early years of the theory that cross training, or working out various muscle groups through different activities, could make the athlete better at their primary sport of choice. For instance, a golfer could potentially work on their flexibility through yoga and also their endurance by increasing the frequency of cardio exercise, which in turn, could improve their actual golf game itself.

Two People Working Out

The theory of cross training also applies to skill sets, in sports and in business. You need to look no further than this year’s NBA Finals which is being played out as we speak. One team (the Boston Celtics) have several players that are multi-skilled and can play both offense and defense effectively (aka “two way players”). The Dallas Mavericks on the other hand, have several specialized players. The Mavs two best players are extremely good on offense, but marginal on defense. Dallas has several solid defensive players, but nobody would call that group elite on the offensive end of the court.


Taking this NBA example a bit further, the Celtics built their team with an intentional effort to draft or sign two-way players that can defend nearly every position on the court. So when the Mavericks run their favorite “pick-and-roll” action on offense, the Celtics can either switch who they are defending, or stay with who they have. They have flexibility.


When the Celtics run the same pick-and-roll plays, the Mavericks are at a huge disadvantage as most of their players cannot guard players that are both small and large or even in between. Once the Mavericks try to switch who they are defending, the Celtics immediately get the ball to where the major mismatch is on the court (a sign of a very well coached and intelligent team). Even as we write this with only one game in the books, it is very likely that this competitive advantage held by the Celtics will be the undoing of the Mavericks over the seven game series.


So what does this mean to us in the sports tourism and events field, or to your business in general? We offer you three main thoughts…..


Team Building – As you recruit talent to your teams, whatever field you are in, try to attract people (teammates) than can play multiple positions effectively. This will allow your organization to adapt to different situations when needed.


Team Development – As you work to improve your team, remember the premise of cross training. Diversifying their skills will make them better in multiple disciplines, but will likely sharpen their primary area of expertise. This will also give your team some redundancy if you lose a player or have to put someone in a different position for a short period of time.


Play to Strengths – Whatever place along the team building continuum your group may be, play to their individual and collective strengths. Find the strategies (or plays) that work for your team and run those plays over and over and over. Whatever you can do to garner a competitive advantage, exploit it to the best ability you can for the greatest success.


Be intentional about recruiting the right players. Develop them in the most diverse way possible. Put them in the best position for success.


Bo knows.

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