The Jungle Tiger
Click HERE for the video version.
Sam and Nick are brothers. Sam and Nick are also tigers.
Sadly enough they were separated at birth and Sam went to live in a zoo.
Here he spent most of his time in a cage.
Every day the zookeeper would bring him food and water.
Every day was the same. Everything was done for him. It was easy. It was safe. He learned a couple of tricks like how to jump through a hoop and stuff, but that was about it.
Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Nick was growing up in the jungle.
When he was hungry he had to hunt. When he was thirsty he had to find water. Nothing was done for him. No two days were ever the same.
It was hard, random, and sometimes dangerous. It was the wild!
It wasn’t always easy but after awhile Nick learned to adapt, to survive, and take care of himself.
Quiz time! What would happen if we took Sam the Zoo Tiger and threw him into the jungle?
That’s right – he couldn’t hang, like at all. In fact, he would probably starve to death while wondering where the zookeeper was with his lunch!
But why couldn’t Sam the Zoo Tiger survive? Because he never learned to do anything. All he knew was what was inside of his cage back at the zoo (I’ve done this talk with 2nd graders and even they get that).
On the other hand, Nick the Jungle Tiger was able to survive in the wild because he was trained in the wild.
This wasn’t about genes, natural abilities, or physical gifts. The ONLY difference between the two was the way that they were trained and developed. One approach was easy, safe, and repetitive and it led to death. The other was ugly, random, and hard but it lead to survival.
Tip: This lesson applies to ALL of us! You see, sports and life in general = the wild. And in order to survive in the wild we have to train in the wild. It’s really that simple. If you want to add some scientific terms to this what we’re talking about is the motor learning principle of specificity.
It’s so straightforward, yet as coaches and teachers we are terrible at applying it in our fields. We teach to the test. We use block practice. We label students and place them in developmental boxes. We can’t stand when things get a little ugly, a little random, a little out of control. We steer towards the simple, the easy, the safe, and the pretty approach. This essentially turns us into zoo keepers that are hand feeding our players and students, and developing a bunch of zoo tigers. And then, of course, we get angry when we don’t see results.
We do it to ourselves as well…
We love the comfort inside the cage. We shy away from the random and unknown in favor of the easy and the safe. We love doing things that we’re already good at and absolutely HATE the things that we’re not. We live like zoo tigers and then expect to survive in the wild. Sorry – Just ask our friend Sam, it just doesn’t work like that.
In order to grow, in order to learn we HAVE to get out of the cage. We have to get out of our developmental comfort zones and into the wild. This means trying new things, working on your weaknesses, finding a better job, and speaking up in class.
We have to go dance with the fear, make mistakes, and learn to survive in the jungle.
What is your comfort zone? What is the developmental cage that you’ve put yourself in? Why are you still there? Why not get out and head for the wild!?