Comfort food for thought

Comfortability is a strange thing. So many yearn for it, love to have it and keep it close. Comfort is often what people strive to achieve in their every day lives and routines. Yet as nice as it is to be comfortable, comfort itself is a plateau.

Over the last few years, I've had the opportunity to talk to many high level athletes from many different sports. I won't name names, and I won't go into specifics about any particular program. I'm not looking to get anyone in trouble, just giving my opinion on the mindset of sport (Sorry to those of you who got really excited to hear some juicy gossip). Actually, I find this pertains to many walks of life, but I'm an athlete, so if I relate it to sports, people might actually think it's insightful. Back to the point, after talking to all of these experts in their respective fields (sports), there always seems to be a story of a coach, or trainer, or administrator, or official, or teammate, sibling, parent, local legend, superfan, pizza guy, etc. that told them, in some way or another:

"This is the way it has to be done" "This is how it's always been done, it'll be too hard to change" "This is what funding partners are looking for" "I've seen a lot of [sport], and this is how most people do it" "If you were truly dedicated, you would do what everyone else is doing"

To which my response (at least in my head) is always "Oh yeah? Let me prove you wrong." In my opinion, these are the people who are happy to reach the comfort plateau, and remain there. It is possible to grow substantially, by doing things the way they've always been done, and I do agree there is some value in it. But at a certain point the growth will slow down, and if you continue doing things the same way as everyone else does them, you likely won't surpass any of them. Hence the plateau. Now I'm being a little misleading with this plateau metaphor, because it will undoubtedly lead you to believe that the ultimate goal is to go beyond the plateau and find the peak of a mountain. Actually, to those seeking excellence, the peak doesn't exist. Those striving to be the best are not climbing mountains, they're climbing the Penrose impossible staircase (below). There is no endpoint to development, so suggesting there is one single method to reach it seems a little too good to be true.
Now maybe I'm just the stubborn 2 year old who loved to say "No", but when I look at athletes at the highest level, I don't often see the people who complied with "the way it has to be done." In fact, most often the difference between the best athletes and those trailing, is how they innovated their training regime. They went beyond the ordinary way of doing things, and came up with something new that helped to propel them forward. Often surrounding themselves with the coaches and trainers, etc. that are willing to innovate and develop their techniques right alongside them. The people who stand out are the ones who find a way to be different, and use it to their advantage.

Now obviously I don't condone going so far outside the comfort zone that it would be considered illegal. Steroids = bad, sabotage = bad, ignoring rules/laws = bad. I merely suggest finding multiple methods of climbing the staircase until you find the way that suits you. Everyone learns and develops in a different way, and so it makes sense that every process should be different. If there was an easy way to become a champion, everyone would be one, everyone would coach one, everyone would administrate the program that develops them, etc. (Participation trophies don't count).

What I've found myself preaching at various clinics that I've coached over the past few years, and especially quite recently thanks to the newly formed West Coast Beach Volleyball Society is to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, because that's where the big changes are made.

And trust me, I know a thing or two about being uncomfortable

Ben Jammin


Game Time

Time is such a strange thing. When you're looking forward to something in the future, it seems like the days crawl by, and when that moment arrives, it's over in a blink. But when you're remembering the past, those times of excitement seem to get replayed in slow motion to the minute detail, while the lead up and preparation gets skipped over, like it was hardly there. Albert Einstein once said.... Something about that I'm sure, but I've tried to sound smart for long enough already. 

Here we are in the preseason, when one day stretches into the next as we wait for the season to start. Even this year, with the first tournament getting going as early as February 15th, which I realize is only a couple weeks away, it just feels like more. (As I write this it's actually hitting me how soon it actually is, though I'll likely forget that at my next 6 am wake up). Chaim and I won't actually play our first event until the Maceio Open the following week, which makes it seem that much longer. Any week where others are doing things that I could be doing extends the perceived wait time by about a year. So going of my skewed perception clock, our first match is only about 18 months away (3 weeks by normal earth time).

There's only so much time that can be spent on the court or in the gym in a given day, so how does one go about passing the rest of the wait between matches and tournaments, you ask? Well if you'd stop interrupting me, I was about to get to that. 

Aside from watching all the TV shows (yes all of them), and remembering forgotten blogs, I find the best way to pass the time between trainings is by playing games. Any games will do, I'm easily entertained. The spectrum ranges from other sports, to board games (Notably Settlers of Catan and the like), to card games, to video games, to nerf gun battles (video below, if you follow me on Twitter you've already seen it), to guessing what time Adele's "Hello" will play on the radio during car rides (Because it will happen, we just don't know when.) Now some might call this a waste of time, but I beg to differ. In fact I think a diverse games portfolio might actually be the secret to success.

To illustrate my point I actually will use an Einstein quote:

Now the way I see it, in any given game, the people who can best understand the rules, and use them to their advantage, will most often win that game. Especially in a sport like beach volleyball where the rules seem to change every year (ex: Net touch rules), those players that are best able to adapt and manipulate their play to suit those rule changes, give themselves an immediate edge. At the highest level of play, and edge can mean the difference between a win and a loss. So the more games one plays, the better they become at learning new rules and developing new strategies around them.

So I've completely changed the topic of this blog from time perception to playing games, and I'd say I didn't plan it this way, but I actually wrote pretty much all of this and then accidentally deleted it last night. So today's version is a rewrite from yesterday's unorganized ramblings. So to summarize:

I get bored when I'm not playing volleyball, so I play other games instead and tell myself it's not a waste of time. Plus it helps to make the preseason move faster, or at least crawl a little less slowly.


Ben Jammin


Off to a Good Start

In the wake of the Porec Major Series, Canada's most successful World Tour event ever (To date, hopefully we can start to make it a regular occurrence). I just wanted to give out my congratulations to the people who truly deserve it. So without further ado, congratulations to Jamie Broder, Kristina Valjas, Heather Bansley, Sarah Pavan, Josh Binstock, Sam Schachter, and Chaim Schalk on a great start to the 2015 FIVB beach season.

It's taken a lot of spent energy and spent dollars for each of us, but it seems to be serving us well. And a big thank you to everyone in each of our teams personal support bubbles. All of our personal coaches, trainers, families, friends and sponsors deserve a lot of praise as well for believing in us as we put our whole lives into such a lofty goal with little support but for you guys. It's still early in the season, and I don't speak for the other athletes, but I'm sure we are all looking to continue the trend.

Ben Jammin