The Loser's Club

By John Kessel | May 27, 2009, 12 a.m. (ET)

One of the things about YouTube is the way contests I would never have had the chance to "see" are now things I can enjoy and learn from. The clip below by a blind piano contestant, who just made the top 12 of this year's Van Cliburn, share today thanks to one of my long time Rec.Sport.Volleyball pals, Ravi. I just sent the email below to the three guys who have worked with the US Association of Blind Athletes over the last 15 years, along with some leaders in the field of deliberate practice, as these performers show the results of such focused practice a very high level.

I often reflect on how we do not let athletes get as good at a sport they might be passionate about, as our culture allows musicians, dancers, and even scientists become focused. What would happen if you told budding scientists, they could only do biology for 3 months, then they had to do math, or physics or some other discipline? How about requiring musicians to have to change instruments each quarter, no more piano for you, you have to play drums now....and now the clarinet... Yes, you are a good ballet dancer, but your three months of training and competing is now up, you got to start listening to country and do line dancing, followed by three months of polka or the option to break dance...then you can return to ballet. We do no such things when youngsters seek to excel in these other areas, but when it comes to sport, we often force players to change by athletic rules.

Please understand that I simply am saying, if the kid WANTS to just play volleyball, or any sport, and has a passion for that, I think it is fine to let them play more. Play with or against adults, play doubles, play on sand. The operative word in part is PLAY, letting the games teach the game and the athlete develop without constant supervision (think how much musicians and dancers train on their own, without their instructors).

That is what this summer is about, and why at the clinic I will do Friday June 19th here in Colorado, we will give the new outdoor doubles junior players insights into the rules of the outdoor game, and how to ref it as well (for every team has to also referee in the outdoor tourneys), then they will play as many as 20 five minute games against all ages and both genders. Then they get to play in the Mountain Open in Vail the next day...followed by one of my favorite days of the year - Father's Day -- and the Father Daughter/Father Son tournament on the same field of play. Dads serve the dads, kids can serve anyone. Dads can play in the Father Son divisions (18s and 15s) with 2 or more kids, as long as the kids - son or daughter - are the same age (twins you know) or younger. Dads can play in the Father Daughter divisions (18s, 16s,14s,12s) with a second child or more - daughter same age or younger or son 2 years younger or more. Libero subs for these multi-child teams. I expect maybe 100 Father/Child teams to compete this year in Vail, something I started with Leon Fell a few years back that just keeps growing - and other regions now host both Mother/Child doubles events in May, and Father/Child competitions in June. I say go do one this year, just with your club, if not an all city or regional event. It is such a great way to play or start planning now for next year...

From a teaching teacher's /Growing The Game point of view...and the 10,000 hours along with way, this BRILLIANT price by Jon N about being a loser is also a MUST see, and sadly not seen by that many...I LOVE how others said to him along the way, you can't do this....and how, thru his passion and commitment to his competition, he persevered. PLEASE take 10 min to watch this Loser's Club piece, take notes for the times you need to speak to your players after a loss - and share the message and theme within to all.....

And while I am at it, if not already watched several times go get "Searching for Bobby Fischer" this week and watch it too. The lessons there of having a life, while becoming great at one thing, are wonderfully told thru the movie. One of my top 10 films from a coaching point of view.

Here is my email about the talented blind competitor in this year's Van Cliburn...

From: John Kessel
Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 1:53 PM
To: Mark Lucas
Cc: Roger Neppl (USOC); Charlie.Huebner (USOC)

Mark, Charlie and Roger - given your past and current work with the blind, thought you all would enjoy more than most the 10 minutes of Nobuyuki's play in this competition. Personally, every clip of the Van Cliburn competition are worth playing in the background while you work on other things for US Paralympics and beyond...just a few people have seen this on YouTube, but worth making it go viral IMHO -

Nobuyuki Tsujii plays Chopin Twelve Etudes, Op.1o during the preliminary round of the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition on May 23, 2009.

To learn more about the competition - in just 3 minutes, try this link

Would love to hear your thoughts and other grow the game ideas, just comment below or email me at