Reading a book called “Thinking” edited by John Brockman put me back in touch with my concept of TENERGY. I said I would further explain my idea of TNERGY and why it’s important to consider in my post on my hockey sense model.
My mind has been primed for this subject by my calculus, social psych, and economics courses.
Let’s first take the perspective of the economist/social scientist, then we’ll take the perspective of the physiologist/strength and conditioning coach.
Utility was sort of a weird term when I came across it. At first I thought it was something to do with being able to use something (i.e., electricity)…but then I figured that it was really an economics terms that was synonymous with “happiness” or “satisfaction”.
In economics, we were given a whole bunch of models based on the assumption that people seek to maximize their utility. They do this by evaluating the potential costs and weighing them against the potential benefits. If the benefits of taking action (perhaps buying an iPhone) outweighs the costs, then you are likely to do it.
The concept was also introduced that the utility of something (let’s say an iPhone), drops as we buy successive iPhone. So the first iPhone is totally awesome, but then they become less awesome as you keep getting more of them, and sooner or later, you run out of pockets for them. This concept became very clear when my prof mentioned that water presented a bit of a paradox since you can buy it for $1.75 in a vending machine. It does not appear that water is very valuable if that is its price. But if you were dying of thirst, water would become much more valuable to you. You’d perhaps pay thousands of dollars for your first gallon of water if you were stuck in the desert. But by the time you got around to the 1000th gallon of water, you’d be less interested in remortgaging your house in order to buy water. This is in the concept of diminishing marginal utility.
The constraint on all of this is time and energy. My coined TENERGY term. The beautiful thing is that every single person on the same route as you has a similar TENERGY constraint. So your actions can be guided by exactly how much utility you can glean from a given amount of TENERGY.
The Sport Scientist Perspective
What we see in hockey, however, is that people get hung up on their strengths and don’t judiciously examine their weaknesses. They become really damn good a toe drags, and they just want to keep practicing them. Or conversely, they become super good at the beep test, and they go through incredible efforts to maintain their status as top beep testee.
Both these players fail to consider that their toe drag and their beep test isn’t what is holding them back, and they probably only need to devote a fraction of their energy to maintaining their sick toey and high VO2max.
I am 100% susceptible to this. I have always been in good shape, I was successful because I was in good shape, I have the self-image of being in good shape, my teammates think I’m in good shape, and I am a strength and conditioning coach, so I feel like my clients would expect me to be in good shape. But for me to get in 5% better “shape”….I’m going to have to go through a hell of a lot more work than an untrained 14 year old to get the same improvement. Meanwhile, there are other areas of my game that I need more improvement in than my physical conditioning. Spending one hour of my TENERGY on stick handling, would probably give me greater benefit to my game than spending an hour on squats.
Now let’s look at the actual energy component of TENERGY. For this, we need to get into the eastern concept of yin and yang.
Yin: female healing energy. I think it’s synonymous with the parasympathetic nervous system, tissue building, recovery
Yang: male active energy. Synonymous with sympathetic nervous system, tissue breakdown, activity.
When athletes devote too much of their TENERGY to yang-type activities, they become unbalanced. The lack of balance manifests as fatigue, overreaching, and possibly overtraining.
So going back to our beep test king, if he’s capable of ripping off a 15 on the beep test, he’s going to have to exert a lot of yang energy to bump is beep test up to a 15.5. So not only will this require more time, but it will also require more yang energy. Subsequently, if he is to bring his body back in balance (recover), he will require more time spent doing yang type activities (sleeping, resting, meditating). So the (poor) choice to strengthen a strength will lead to both time and energy implications.
Our toe-drag expert may not have the yin and yang energy imbalance of the beep test king…but can still benefit from seriously considering the weaknesses in his game and then working to improve them.
I find that many players don’t really want to look under the hood of their hockey careers. They developed the way they developed, and they accept it. They don’t think that they can alter their trajectory or different aspects about themselves. They also see successful players who had the right genetic makeup, the right experiences in early childhood, the right coaching, and the right opportunities who never had to look under the hood, and they think that it would be unnatural if they did. Indeed, it can be challenging to do, to examine your own weaknesses…but being purposeful about directing TENERGY, and directing it at those weaknesses is a good place to start.