Friday, August 17, 2012

Stillpower: Excellence with ease in sports and life

By Garret Kramer
New York, Atria Books, 2012
195 pages            Nonfiction
The Shortlist

It was always fun for me. I loved baseball so darn much. By the hours I practiced, you’d have to say that I was really working, but it was pretty much tireless fun.” Ted Williams

Stillpower by Garret Kramer teaches coaches and athletes ways in which to harness their inner peace in order to master their sport. Filled with practical advice but also with wisdom about work and joy, Kramer offers a new way to look at sports and sports training. The powerful message of the book is appropriate for all endeavors.

One of the main messages of Kramer's book is that when you take joy out of the equation, sports becomes drudgery; drills and endless practice aren’t fun, and players lose their passion. He says, “The more we try to control our effort (or our thoughts about effort) the more we tend to get in our own way—and reduce our odds for success…when effort is unbounded, we don’t even think about trying hard.”

I have no experience with sports, except as a mother and grandmother. But I do have experience as a musician and piano teacher. The philosophy of Stillpower works for music as well. I know that as a piano student when I was practicing in “the zone” so to speak, I could go on and on, playing scales, practicing pieces, preparing for recitals. When my mother imposed a time constraint, as in “you have to practice for an hour,” I hated every minute of it. I took that experience to heart when I taught piano lessons and made sure that my students had plenty of “fun stuff” to play—things that taught them the skills but still made them happy. I wanted them to feel the joy of mastery. 

When I was a sports mother, I didn’t know enough to coach my son or yell instructions from the sidelines. I did watch a father on one of my son’s soccer teams who week after week would haul his kid aside during halftime and upbraid him for something he had done in the first half of the game. The kid never played well in the second half; he would get off sides, yellow carded, sidelined. He obviously was trying to control his efforts but to no avail. He had lost the joy of the game.

My granddaughter, Maya, is becoming a good soccer player with her dad as one of the coaches. I was there when she scored her first goal. A look of pure joy crossed her face. When I hugged her after the game, she said, “I did that for you, Grandma.” So far she loves everything about soccer, which she has been playing for about 5 years. I want her to keep that enthusiasm.

I received a copy of Stillpower from the publicist. I would recommend this book because it contains a lot of life skills and good advice. I will be giving my copy to my son to help him as he coaches young girls to play soccer. I also think that this would be a very appropriate book for teenaged athletes. 

Garret Kramer’s website:

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