Is athletic ability something that’s transferable? Deion Sanders was an outstanding baseball and football player, but Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, struggled in his short-lived baseball career.
I spent over a decade as a nationally competitive gymnast and learned a ton about performing under pressure, overcoming fear and mastering skills. I owe much of my success to my amazing coach, Levon Karakhanyan, who trained me for the last 3 years of high school and helped me earn a spot on the US Jr. National Team. (He also is the only man I have truly feared because he was … aggressive about correcting my mistakes and making sure I finished every last rep of my strength conditioning. And yes, there were serious consequences if I cheated.)
In 2007, Levon picked up golf as a hobby but quickly made leaps and bounds in his play. He is now a single digit handicap golfer (about 7.3), which puts him in the top 16% of all golfers in the US who keep a handicap, which is even more impressive when you consider that most golfers probably don’t keep a handicap at all.
And he’s done all this while being the Head Coach for the boy’s program at NESA and raising a young son. He’s now
In the interview, Levon and I discuss:
- How he got started as a gymnast himself
- What differentiated him from other gymnasts
- Why patience was a key quality of becoming a better coach
- How he found the time to practice while holding down a full-time job
- Why the ratio of practice to competition matters so much
- Jason: Levon, let’s start with gymnastics. You’re my gymnastics coach. When did you start doing gymnastics?
- Levon: I was about six years old in Armenia.
- Jason: Did they pick you up from a program? How did they find you?
- Levon: My parents were very concerned about me doing all kinds of crazy things.
- Jason: You were a really active as a kid so they wanted to put you in a gym.
- Levon: Yes. My aunt actually had a friend who worked in a gymnastics facility, after her complaining about me doing crazy things, she said,”Oh, it looks like he might be just the right person to do gymnastics. Why don’t you bring him over so they can check it out and see if he’s good.”
- Jason: So were you a good gymnast as a kid? Did you immediately …
- Levon: When I came, it was a selection process. They wouldn’t pick anybody. They were impressed. They put me on the bars. I did 10 pull-ups, and they said, “Enough,” and they were pulling me off the bars, and I was still trying to do more pull-ups.
- Jason: You were pretty strong as a kid.
- Levon: Yes.
- Jason: Did you have good air sense? Were you able to pick up some of that like the skills? Did you learn skills quickly, do you feel?
- Levon: Yes, relatively quickly. It was a long process from that point. Many years of training and everything else.
- Jason: You liked gymnastics too.
- Levon: Oh, yes. Absolutely. It was a lot of fun. I could do everything that I wanted to do instead of everybody telling me, “Oh, stop doing that.” Everybody was like, “Oh, yes. Do more.” Continue reading →
Whenever someone subscribes to The Art of Ass-Kicking (which you can do here!) I send them an email asking what I can blog about that would serve them. This post is inspired by email subscriber Simon Payne, who writes from the Czech Republic asking about self-coaching:
I’d love to know more about self coaching. I was training martial-arts under several teachers and masters yet it always came to me that I must be the ultimate coach to myself. I didn’t ever fully relied on anyone. And have some bad moments when I listened too much for advises of others. The point of having a couch is to have someone who is hard on you and reminds you and forces you to do the important stuff. And now, more than ever before, I need to train myself on my own. Not just in sports, but it’s much easier to create some routine in sports and then relate to it in other activities.
So my question would be: How can one be the best coach to himself?
… or at least make the inner coach better, without betrayal, not too soft and focused.
By the way, I’ve signed up myself for the 100push-ups challenge. You can see my progress here: http://link.simonpayne.cz/100pushups
And here’s my response:
Thanks for the email. I’d be happy to try to answer your question – it’s a good one.
I think what you’re asking is really how you can stay motivated and make sure you do the things you know you need to do to succeed. I think there are four things involved in this:
- Pursue activities that excite you and make you happy
- Feed your mind with motivational stuff
- Set up systems to support your efforts
- Eliminate things that hold you back
Continue reading →