Kaizen in sports: it never gets easier, you just get better

Kaizen can be applied to almost anything we want to be better at in our lives. It goes from our day to day actions, work environment, social relationship, and even to sports. This Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement has shown mankind that in an industrialized era things can be done in a better way. There is no reason for people to fear change, as long as it takes place in small steps, no one needs to freak out about the idea of doing things in a different way.

As an expert in productivity, David Kiger knows that kaizen is a great way for athletes to improve their performance and abilities. Sometimes it is not just related to the talents you were born with but with the level of compromise, dedication, and discipline you have to get better at the things that are important to you. It may be kicking a ball or running as fast as you can, being able to become a better version of yourself is something that everybody wants in sports.

Change takes time

Kaizen means change for better. Change in order to be more capable, efficient and successful in the things you do. The mixed martial artist Conor McGregor said it once: “I’m not talented I’m obsessed” referring to his discipline and constant dedication to become better at what he loves to do which is fighting professionally. For a man like him and thousands of sports players, change takes time. It is not something that comes in one day, it requires discipline, concentration, knowing your strengths and your weaknesses. Getting better at the sport you play requires following the kaizen philosophy and be patient with yourself.

Exercise –as any industrialized operation- requires having a method. It requires to identify the right process and use it in an organized and repeatable way. It also needs to be measured as you need to know whether or not your performance is getting better. Every physical activity in sports needs to be comparable, this way you will know where you are and if others are doing better that you. Also, different approaches need to be used in order to improve your results, making exercise innovative in order to get the expected outcome. In the end, if kaizen is applied in sports every player of any sport should be able to repeat the same ideas, concepts and training activities in order to keep on getting better at what it does.

Some may think it is difficult for humans to use an industrial philosophy such as kaizen in a field like sports. However, the fact that we are not machines helps us understand better and do better at becoming an improved version of ourselves. The reason to this is motivation, a key element for athletes in any sport. Motivation comes when you realize you can become better at what you do. It comes when you are able to detect what you are doing wrong and identify what you need to do in order to fix it. It comes when you start seeing the results and your body reacts differently to the same stimuli. The good thing of Kaizen in sports is that it allows motivation to stay because we are not perfect, we all are a work in progress.

Image courtesy of Irven Simmons at Flickr.com

A lifelong decision

As it was said before, we are lifelong learners who always have room for improvement. It is important to be aware that if as a sports player you decide to include Kaizen in your life, it will never go away. It will join you through your coach, training routines, diet, and practices. It will become a dynamic part of your life because you will have it ingrained in your mind. There is no way back from Kaizen in sports once you decide that is what you want to do. Because you will learn that you won’t stand for less than that.

Coaches often include Kaizen in their programs for athletes. The reason to this is that they believe it will help them find the necessary will and strength they need in order to develop their capacities. Coaches are in charge of helping their pupils understand that they should always seek improvement in any situation of their lives. How they act and react in a critical situation, the way they behave towards their opponent, what they do with their bodies before, during and after a match or a competition. There are all key elements given by Kaizen in sports that coaches need to pass to their students in order to make this philosophy a lifelong decision.

Kaizen is also an investment for team work. Working in groups of all sizes, with individuals who have different abilities helps kaizen to spread among teams. It stops being a matter of one single person and becomes part of a group of people who share a common goal. This facilitates the implementation of change through support between team members. This way it is easier for athletes to develop and follow the kaizen philosophy as part of a group with common ideas.


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