| | Power Coach: Potential

Author / John

No better quote describes the 4th Quarter of Super Bowl LI AND final play that decided the 2017 NCAA Football National Champion. Aspiring athletes everywhere should take in the performances from 6th round pick Tom Brady, winning his 5th Super Bowl (nearly one for every QB drafted ahead of him). and the all-but-written-off underdog Clemson University claiming victory with a last second touchdown catch from a walk-on Wide Receiver, Hunter Renfrow.

Brady’s long-fought journey took him from being labeled not having “the prototypical NFL body” to dropping bombs on other mislabeled 7th Round quarterbacks and undrafted lacrosse players in 5 Super Bowls.

Similarly, the 2-star labeled recruit, Renfrow, knowing something about himself the scouts did not. Despite his looks and stature, two qualities scouts use to measure “potential”, Hunter worked his way up, eventually playing 88 of 89 snaps in the biggest game in Clemson football history to date.

Through Brady or Renfrow’s story, we learn one Empowering lesson: ‘Potential’ does not determine Performance.

Scout Team

Measuring and evaluating athletes for future performance success is a necessary evil in sport.

My coaching journey began with college lacrosse. Admittedly, I had a list to check when scouting future DIII All-Stars. My responsibility: predetermine their potential for performance based off stature, look, or numbers – basically assign labels. Naturally, I gravitated to the leaders, hustlers, and flow [bounce, lettuce] on the field. As my experience grew, so did my perspective for evaluating future performance.

This article will change your perspective from labeling to delivering honest appraisals of athletes within the mission of Empowering Performance long term, on and off the field.

Athletes, pay attention too.

Don’t Miss the Athlete for the Trees

Power Athlete takes a step back and considers all performance factors for an honest, complete look at an athlete. To accomplish this, we first define “athlete”: an individual who is trained or skilled in competition that requires physical strength, speed, agility, and/or stamina for executing a specific task.

Next, we apply the Power Athlete Performance Model, which breaks athletic performance into three trainable elements:

Athlete Elements

Athleticism: The ability to seamlessly and effortlessly combine Primal Movement patterns through space to accomplish known or novel tasks.

Power Athlete Methodology’s sole purpose is enhancing athleticism. Both Field Strong and Bedrock provide the opportunity for athletes to enhance their movement through space, establish a Base Level of Strength, and attack what we call performance limiting factors. All athletes, regardless of capabilities, have aspects that are potentially inhibiting performance. These are limiting factors.

As an aside, using the term ‘limiting’ refocuses coaches to view opportunities to identify, measure, and improve, versus labeling what an athlete lacks. A simple change in terminology can go a long way in changing the way we approach things. 

Anway, limiting factors will impair performance. Once identified, provide the opportunity in training to turn these into strengths. Can Power Athlete help?  Seek the answers through Seminars, Coaching Forums and Level One of the Power Athlete Methodology: Unlocking Athletic Potential.

Skill: The ability to successfully execute appropriate and meaningful techniques while applying efficient movement with a maximal effect gathered from an athlete’s experience, knowledge and practice.

Whether we’re breaking down the Olympic lifts or teaching how to throw a lacrosse ball, help the athlete understand your requirements and how to successfully execute. For each skill (1):

  1. Step 1: Determine the objectives of the skill.
  2. Step 2: Note any special characteristics of the skill.
  3. Step 3: Study top-flight performances of the skill.
  4. Step 4: Divide the skill into phases.
  5. Step 5: Divide each phase into key elements.
  6. Step 6: Understand the mechanical reasons each key element is performed as it is.

Coaching can be a frustrating when things are not clicking. Identify the athlete’s attitude towards the game, capacity to learn, and most importantly, discipline. If these traits align with the coach’s expectations, they will pick up on skills, systems, methods, and most importantly, culture, quicker than incredibly athletic individuals who are not willing to learn.

Mental: The ability to maintain a balance of logic and emotion within high stress situations to stay present and make decisions, adjustments, and corrections in real time.

The mental element is the biggest variable and often their biggest barrier for success. The point at which logic and emotion meet becomes an athlete’s worst enemy if not properly prepared. Champions remain present during competition. As @John describes, “be able to make decisions balanced with enough emotion to want to win, know how to win, and understand the stakes of the task at hand.”

Mental potential is limitless, but only if an athlete is given guided opportunities to unlock their power. The Power Coach Series has laid the foundation for identifying mental constraining factors and how to leverage psychological factors like self-esteem, control of emotions, and the ability to concentrate under the highest stress.

The Center = Performance

At the intersection of the Athleticism, Skill, and Mental elements, we find Performance. Athletes use their athleticism to display technical skills as their decision making and grit are challenged. The center of the Venn Diagram is an athlete’s ability to accomplish known or novel tasks on Game Day, but this is only found after the fact. Before competition, The Center means different things to different people:

Athletes: The Center = Flow State

From an athlete’s perspective, there is a deep meaning to the center of the Performance Model invisible to the coach, representing possibility, not potential. It is not their athletic feats in training, not the time invested preparing, or their reaction to noise (emotional, psychological, or you know…actual noise). It’s that point in competition where they can do no wrong, executing the most complex of actions in manner that appears (and feels) effortless. Every athlete strives to reach this in every game.

coaches: The Center = The ‘Potential’ Problem

From a coach’s perspective, the center represents the potential label, which becomes a complex problem when coaches and scouts are on the outside looking in.

Labels or grades become a scarlet letter that limits possibilities, as decision-makers are quick to judge paper over performance. Performance takes a hit when a coach operates with blinders, only measuring an athlete for a single label, foregoing fundamental development of other elements.

Even worse, athletes may to buy into their labels creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Athletes work towards unrealistic expectations, wasting untapped talent.

Empower Your Performance: The Potential Possibility

Have you been labeled and limited by someone else’s “perception” of your abilities? Empowering?

Fuck no.

Don’t pass this poor approach along.  Instead, identify what is limiting an athlete, not what they’re lacking, then provide the opportunity and direction to Empower performance elements. Take an honest, complete look at their athlete, not through the peephole of a checklist, but through the floor-to-ceiling window of attacking limiting factors.


  1. Burkett, B., & Carr, G. A. (2010). Sport Mechanics for Coaches. Leeds: Human Kinetics.
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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


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