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Gaining that 1%

  I am an avid sailor. I have been sailing and racing sailboats since I was a kid. As such, I subscribe to a very popular sailing magazine and when it arrives, read it cover to cover. There are always great articles about youth sailing, local events, explanations of the racing rules and of course, articles covering the world of professional sailing.

  While not as well-known as mainstream sports, professional sailing is big business. Like Major League Baseball, there are rich owners with well-paid crew playing a game all around the world. Some of these crew can make a substantial salary with the top 1-2% reaching 7 figures. Most professional crew have won world championships, Olympic medals, etc. and are the cream of the crop and thus, get paid well so the owner has bragging rights at the Yacht Club.  

  Going through the magazine this past month, I read a very interesting article about gaining the “1%.” In the article, a professional sailing coach described his job and how he works with these top of the line professionals in an effort to gain that 1% in performance. He’s not trying to get the boat to be 1% faster but rather make sure every process on the boat becomes 1% more efficient.

  So, as a coach, if he can get the sail trimmer to make the sails 1% more efficient, get the helmsman (driver) to drive 1% better and get the various individual crew member to do their jobs 1% better, he can help the boat win a lot more races. 1% doesn’t sound like a lot but when you add up a lot of 1% increases, the result is often much more than the sum of its parts. These sailors are the top sailors in the world but still benefit from a coach helping them find that 1%.

  Being February in New England, I then thought about Bill Belicheck and the New England Patriots. Bill is the KING of getting that 1%. This is probably why so many castoffs from other teams find success in New England. They don’t have to be superstars and carry the team but rather contribute that extra 1% to the team. Bill knows that his teams are greater than the sum of their individual parts. By always striving for that 1% increase from every position, he keeps the New England Patriots in the thick of the Super Bowl race every year.

  So what does that have to do with tutoring? Well I figured that if the top professionals in their sports gain a benefit from coaching, we mere mortals can too, especially our students. A great tutor is like a great coach. They are not trying to make a superstar out of Single-A player but rather, they are trying to help that student reach his or her potential. They do this with small, incremental increases in lots of areas. In other words, they are looking to make small, continual, 1% increases which, in the end, are much greater than the sum of their parts.

  An academic turn around doesn’t happen overnight. No coach or tutor can turn a bench warmer into an all-star after one practice or session. However, if a tutor can make a 1% gain in knowledge, a 1% increase in study skills and a 1% decrease in anxiety in every session, we can make huge gains in a relatively short period of time. 

  So whether your student is a starter looking to be an all-star (i.e. a B student look to get A’s) or a bench warmer looking to break into the starting lineup (i.e. a struggling student looking to improve and pass), a good tutor-coach could be the key. A great tutor can get you that 1%.

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