The 20-60-20 Principle

The other day I just finished Larry Winget’s It’s Called Work for a Reason, a book that I think everyone would enjoy reading. In the book, Winget talked about what he calls his 20/60/20 principle when it comes to employees in his businesses throughout his career. The 20/60/20 principle states that you can place everyone within an organization into one of three groups, and I think this applies extremely well to the world of strength and conditioning.

This is the 20/60/20 Principle. It goes something like this;

The Top 20 Percent
These are your best athletes in the weight room, the cream of the crop. These are the athletes that everyone loves to work with. These are the athletes that you wish every single other athlete was like. “What if they were all like X?” is what you sometimes say to yourself. They are always on time. They always have a great attitude. They are extremely coachable. They work their tails off. They are strong, move well, and make you as a coach look great. Generally speaking, these are usually the athletes that are also the better players on the team as well – again, generally speaking.

The Bottom 20 Percent
These are the players that are at the other end of the spectrum when compared to the top 20 percent. These are the athletes that may have a quality or two that the top 20 percent have, but certainly not all of them. They are not bad people, far from that, they are just athletes that are limited in many ways. They don’t move quite as well and aren’t as strong. These are the athletes, that no matter what you do, never look as good as you would like – there is always something that needs correction and it’s an ongoing process for their entire playing career. Generally speaking, these are usually the athletes that make up the bottom of the roster of their team as well – not all the time, but majority of the time.

The Middle 60 Percent
These are the athletes that are pretty good. They are somewhat strong, move pretty well, but still have some holes in their game. They aren’t the top 20 percent but on the other hand they aren’t the bottom 20 percent either – they all somewhere in the middle. And again, generally speaking, this is typically where they fall on the roster of their team.

What does this all mean to a strength coach?

Spend your time developing the middle 60 percent. Your goal should be to move that middle 60 percent up into the top 20 percent – that’s where you’ll have the biggest impact on the team as a strength coach. The top 20 percent doesn’t need you to motivate them or hold their hands. Your studs are your studs and that’s not going to change. You will make your money on that middle 60 percent.

I look at this from the “Bucket Filling” analogy that Michael Boyle always uses. Coach Boyle always talks about filling the buckets that aren’t full with athletes. The strength bucket, speed bucket, conditioning bucket, movement bucket, power bucket, ect. With the top 20 percent a lot of those buckets are full or getting near full – there isn’t much more to add. With the bottom 20 percent most of those buckets need to be filled – there is almost too much to fill. But with the middle 60 percent most of the buckets have some water in them, some more than others, but many of them just need a little bit more water in them – and capping off a handful of buckets with a little water could make a huge different.

The bottom-line is this; push everyone to get better, but attack the middle 60 percent. This is where you can make the biggest overall difference to the team.

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