Monday, August 19, 2013

Preparation Precedes Performance: Assessing the Terrain (SF 49ers Style)

This post was updated on 08.19.13. 12:00 noon. 

Everyone prepares for a competitive situation in their own way.  Some mediates. Others talk and wait.  Phil Dawson of the San Francisco Forty Niners strategizes his next game time situation by studying the weather reports and practices his kicks.

Dawson, 38, routinely mines data from, and

“I’m pretty psycho, I’ve got to admit,” he said. “It’s a borderline problem.”

Dawson’s history in wind, sleet and horizontal-blowing snow became relevant when he signed with the 49ers in March. Dawson’s new home stadium, Candlestick Park, is known for its swirling winds that mess with field-goal attempts, and kickers’ heads.

But Dawson has been there. Endured that. He’s played 204 of his 215 career games outdoors, with 108 coming at the Browns stadium, which is perched on the shores of blustery Lake Erie.

Dawson has played 12 percent of his career games in Cleveland in December. The average forecast for the city in the final month of the year: High of 30.9 degrees with 12-mile-per-hour winds and .38 inches of snow fall (that’s from, Phil).

... Despite consistently weathering less-than-ideal conditions, Dawson ranks ninth in NFL history in field-goal percentage (84.0) and third in percentage from 50-plus yards (70.6). Seventeen months removed from his 40th birthday, he’s improving with age: He ranked second in the NFL in field-goal percentage (93.5) in 2012 en route to his first Pro Bowl and has drilled 14 of 15 attempts from 50-plus yards since 2011.

The 49ers believe they’ve upgraded after six-time Pro Bowler David Akers, 38, who was cut in March, endured his worst season in 2012. Dawson has missed 14 attempts (93 of 107) since 2009, one more than Akers missed in last year’s final 14 regular-season games.

Given his sustained success, Dawson is optimistic he can handle the inevitable surprises during the 49ers’ final season at The Stick.

PHILD“I think those experiences can only help, but they’re no guarantee,” Dawson said. “So I’ve still got to put the work in. I’ve got to wear out like I always do trying to figure out hourly forecasts and wind directions. Has it rained that week? Is the field going to be soft? Is it going to be firm? All that kind of stuff. I’ve got to do my homework.”

Dawson did some advance Stick scouting in the offseason, visiting the stadium several times to get more acquainted after only playing two career games in San Francisco. In 2003, Dawson missed his only attempt, a 48-yarder, at Candlestick. In 2011, he made his only kick, a 52-yarder. Not surprisingly, Dawson recalls that he kicked in ideal conditions during his previous visits to the stadium.

“The weather’s been perfect,” Dawson said. “I’m still holding out hope that I’m bringing that with me. Lord knows I’ve played in rough stuff elsewhere.”

Dawson has also endured rough seasons, from a team perspective. He’s appeared in just one postseason game and the 49ers’ recent success was alluring when he weighed his free-agent options.

Now, the weather wonk who has kicked in all elements is eager to experience playoff conditions for the first time since 2003.

“I’m more looking forward now to kicks that are more team-centered, rather than personal accomplishments,” Dawson said. “It’s been communicated to me that’s why I’m here.”

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Assessing the Process of Phil Dawson 
On the field, Mr. Dawson operates without any gadget. His research already tells him what would the weather be at that game day and at that specific time. Dawson knows the direction and the momentum of the wind at any part of the football field at any specific moment during the game and methodically follows his sequence of "readiness to implementation" with no hesitation.

He assesses by intuitively focusing on the range, the wind direction, the wind speed (by looking at the flags), the temperature, and humidity. 

The 1st step of Positioning is maneuvering to the right place and begins the process of visualization while synchronizing his breathing with the projected execution. Dawson's then pre-positions his kick to the ready position while being mindful of the wind direction and the location of the yellow-colored goal posts.

The influence begins when he scores the field goal and after the play is over. His team becomes more confident with him. In a climate-challenging situation, they know that there is a positive chance that he will score the field goal.

Influence always comes from a well-honed assessment and well-planned positioning.  All one has to do is to execute the influence.

To an outsider, it looks simple. Mr. Dawson have spent many hours, preparing himself for this type of complex-driven competitive situation. But nothing is ever simple especially in a highly stressed, high reward situation where there are other multi-components that also makes the kick operable.

The Compass Solution

Compass Rule: The time that it takes to assess, and position is inversely proportionally to that the time it takes to influence.

By realizing the complexity, the risk, the uncertainty and the volatility of a given situation, the successful strategists take their time to assess their situation systemically.  After a few sessions of intense preparation, the practice of implementing the "assess, position and influence" steps becomes automatic in a "real-time" competitive situation

The process model of Assessing, Positioning and Influencing requires some planning, preparation and practice.  Do you have the time, the discipline and the drive to do that?

The Questions of the Day
Do you ever methodically assess the targeted terrain before implementing your action? 

Do you make selective assessment a daily habit?   

# Side note: The key to building this habit begins with the act of centering.


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