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Culture Human Performance | 20.08.14

Commander Jay Hennessey, US Navy SEALs

Selecting Character and Competence

What are the character traits that need to be present in an individual so that he/she can face life or death challenges in the most extreme environments without losing site of the mission? What does it take to become a Navy Seal?

This extraordinary talk by Commander Jay Hennessey impressed upon us the fact that more important than determining how an almost impossible task can be achieved is determining who can actually achieve it.

In a few seconds, the speaker narrated the minute to minute steps in the execution of a military mission. From first getting into an aircraft, parachuting out, trekking across land to find a target, executing a mission, and returning to safety; all this without a moment’s opportunity to doubt one’s capability to return alive.

The commander continued by listing the traits they look for when recruiting potential navy seals. These are: intelligence, maturity, bravery, trustworthiness, accountability, and the attitude of a team player. If these qualities are present in the individual, all else can be taught in a 36 week training program. But without these traits, no amount of training will prepare the person for the challenges he/she might face.

Hennessey went on to discuss the fact that adversity can bring out the best in people if they have the character to perform under pressure. This fact can be applied not only to soldiers but also to players and to entire teams if they are to survive the difficult task of competition. He mentioned that there are thousands of scenarios where these survival skills can be developed and tested since the changes in behavior can be measured over time. He explained that training must be well planned and data recorded looking for the ‘blind spot’ or weakness that must be overcome.

As we heard in previous talks, communication is the key to success. Each player must know where he stands, how he is doing, what is weaknesses are and how to improve his performance. Coaches, like navy seal trainers, must know and understand their men, must know what they can do in the worst of cases, and motivate them through rating their progress, not by ranking them against each other. He repeated that character is what matters; focus on discovering and developing the strengths that are inherent in the individual and you will achieve more than you ever expected.

The Sport Performance Summit

2 March 2019


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