Thursday, June 27, 2013

Doing What You Know You Can Do - When You Need To Do It

In my last post I promised to answer a question posed to me by an excellent coach and friend. It was about "peaking", that seemingly elusive of all team and individual characteristics and there's no event that's more under the microscope to determine whether an athlete is performing optimally than at the Olympics. We have witnessed athletes who after years and years of dedicated, purposeful training, fail at the quadrennial mountain top of events. There are as many reasons for that as there are grains of sand on a beach. I don't know about you but I hate to see that happen to any athlete. I want the gold medalist to have won the medal, not for an opponent to have lost it and there's a huge difference between the two.

In my own words, I say it this way. When you leave the playing area, you want to be able to say that your opponent had to bring his/her/their "A" game and drain the tank to win. If that's the case, then you shake hands and leave the playing suface with head and heart held high. When that's not the case, then you need to be a good actor and make everyone around see you as a class act even though inside you feel like crawling into a hole. Outwardly there's no difference but inside you can't wait for the next training opportunities to learn from the loss and never to let that happen that way again!

To make every contest one in which the oppnent needs that "A" game and drain the tank is the utopia in sports as it spells consistency. Remember, as I've stated on numerous occasions, many of them on this site, you can never leave your skills at home so if you didn't perform well, it had to be for reasons other than a lack of skill. They were all there but there was a breakdown. You just didn't use them well but let's not go down that road today.

This is not going to be a long post as I'm going to differ to two excellent articles, one penned by Greg Wells of the Canadian Sport Centre who has an superb on-line piece on peaking (aka "tapering) and the other from the magazine "BC Coaches Perspective" (summer 2013 edition) authored by Laura Watson entitled "The End of 'Peak by Friday Coaching'" so I'll just add a few anecdotal comments beginning with one that I have espoused before and I'll use my recent experience with Canada's national senior teams as we trained to compete in the most recent World Senior Curling Championships in Fredericton, NB as an example. I asked each athlete, in the last week or two prior to leaving for the New Brunswick capital to concentrate on thier "real selves" and not be so concerned about their "performer selves". In other words, deal with any issues that may be a distraction at the WSCC. If there's a misunderstanding with a family member, friend, co-worker etc., try to resolve it or at least begin the process. If there's a project that could be completed, complete it. If there's someone with whom you've wanted to speak about a matter, take the time to do so. In other words, leave no loose threads at home so that when you arrive at the venue, curling is the only thing that matters!

Without stealing the thunder from Laura Watson's article in "BC Coaches Perspective", when you are the type of coach that "empowers" athletes rather than "direct" athletes, their ability to perform when best performance is needed the most is enhanced. You'll read about both types of coaches in Laura's brief but powerful article.

Another point I'd like to make at this time is to say that it's my view that over the years, the standard of training for our elite teams has been to play as many events as time, inclination and resources allow. I've seen more than one team come to the playdown portion of the season totally exhausted and mentally burned out. They still had their skills but their ability to use them was dimenished to the point that forcing the oppostion to bring their "A" game and drain their tank was only a dream. And there's no formula to be applied to all teams. I admit that some teams might need that weekend-to-weekend schedule of events but I'm equally convinced that there are way more teams who follow that  training regimen who should not! Just another reason to have a certified coach on board! Remember, train, don't strain and take your eyes off the prize and focus on the process!

OK, enough of me, enjoy Greg Wells article at (www.ausport.gov.au/sportscoachingmag/planning/tapering_the_real_art_and_science_of_coaching) and Laura's in "BC Coaches Perspective".

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