Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Creating opportunity...opening doors for early adolescent skiers

 
ideas on enhancing the learning environment...
 
 
 
Opportunity is something that everyone gets a shot at - show up, smile, be nice, work hard - good things start coming your way. Its a key piece of success - and something as coaches we should be doing our best to create. We can all be passionate about something - we can all work hard - but I think its opportunity that's the key mover and shaker in the crowd.  People successful at anything haven't got there on their own - they've worked hard, loved what they did, showed some talent or ability - and a big piece of the puzzle is that they've been helped along the way by others who've wanted to help.  I've recently picked up Malcolm Gladwell's Outlier. If you've read it you'll know why I'm mentioning it.  It's full of aha moments - great little stories about achievement, success,  and the mix of ingredients that build accomplishment.  It certainly has got me thinking about my role as a coach of early adolescent skiers - looking ahead to next season (starts in 2 weeks - yikes!) at what I can create to provide opportunity to the kids I'll work with.
 
Advantage creates advantage.  If you'd look, studies would show that kids who start life with an advantage tend to carry that advantage throughout their lives.  Having awesome parents is important.  Living in the right community makes a difference (I dont know that too many top skiers come from Florida or Bermuda).  Your parents' level of education tends to predict yours.  Their income matters in that it provides opportunites for you to access experts, access experiences, access the types of people that will help you to get ahead.  That's not to say that a person coming from a family living in poverty or coming from a family that didnt value education highly cant succeed - in fact we know they can - its the American Dream - rags to riches - the whole American culture is built on the notion that anyone, anywhere through their own hard work can become successful. But the fact is, that no one gets to the top of any ladder without having a number of different ladder holders, carpenters, safety advisors, skill builders helping them out a whole lot. Gladwell points this out in Outliers quite well.  No one gets to the top without alot of help from others. I think back to my own modest success as an athlete - my biggest success (1988 Alberta College XC Ski Champion) happened because on the day of the race, a bunch of my top competition was at national biathlon championships, and the dude who had been beating me easily all year, fell and broke his wrist during the championship race - and so I won.  Lucky really - but a win is a win and I'll take it - it felt really great - as any success does when you've worked really hard to accomplish something.   The win wouldn't have been possible had I not worked hard at my fitness (I remember Lyle Wilson had given me a copy of the Alberta team training program and encouraged me to go for it - and i did), diligently sought technical help, went to lots of races, thought positively and had coaches and team mates who made it fun to be there.  When given the opportunity, successful athletes work as hard as they can to be their best.  The point is that sometimes being successful is the result of the opportunities that are presented to us.   Its our job as coaches to be those people that help to create the opportunities.  Easily said, but really what does 'opportunity' look like that will advance a young skiers ability?

Opportunity is about timing - the stars align, the sun shines through a break in the clouds just when you really need it, you have a really really good race when it counts.  This kind of thing happens all of the time in our sport - I saw it happen at junior/youth world biathlon trials in Canmore this past January - underdogs coming out on top and taking a trip to Austria for the world junior/youth championships because the stars aligned for them and they got their plane ticket.  But even there, so many other things were in place so that when it counted it appeared as though it was as a result of just an athlete's skill and ability.  Not to take anything away from athlete performances, but the reality is that parents, coaches, prov sport organizations, team mates all played a huge role in the outcome.

When we go about to create opportunities, we go about to align the stars - to give an opportunity for athletes to work as hard as they want - to learn as much as they can learn - to be who they want to be.  As coaches we do these things by doing more than we have to do - more than the bare minimum - often because we know that someone did that for us when it counted.  We plan special trips to big events far away, training camps, exchanges, special guest coaches, access to specialized settings.  We give thoughtful feedback, build relationships, put together training plans that will appropriately challenge young athletes to be their best.  You know these kind of coaches.  If you were lucky you had one or two when you were younger.  Regardless, you can be this type of coach. 

Have a great season!

Roy  :)

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