Thursday, October 27, 2011

Project Rainbow Jersey

The two articles highlighted below lend some insight into the process that went on behind scenes of Mark Cavendish winning the elite mens World Cycling Championships in Copenhagen back in September.

The Inner Ring has a excellent piece with some perspective on all the elements that needed to be in place  leading into the race over the past years, to give the team the best chance to win: "The moment Cavendish won the Worlds "
"Above all there is Mark Cavendish, a phenomenal athlete who is so good he can win without a plan."
Cav has proven he can win in many circumstances, but is usually quick to credit his team, which the last years has demonstrated brilliant organisation, delivering him to the point where he could execute time and time again. But the World Champs is different, with the teams made up of riders whom many work for different teams/employers in their 'day jobs' the majority of the season, and therefore this team is not purpose built to deliver Cav in this same way. On top of that, Cav came into Copenhagen as the heavy favorite, on a course that everyone knew suited him, and in road cycling which involves teams working together, and often against other teams and favorited riders. Consistently great performances are about controlling what can be controlled and limiting how much luck is involved in achieving a result, i.e. making an unpredictable result more predictable through better preparation, knowing what really matters and doing those elements better than everyone else.

More interesting fact than the fact that Mark rode in a skinsuit, or used a plastic film over his helmet, is the process that went into the win, some of which is highlighted back in the "Project Rainbow Jersey" piece dating back to 2008 by CyclingWeekly, where coach Rod Ellingworth detailed the approach that British Cycling would put together to form the winning team over the course of three years, the challenges he knew they would face, and how they'd approach them.

There is rarely is much of that process and planning towards achieving world class performances out in the public domain.  It's easy to focus on the training plans, the physical preparation, looking at 'key workouts', recovery protocols, innovation and technology, but the elements that resonate in these two articles are how much success is about getting the human factors right, the motivations, familiarity and ease of working together as riders and staff, the riders working together and arriving in good form, and even the plan to get a full team on the start line.
"If Cavendish is to pull on a rainbow jersey, or win the Olympic road race title in London, it will owe everything to the work and planning started in the cold air of north-west England in November 2008."
Indeed: Process, Process, Process

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coaches Coaching

Google sent me a link this morning in advance of the Noosa Triathlon, about Australian James Seear:
"He is without a coach after the barring of Australian Institute of Sport's head triathlon coach, Shaun Stephens, from guiding individual athletes.
While Seear admitted that losing his coach of six years was not ideal, he graciously said it was for the betterment of the sport." - James Seear
I won't be as gracious as James - with so few triathlon coaches world wide with the experience that Shaun has, Australian Triathlon is worse off with him in essentially a management position. Triathlon is a small sport, with a relatively brief history, and few coaches specialising in the Olympic discipline. The pool of world class coaches with the experience to lead at the top level is very small, and now Australia has one less such coach at the coal face, where there preparation happens that backs medal winning performances. Conflict of interests be damned, get great coaches coaching, with minimal management overhead and athlete performances will come. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

On Focus and Attitude in Iten Kenya

A couple quotes from an article on runners based in Iten Kenya:
"And the focus, he says, is total. "You sleep and eat and train three times a day, there are no distractions," he says. "There's no place like Iten, I almost feel like I don't want to go home." - Richard Goodman
"Today, European running is full of athletes who are like "accountants" who "want to control everything" but the Kenyans have the "instinct and aggression" that's needed, he says"  - Renato Canova
On Focus and Attitude - these can be applied most anywhere, it comes more easily in environments like Iten, but we can apply these principles anywhere.

Read the piece from The Independent here: 
"Iten: At the highland home of the fastest people in the world"

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stephen on Steve

When I read this I knew it had to be captured it here - from Stephen Fry via the macalope:
Only dullards crippled into cretinism by a fear of being thought pretentious could be so dumb as to believe that there is a distinction between design and use, between form and function, between style and substance. If the unprecedented and phenomenal success of Steve Jobs at Apple proves anything it is that those commentators and tech-bloggers and “experts” who sneered at him for producing sleek, shiny, well-designed products or who denigrated the man because he was not an inventor or originator of technology himself missed the point in such a fantastically stupid way that any employer would surely question the purpose of having such people on their payroll, writing for their magazines or indeed making any decisions on which lives, destinies or fortunes depended.
The whole piece by Fry excellent and worth a read.

I draw much inspiration to my coaching from Apple's approach - the 'relentless pursuit' of excellence indeed. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs On life

Three great quotes from Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement speech that resonated with me:

On life"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
Nothing to lose, follow your heart - Why I went to the UK in 2009, and why I came back to Canada in 2011.

On work"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."
Doing great work, and not settling - Why I love coaching and helping people reach their goals, and why I left British Triathlon.

On instinct"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." 
Connecting the dots backwards- Why getting sacked from the Triathlon Canada National Triathlon Centre in 2003 was the best thing that happened to my coaching career - it forced me to make my own way and discover my own approach to coaching that I wasn't able to develop within the Federation structure.

RIP Steve Jobs