Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Friday, August 13, 2004



From a Cycle Sport interview with Dirk Demol, one of the coaches/leaders for the U.S. Postal cycling team:

You can't turn somebody into a great champion, but you can definitely improve things to the point where they are able to realize their full potential. In the case of Lance, Bruyneel was fundamental to his success in that it was Johan [Bruyneel] who told Lance that he could win the Tour for the first time, who made him concentrate exclusively on taking it.

Demol is suggesting that part of what a coach/leader does is convince athletes of their potential. I'd always had a narrower view of coaching, basically that coaches help motivate and provide specific information/knowledge. Convincing an athlete of their potential is, of course, a part of motivation. But, it is a specific part that I hadn't really thought about.

For an orienteer having an idea of their potential must matter. If you set your sights too low, you'll never reach your potential. If you set your sights too high, you'll likely get discouraged before you reach your potential. Presumably a coach -- a good coach, that is -- recognizes the level an athlete can reach, then explains it in a way that is convincing.

How does a self-coached orienteer figure out what their potential might be? Do we lose good orienteers because they set their sights too high or too low?

I'm reminded of an interview an American sports psychologist did with Kent Olsson, who was the world champ at the time of the interview. The American, Charles Parry (if I remember correctly), asked Olsson about his goal.

"To win the world champs."

Parry remarked that it was a very high goal; maybe too high?

"Maybe for you, but not for me," Olsson replied.

posted by Michael | 7:18 PM


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