Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Process versus outcome


Compare these outcomes for the baseball pitcher Zack Greinke:

Spring training: pitched 28 innings and gave up 30 runs.

Regular season (to date): pitched 36 innings and gave up just 3 runs.

So in the regular season - in games against the best competition when it really counts - Zack has been much, much better.

What is going on?

It looks like he was practicing in spring training, trying to learn rather than to do his best. This isn't exactly process versus outcome, but it is related. Here's is a quote from Joe Posnanski's article in SI about Greinke:

...changeup - that's the pitch he spent all of spring training throwing even through hitters battered it like crazy.

"He didn't care about the results," Moore [the team's general manager] says. "He just wanted to get a feel for the changeup. That's what's so amazing about Zack. He doesn't need the changeup to be good. He's already good. He worked on it because it can help make him great. And that's what the great ones do."

The story of Greinke's spring isn't quite the normal illustration of process versus outcome. The normal illustration is more event based - by focusing on a process during a given competition, rather than the outcome of that competition, the athlete does best. In this case, it is more of a long-term focus. By working on a specific pitch - the changeup - Greinke had to think about the process of the season, beginning with the spring training where the focus was on developing and polishing some specific skill.

You'll see the same thing in orienteering. I remember club mates who used club training events to work on some specific skill, often resulting in less than stellar performances in the training. I also remember club mates who used club training events to race - focusing on the results of the training, making every session a race. There were very good orienteers in each group. But the absolute best fit more in the first group than the second. The absolute best didn't necessarily perform the best in the training events. They used to training events to practice, not to race.

To use training events to practice and to ignore the results takes some confidence and some comfort with the club. When you're new to a club, you feel like you need to show what you can do. You want to have good results in the training sessions. Once you're a bit more established, you feel a lot less pressure to have a good result in a training event.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 10:20 AM


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