Friday, July 9, 2010

Watching to Learn

As of approximately 4:22 this afternoon I had watched 294 slalom race runs.  Today is the second day of the Slalom Junior World Championships in Foix, France.  I watched the men’s and women’s canoes and men’s kayaks race to advance to the semi finals on Sunday morning.  Yesterday was the qualification runs for the men’s double canoes and women’s kayaks.  Coaching this weekend alone, I estimate that I will watch a grand total of 680 individual race runs.  In addition to the Saturday team runs, race runs from the first and second Slalom World Cups, and all practice time from the last four weeks of racing.  Whether you count number of runs or minutes that is a lot of watching.

Looking around at the coaches here you see a handful of successful former racers, fewer Olympians, and even fewer World Champions.  If that is the case, how can these other people (including myself), who have never been counted amongst the greats, coach and develop our next generation of amazing racers?  They watch.  Not the mesmerized watching enthralled by the magic of grace and strength, but the harsh analytical watching of a critic looking for the slightest difference.

Active watching.  The process normally begins with the basics and steadily advances to minute details.  It includes analyzing individuals, but more importantly making comparisons between two racers or even the same racer on different occasions.  The key is to notice the differences and decide which is faster.  The most important step, in my opinion, is to take what you have learned and compare it to your own performance.  This part requires completely honest self-evaluation.  Asking questions is a great way to enhance anything and everything discovered.

I am learning that active watching is one of the best, not to mention fastest ways, to improve performance.  There is no prerequisite of greatness as an athlete to be a great coach.  The only skill required is that of active watching and a willingness to learn.  While coaches are credited with an eye for analysis, athletes themselves should be regularly focused on active watching and include it as a part of their training.  It is important to realize that the learning gained through watching is an organic process that is unique for each individual.  There is no right or wrong and no defined sequence.  Everything is open to interpretation as it applies to each athlete and the skills that they lack and own.

While I cannot quantify all that I have learned on this trip from merely watching the best in the world and those up and coming racers vying to take their places, I know that it has to do with: lift, free speed, gravity, patience, hip tension, bouncing, pulling like there is no tomorrow, smoothing out edges, paddling in a box, single stroke ups, cadence, flexibility, being gymnastic, releasing edges, eyes, fall lines, noise, neuro pathways, and so many more intangibles that I am sure I will focus on many of them through fall and winter training as I experiment with them.  While I have not been able to regularly paddle since coming to Europe I am extremely excited to try my new tricks the moment I get home!


Monkey see as Monkey do: Nic and Bug playing in the rain at Camping du Lac, Foix, France 2010

1 comment:

  1. Saw this on facebook - very cool (read: I'm incredibly jealous of your adventures)!! We need to catch up when you get back. Good luck with everything in the meantime!

    <3 Val