February 24, 2010
As we continue our series on failure, the above picture captures the sickening emotion Holland’s Sven Kramer experienced after his coach told him his was disqualified from a speed skating competition at the 2010 Olympics. Being the world-record holder in the 10,000 meters, Kramer was considered a favorite in this event. But a gold medal was not to be. Kramer was disqualified because he crossed over into another skating lane when he was not supposed to. How devastating to lose a gold medal because of a preventable mistake!
The interesting sidelight in this saga is that Kramer was ultimately not responsible for this mistake. His coach had gotten confused in the lap count and told Kramer to switch lanes at the improper time. The skaters alternate lanes at certain intervals to level the skating distance of an oval track with inner and outer lanes. Kramer’s coach, Gerard Kembers, told press corp members after the race that his “world collapsed” and that “this is the worst moment of my career.” The decision and direction of this coach cost an athlete an ultimate prize.
As coaches, we shoulder the responsibility that our words/influence have on the athletes with whom we work. In this instance we see where words have a negative effect. Trust between team members and the coach is imperative if the coach is to be effective, but that trust can be broken or “doubted.” Sven Kramer has been slow to blame others for mistakes that have occurred during his racing career, but this Olympics has changed that. His coach is to blame for this critical mistake. We leave these last two images for you to dwell on as powerful reminders of a coach’s influence on today’s athlete–for good or for bad.
February 15, 2010
The podium at the Olympics is a place where rewards collide with accomplishments. There is nothing like it. As an olympic athlete, reaching the podium and having a medal placed around your neck becomes a place of recognition that few rarely attain. The fulfillment of years of sacrifice culminates in your name and country going into the record books for the ages. But what is the cost of getting to that pinnacle? For some, just getting to the podium is not enough; it must be the highest spot-the gold medal spot-to be considered a success. As we have approached the area of failing as a coach and an athlete, we must examine the cost of failure and what it means for one’s future endeavors and challenges in life. Dealing with the failure of one moment, especially at the Olympics, can be paralyzing to a world-class athlete. The bitterness of defeat can leave a bad taste that can last forever. A radio broadcast from Feb 8, 1992 caught our attention. The link below leads you to the page where it is archived. Listen to the perspective of previous Olympians, and, as a coach, consider once more the cost of setting the podium as the ultimate goal and the possibility of disappointing circumstances that keep that goal out of reach.
Select the link below, and then select the radio broadcast number 2 about Olympic disappointments on the page. You need about 7.5 minutes to listen to it in its entirety.
February 13, 2010
Imagine being Nodar Kumaritashvili’s coach! Nodar is the young luge athlete from the Republic of Georgia who was involved in a fatal accident at the 2010 Winter Olympics yesterday. How would you process these moments during your life? As we have thought about failure, the above picture has caught our attention such as it is similar in posture to previous posts. It does not represent failure as much as grief and shock. One young athlete with so much enthusiasm for doing well at the world’s greatest sports venue has his life taken from him. This picture portrays his father, David Kumaritashvili, sharing a private moment with Nodar’s friends outside his home in Georgia. What would you say to them? What answers can a coach, who is supposed to have all the answers for his/her athletes, give during a tragic event like this? It is at these moments that a coach does not have the answers but must trust in the ONE who does. As finite beings, we are limited in our knowledge and understanding, but, in this kind of difficult circumstance, answers do not come through having knowledge; instead, these are moments of truth when we must trust instead of trying to have an “answer.” Not discounting knowledge of our sport, let’s also be coaches who live out our faith so that we can be there for our athletes in times of tragedy and loss.
August 24, 2008
I’ve been glued to the TV watching a good deal of the Summer Olympics and I hope a lot of parents are doing the same with their kids.
I can’t think of a better way to let them see what true dedication is all about. We kind of get lost in this world of football, basketball and baseball when there’s a whole world of athletes out there pushing themselves in so many other wonderful sports.
We’ve been pre programmed to accept what happens and “get’em next week” if we don’t win. But when you see a runner like Lolo Jones, favored to win her hurdles event, having trained for four years and leading with two hurdles to go when she hits the hurdle, almost falls and loses any chance at a medal, your heart breaks. She lies there on the track in shock knowing that at the age of 30 she’d probably never have another chance to win an Olympic medal.
All that training and dedication gone in a flash. But the lesson wasn’t over, because she picked herself up and walked over to do a TV interview where she conducted herself with class and dignity. Later they got a camera shot of her crying in the tunnel way beneath the stadium, but that was private.
Sports is a vehicle to teach youngests how to cope with real life issues. Don’t ever deny them that privilege and, as a coach, remember that you have a powerful hand in shaping that life.