The Brexit Effect. The Union Jack has been taken down at Ratingen today.
Tomorrow it’s time for Jess to compete. Today it’s a day to seek out calm in Europe for Toni, her and the team. I suspect they are not alone in that. Therefore it seems the ideal time to reflect on how we can all get better. Following on from Karla’s subterfuge in the gym she has risen to a second challenge; submit a guest article from the blog. It may not be the standard fayre that readers of this blog are used to but it does provide a fascinating insight to athletic performance from the perspective of the athlete.
I’d encourage any athlete, or indeed anyone looking to improve their performance (in anything), to take the time to read this piece properly.
You can learn more from
your failures than your successes
During the past couple of months, a majority of the training group have now got their competitive season well underway. Like most athletes, we have experienced many good performances but also some disappointing ones. Athletics results, like most sports appear pretty black and white. Whether you are aiming for the Rio Olympics, looking to qualify for the national championships or just put in a good performance at an open meeting, the numbers are what you are constantly judged on and they don’t lie. You either threw 14 metres in the shot putt or you didn’t. You either jumped 7.00 metres in the long jump or you didn’t. You were either successful or you were not…
However, in this short blog I want to encourage athletes to look deeper into their performance than just the results, as these are not always the best measure of a successful performance. It is important to understand that there are positives and lessons to be learnt from every performance. Rather than ignoring the bad results, and put it down as a bad day at the office, it can be productive to look a bit closer at your performance and use it as an opportunity to develop as an athlete.
Process Over Outcome
The criteria that you and your coach use to determine whether you performed well or not needs to be independent of the result or outcome. Athletes who focus solely on the results have what is known as an outcome orientation and tend to respond poorly to failure or not achieving their goals. In contrast, the most successful athletes often have a process orientation towards their performance. Athletes with a processes orientation identify small steps, which can be both technical and mental that are required in order to perform successfully. For example, a 100m hurdler may focus on driving out of the blocks and keeping their trial leg tight whilst hurdling. Irrespective of whether you win or lose, you can assess your performance on the execution of those key processes. That way your performances are not determined by criteria that you have no influence over such as, competitors, equipment, weather, and those pesky headwinds!
So, I may run 2 tenths of a second slower than my previous race into a -1.6 headwind, but when I analyse the video footage with Toni I can see that I performed my key processes really well. This enables me to draw the positives from my race rather the looking exclusively at the disappointing time.
Growth Not Fixed
Athletes with a process orientation often have what has been termed by Carol Dweck as a growth mindset. Athletes with a growth mindset view failure as an opportunity to learn and weaknesses are things that can be improved upon. On the contrary athletes with a fixed mindset sees a failure as a reflection of their ability, and that they are simply not good enough. However, an athlete with a growth mindset believes that anyone can substantially improve their sporting performance, that doesn’t mean everyone can run as fast as Usain Bolt, but it means that everyone can improve and the harder you work the more you’ll improve.
Even an athlete with a growth mindset can and will still perceive a failure as a painful experience, but they don’t let it define them. Instead a failure is an opportunity to bounce back from poor performances. Elite athletes must be able to respond well to setbacks and failing to achieve their goals.
An Effective Debrief
Rather than sulk or get angry about a poor result and put it down to the fact that you are simply not good enough, you need to approach it more proactively. In order to improve your chances of a good performance in your next competition you need to take something useful from your last one. One way you can do this is to debrief your performance by honestly answering the questions below. Toni got us to do something similar a couple of weeks ago when a few of us were disappointed in our results. I prefer to write my answers down as it gives more structure to my answers (rather than rambling thoughts) and also means I can go through my answers with Toni at a later date.
- Describe the event. What actually happened?
- What went well?
- What could I have done differently?
- What do I need to do to perform better?
- What would I like to do better next time?
Take Away Points
- Focus on the processes when assessing your performance, it’s not solely about the outcome. There will be positives in every performance.
- Look at your disappointments as an opportunity to learn and improve.
- Logically evaluate your performance with a debrief rather than emotionally reacting to the results.