Sunday, October 14, 2007

It's Not All About Winning

One of the cool things about this sailing blogging nonsense is the interesting stuff that comes back in the comments to some of my posts. The feedback can give me a whole new perspective on some aspect of the game, especially how to approach it mentally.

So thanks to the folk who left comments on my post on Friday about how to assess my performance at a major regatta and whether or not a score relative to the rest of the fleet was a good indicator of progress or not.

I liked the analogy by the ubiquitous anonymous commenter to the measurement of business performance. To paraphrase what he or she said (and maybe to twist it a bit)... what's the point of worrying about something you can't measure such as your actual absolute level of racing skills? At the end of the day we judge racing skills by how we do in races relative to other sailors. So "pick a metric and stick to it". Sounds good to me. I went up the Worlds fleet so that's all that matters.

From a totally different perspective, Tim asks, "Did you enjoy it?" Well, yes I did, Tim. A hell of a lot. Thanks for asking.

But would I have enjoyed it as much if I had been last in every race? Probably not. So doing well relative to the other sailors is one factor in whether a regatta is enjoyable, but not the only one. So many other things contribute to having fun at an event like that.

The two perspectives for assessing performance, "stick to the metric" and "did you enjoy it?" remind me of conversations I had with a fellow sailor from another fleet at the Masters Worlds...

Before the races started he asked me, "So, are you going to win?"

My reply was, "Oh no. I'm just here to have fun."

He answered something to the effect of, "Yes. But winning is fun."

I'm sure it is. And to be fair he had a much more realistic chance of winning his fleet than I had.

After the regatta was over I bumped into him again. I knew that he had had single digit finishes all week, and had a great chance of placing in the top three in his fleet if he could keep it up on the final day.

"So how did things go today?" I asked him.

Looking a bit despondent he moaned, "Ugh. A learning experience." He didn't look like he was having fun.

So everything's relative. If we do well compared to our expectations we feel good about it.

As I write this, the two contenders for the US Laser Olympic spot for 2008, Brad Funk and Andrew Campbell, are tied on points after the 16 race selection trials. The regatta is over and they are in the protest room with protests against each other. It will all be decided in the room. One goes to China. One goes home after several years of hard work. It's a tough sport at times.

Update: It's over. Campbell won the Trials.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's worth some blogging time to consider the number two's, Paige and Brad. Will they now be training partners to Anna and Andrew? Will they in fact also go to China as reserves? Andrew may have another bike accident (I hope not)...

The four of them have been so close the last year or so, pairwise. It's really has been amazing to watch.

Anonymous said...

Right on wavedancer. But how about some blog time for the number three's? With everyone expecting the first two places in each fleet to be a foregone conclusion, the two kids that were third may be the biggest unsung heroes of the whole event.

Tim Coleman said...

I think I am vindicated in my comment on 'enjoyment' as a measure of how well you have done.

It seems sad that the guy you mentioned, who is evidently a top sailor and likely to finish in the top three, is not enjoying his sailing.

I think if you have the right attitude to your performance you can enjoy your racing/sailing irrespective of your finishing place.
If you do well then thats icing on the cake.

When folk get up-tight because they are not doing well then it seems to me that main point of a hobby/past-time/sport is lost on them.

In regards to objectively measuring your performance, well that is a hard thing to do as conditions do vary. I think that you know if you have improved, even if that improvement doesn't show in the final result. Similarly you know when you cold have done better.

It's good to measure ourselves against what we know and then ask the question as to what do others know that we don't that makes them go faster. Thats the route to improvement. But if you stop enjoying it then perhaps its time to find something else to do.

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