5.41%? I'll Take It!
One of the big challenges that I have always struggled with about my sport is the inability to accurately, and objectively evaluate progress. The only ways that I have available to me to evaluate how well I am sailing are: the way that it feels, how I am sailing relative to other boats, coach’s feedback and race results. While all of these are useful, they give me neither a complete, nor an objective measurement of where I am at with my sailing.
If you read my last update from about a month ago, you may remember that when I got to Sydney, things were going really well and I felt that I was making a huge amount of progress in a short period of time. As expected, after that initial jump subsided, I clicked back into the usual training routine with good days, and less good days, but still generally improving. One thing that I noticed, was that I was sometimes loosing focus, and not fully present and engaged in every training session. I wanted to find a way to maximize the productivity of my training, so I contacted my sport psychologist, Roger, to see if had any suggestions on tackling this issue. His first response was to ask me how we track and evaluate progress. When I explained that we really have no concrete method of doing that, he suggested (and I agreed) that that could be the root cause of my problem. Obviously, my goals are very big. As such, there was a disconnect between what can be accomplished in a day’s training and the overall goal that I am trying to accomplish. This would explain the disengagement or lack of focus at certain times, because I could not necessarily see the impact of whatever we were training, on the big picture.
The solution? With the help of Brett (my coach) we broke down the sport of Laser Sailing into 7 categories (boat handling, starting, upwind, reaching, downwind, fitness, tactics), and 34 subcategories. We decided that we would get Brett to give me a percentage on where I was at in each of these areas on a weekly basis. We defined 100% as being the best in the world at that skill (as opposed to calling it perfection, since you can never attain perfection) and then subsequently defined each ten percent window so that the numbers meant something. While this is not entirely objective, as it is still being evaluated by a single person, it’s about as close as you can get in this sport, and has proven to be quite effective. For me, having a very clear picture of where I stand and being able to see the difference that my training has on the big picture has been very helpful, and allowed me to bring a higher level of motivation and focus into each day’s training, We started this exercise 2 weeks ago, and my average has climbed from 70.88% to 76.29% - an increase of 5.41! While this may seem like a small number to some, believe me, it’s pretty huge, and it feels great!
I am now getting towards the end of this training block and starting to gear towards the upcoming regattas. I have a week and a half before the New South Wales State Championships, which will be a warm up regatta for me, followed by the World Cup Final in Melbourne, followed by the Sail Sydney regatta. Although I’m pretty excited to start racing, I know that I still have a lot of work to do in this next week and a half to set myself up for a good performance in the upcoming regattas. Specifically, my tactical skills are lagging well behind my technical ones, and I know that they will need to get up to scratch for me to perform well. It should be a good challenge. We are already starting to see improvements in the tactics, so I hope I will be able to continue that trend.
Thanks for reading!