Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

If you want to achieve a very challenging goal, you have to have a reason for doing it, you really have to want to do it, you have to persevere through a series of obstacles, you have to keep in mind why you are doing all this and why it is important in your life.

I have a goal: to achieve 6000+ points in the heptathlon and qualify for the 2009 World Championships in Athletics. I have been persistent in training through the winter months, focused on the recovery and re-strengthening of my patella tendon. I have taken some rest at home to reset my focus. After that, I resumed training, began to put the technical aspects of the events in order, and was off to Tenerife, for a training camp. We peaked in Tenerife, as planned and now we are back in Holland focused mainly on rest, but also starting with competitions.

My first competition has come and gone. I was at a small evening competition to throw the shot put, gain an idea of both where my strengths are with my technique and know if my mental focus was in control. This competition for me is viewed more or less as a training session. We hoped for a solid result, but did not expect a huge personal record. That would have been nice to start a season, but alas not my style! Haha

Ok, that is a joke! Thing is I rarely open a season in a stunning style. I struggle. I come off a long stretch of training, training, training, and I resume competition after some nine months since the last competition of 2008. I make many of the same mistakes; I focus too much on the result and try to control too many cues at the same time in competition. I am just too eager out of the gates, you could say.

Therefore, I need to regain some control. Bart and I know that I am better at doing this during a heptathlon, compared with an open competition for one event, but still this is something I need to improve.

My first result of the season is 13.29m in the shot put. Looking for the positives in negatives, we will move forward to the next competition that will be this coming Friday. I will compete in the 100m Hurdles and the long jump. I need to stay relaxed, and focus on just one or two cues. I have to remember most importantly to enjoy the competition, to stay positive, enjoy every movement, and know that these are the moments I prepare for.

Lou Holtz once said, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” With a more positive and relaxed attitude, I will try go into the competition Friday and enjoy myself. I will keep in mind my 350 amazing supporters at Queen Mary and persevere. Because at the end of the line lies greatness, and to get there, we need to remember to persevere through tough times, constantly train, and enjoy the pursuit of excellence!

On to Friday, wish me luck!

Your Athlete,

Friday, April 17, 2009

How Few of Us Are As Brave As Our Dreams

Confidence is the name of the game. The name of the game is confidence.

When it comes to any pursuit of excellence, be it sports, music, or academics, confidence is an essential ingredient. The best advantage any athlete can have is a great sense of confidence, that inner feeling of trusting your instincts and skills in pursuit of excellence. Some of us have it, some of us still need to find it, and sometimes we feel like it goes missing. However, just like athletic skills, confidence is something to be nurtured, practiced and maintained.

According to Terry Orlick, a noted sports psychologist, we rarely begin a pursuit with total confidence. In fact, he believes we often do not know what we are really capable of doing. We acquire confidence through experiences in practice and performance. We grow by acknowledging our improvements, learning from both our successes and failures, and we learn from the wisdom of others.

That last thought, learning from others, is what has me thinking lately. While I was away in Tenerife, Spain, for a 10 day training camp, I had a chance to learn some very important lessons I need to step up in both training and competition this year and those to come.

In literary terms, I would be the hero of the story, who is on a journey, and these important people are known as my helpers. Every hero needs a person or people who can give directions of sorts, or act as a guide. The key to be aware of is that the helper is adding something to the hero, namely something that the hero could not have done on his or her own.

The helper can be a mentor. In literature, the mentor is often an old man or old woman, generally this is to symbolize wisdom, which is associated with age. My mentors at this moment go by the names Troy Douglas and Gert Damkat.

Troy Douglas is a retired Dutch sprinter who ran for both Bermuda and the Netherlands, participating in four Olympic Games. He is someone I have to come to know as having a tremendously positive attitude and open-minded approach. I spoke to Troy about the concern of being a Canadian, living abroad, immersed in Dutch culture, feeling like sometimes the “real Susan” can get lost. I miss my friends and family at home, and the people around me with a similar sense of humor and mid-set. I love being in Holland and training with the Dutch team, and Bart, but I sometimes forget to take care of number one – me. The lesson I took from Troy was that “you cannot do what you are doing and not necessarily as well as you want to do it, if you are not happy in your personal life – that your personal life feeds your work.”

Then there is Gert Damkat, a well-established throwing coach, not in only in the Netherlands, with considerable experience and a down-to-earth quiet personality. We have that in common, the personality part, and I feel trusting to talk to Gert about my fears or areas I see need work. I spoke to Gert about my training, about wanting to step up this year to the next level in competition and that which comes from stepping up in training. The thing is, taking this step is not one I can take alone – I need Bart to take it with me. We are a team, we are in this journey together, and with Gert’s help, I was able to express myself more clearly to Bart and express, with honesty, what I wanted. With a strengthen bond, Bart and I will find our way to step up in training/competition.

That brings me to the helper as an ally. Traditionally, the ally is someone who is always there for the hero and someone upon who the hero can always depend. Bart is my ally. The ally can also be someone who has had his or her own hero’s journey and is now taking part in the new hero-to-be’s journey. Bart, before he was a coach, was a top-level decathlete and world ranked competitor. This has always been a quality I valued in him as a coach: he really respects athletes – he knows what it takes because he was an athlete himself. We can all gain from coaches who help us to feel competent and confident in our abilities to reach our goals.

With all this help from my helpers, I am feeling very confident about heading into competitions, starting next week and about being ready to step up in to a new level and going for the standard to qualify for the World Championships. With an enhanced sense of confidence, thanks to my helpers, I can say, I am as brave as my dream!

Your Athlete,

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Training Videos


I'm still here, still training hard. Tomorrow I will get back to posting my thoughts and progress. For now, here are a few videos:

Shot Put Training in Tenerife, Spain:

Hurdle Training back in Papendal, Netherlands:

Javelin Training back in Papendal, Netherlands:

So I'm pleased to say the techniques are coming together and I'm starting to feel confident for competitions which will start next week ... more about that in tomorrow's post ...

Your Athlete,