Passing the Baton!

The Body Builder

Captain Terry Camsey

By Captain Terry Camsey – 

The World Athletic Championships are in full swing on television over here in the United Kingdom, and there are some real “cliff hangers.”

Throwing the hammer was thrilling right to the end as first one, then another, of the finalists threw farther. Several were winners for a moment, only to be relegated by a yet farther throw. But, finally, Heins Weis (or was it eine, swei?) took it–world champion for the very first time.

Then there was the 100 meters women’s sprint. In one of the false starts, a finalist ran 60 meters before looking at the big screen and realizing no one was running with her. She took her time walking back, but the damage was done. She had given her “all” during that lonely, wasted run and never recovered.

Interesting, too, to hear two young finalists of the men’s fastest 100 meter heat talking about going to see their coach to get some ideas to improve their chances even further before the final itself!

That reminded me of books by Charles Handy–UK management guru–I read recently in which he says, “To be a learner in Britain has never been much of a thing to boast about. ‘L’ plates (which learner motorists must show until they have passed their driving test) are an indication of incompetence and ‘academic’ has often seemed to be a term of abuse…The Japanese believe in a reverse learning curve in life–the older we are, the more we need to study, listen and think because the problems get more complex and we get rather slower…

“I have met too many organizations who have been religiously committed to a policy of growing their own, even recruiting them straight from school at age 15 or 16, only to end up 30 years later with a severe case of group-think at the top, with people who have only known one way of doing things, one set of people, one philosophy; who distrust outsiders, dislike conflict and expect continuity.”

But, I digress. The thing that fascinated me about those sprinters was that–though at the peak of their performance–they still sought the help of a coach to do better.

Did you see the television program a while ago where Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis were rehearsing to make a CD together? Both of them, too, were training with their individual coaches as the recording was being made. Never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, eh!

The event I am really looking forward to, however, is the relay race. It’s tremendous to see the accumulated speed of the four runners on the team and, of course the critical juncture is where the baton is handed over. With a carefully defined area within which that handover is legal and coordination to ensure that as little speed as possible is lost, it calls for tremendous cooperation and trust between the runners.

What would happen if one of the runners refused to hand over the baton and insisted on running the whole race him or herself? It would be disallowed, of course. But, assuming that such were not against the rules, would the team benefit or lose by such action?

It’s pretty certain that they would lose. One tired runner is no match for another, fresh, sprinter.

I guess that is why athletes peak young and go on to other things–many, thankfully, to become coaches encouraging the sprinters of younger generations and running their personal races vicariously through them. But, again, there are always new “tricks” to learn, aren’t there? I still remember the days when the “western roll” was not even discovered as a high jumping technique.

The real trick, though, is knowing when to hand over the baton. Isn’t it?

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