I Hope We Figure This Out Before Pyeongchang
Young athletes are leaving organized sport at an alarming rate. The data is undeniable—over 70% of children quit their sport by the age of 13. We know there are many contributing factors, but the number one reason given among children polled is that there’s too much focus on winning. If you’ve ever been curious as to how the media is contributing to that exodus, they recently provided a shining example.
A few weeks ago, our Canadian Luge Team had their fourth-place finish in Sochi upgraded to a bronze medal. The Russian team in Sochi had previously placed 2nd, earning the silver, but have now officially been disqualified for doping infractions. Terrific news for the Canadian team members, its coaches and for all of those keeping score of the medals.
However, the unfortunate piece of this otherwise good news story isn’t just how it was celebrated in the media but, instead, that the team's performance was finally celebrated in the media.
WHERE TO BEGIN:
When athletes learn that their performance isn’t worthy until someone else tells them so, the result can often lead to individuals who look outside of themselves for self-worth and who, thereby, struggle to live in the moment. Not surprisingly, both of these characteristics contribute to feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem—neither of which are conducive to positive mental health, let alone high performance.
Look, I think it’s great that our athletes were recognized in this instance for what they rightly deserve—especially when cheaters are involved. The trouble for me is that the media didn’t celebrate that same performance the first time when it was a 4th place finish and not quite podium-worthy.
Think about that for a second. In 2014, our Canadian luge team in Sochi was shown on television looking distraught and disappointed, while being consoled by their coaches for not earning the bronze medal position. Now, four years later, using the same footage of those athletes racing and their corresponding combined times, the media is showing them high-fiving one another upon hearing the news of their bronze medal.
What changed? Well, clearly not the performance. But, instead, the media and others perception of what good enough is. Those same results were now worthy of media attention because they landed them on the podium. The message being—We didn’t like you then, but we sure as hell like you now!
Let’s look at this another way. Imagine it’s Christmas morning, and your 8-year-old child has just opened their big present from Santa. The reaction on their face morphs from surprise to excitement and then joy. They are completely enthralled with their new toy and appear content to play with it for the remainder of the day.
A few moments later, your younger child opens their present from Santa. They go through the exact same emotions. However, as they hunker down to a day complete with their new toy, the older child looks over and notices what their younger sibling is now playing with. Upon further investigation, the older child deems their siblings’ toy more appealing and soon begins to protest their toy from Santa for what it lacks when compared to the other.
We now have a child who seems ill-content with something that moments ago was completely acceptable. At this point, as parents, we know to step-in and have a conversation with our child that reflects values of gratitude, sharing and celebrating in the awards and accomplishments of others.
For me, some obvious questions beg—why do we tolerate a paradigm in sport that we would otherwise not as responsible adults? When our children display values that we know will contribute to a life where happiness and fulfillment are compromised, we address it—because we know better.
I appreciate that the very nature of competition involves comparison. However, like the child who saw it's new toy as good enough before it had a ‘competitor,’ why can’t we allow athletes to feel that same sense of good enough with their best performances void of comparison?
Believe me, I appreciate that an integral part of the Olympic Games is the pursuit of medals—gold ones in particular. I lived that life 30 years ago—I get it. And, having said that, I have no problem with celebrating the podium finishes of our Canadian athletes. I’ll be cheering as loud as anyone. However, if that’s all we deem worthy of our collective celebration, we’ll miss out—we’ll all miss out.
With the Olympics less than a month away, I trust that the powers that be can see the many opportunities on the horizon—medals included. Canadians will be watching. All Canadians—young and old. You couldn’t ask for a more diverse audience and, therefore, a chance to positively influence the direction of sport in this country to one that considers it's greater purpose. Not to mention the prospect of curbing the decline in numbers in organized youth sport.
However, if we continue to utilize our medal count as the basis for our national pride, daresay our national self-worth, we’ll perpetuate a reputation in sport that continues to push people away—both participants and spectators. Instead, if the media can embrace and truly celebrate what is intended to be the essence of the Games as described by its own Creed—The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part… , perhaps we can create a defining moment where we as a nation begin to look inward at what truly defines us as a people. Where doing our best—where being our best is seen as good enough. Imagine the powerful impact of that message to our youth who struggle in a world of hyper-comparison on social media.
There’s more to these mystical Games than just owning the podium. In fact, if we’re not careful that infatuation may run the risk of compromising the beautiful human interest stories the Olympics are known for. Perhaps, the media can tell us more of those. Share the journey of as many Canadian athletes as possible—not just the ones who finish atop the podium. Make the questions about their hardships and their triumphs in just getting to the Games, not just what went wrong on the day and about how devastated they must be. Help our athletes realize their worth is not determined by a clock or a judge or a scoreboard or by standing on a podium. As Canadians at home, if we can see our athletes celebrate their best at the Olympic Games, then perhaps in the larger game of life we can too.
"It has been said that sport doesn't build character so much as it reveals character—and Jason Dorland's Pulling Together is the embodiment of that thought. He was himself an elite athlete, an Olympic rower, and from years of coaching developed a sports philosophy profoundly different from the old-school 'stick-and-carrot' methods. He found his way in producing not just elite athletes, but elite human beings: winners before the finish line, winners well beyond any line."
Roy MacGregor—Author, Columnist The Globe and Mail
“Jason Dorland’s insights into basic motivation and leadership, as described in his latest book Pulling Together, are essential for all ‘high-achievers.’ In every aspect of life, Jason’s hard-learned lessons are transferable, relevant and practical for anyone interested in uncovering their true potential.”
Bruce Robertson—Olympic Champion, Entrepreneur
"Jason Dorland has written an insightful and significant book. As in Shakespeare, the wisdom of the book is revealed in the conversations or asides between him and Robyn Meagher. Robyn, an Olympic runner, provides Jason his awakening, teaching the world-class rower to get a grip. To pull together is, really, to pull oneself together."Ron MacLean
—Hockey Night in Canada
"It takes courage to examine the anatomy of a failure and use it as the seed of greatness and fulfillment. [Jason’sbook] is not only honourable, but highly inspirational."Hayley Wickenheiser —Olympic Champion
If you're looking to purchase Pulling Together or Chariots and Horses, Amazonor Chapters-Indigo are your quickest and cheapest options. Or, you could purchase one from your local independent bookstore. However, if you'd like a signed copy with a personalized note, if it's a gift for example, please contact me and we can figure out a way to get one to you! Cheers and thanks, for your support!
It felt like we paddled on silk today off Victoria.
We launched from a small bay to the east of downtown on an excursion around the south end of Trial island. We played “Unassailable force meets an immovable object” ~ a game ~ in view of the lighthouse keeper, before completing the journey around the west side, back through a turning over tide squaring off in the causeway between islands. We were rewarded on the return journey with rolling lumps stalled by the returning swell, a pulsing ocean texture, like riding waves of silk colliding under water.
BlackfishRedDragonBluewhale excursions with its lead guides simonwhitfieldexcursions, Local adventures and southislandsup , along with equipment provided by OceanRiverSports, welcomed Silk Start Victoria with their four team members and CEO Shaun Jamieson, to choose to their own adventure riding a RedDragon paddle board and five Black Fish out into spectacular weather, the Olympic mountains framing the view to the south, rain clouds were back lite by sunlight which makes the rain appear like slashes on a canvass horizon and there was a shimmer to the ocean surface, flickering black grey, almost metallic, like paddling mogles through liquid dimples.
We were able to catch some rollers out the back of trial island, practice unsuccessfully to pivot turn, navigate an exposed and turbulent backside, see a few seals, wave at a light house keeper, and finished off paddling eyes closed, a perfect day out on the ocean; there’s nothing quite like it.
Thank you for joining us Mitch, Emily, Conner, Jordan, Shaun and Cole, we hope you choose to adventure with us again soon,
Simon, Brian, Shane and OceanRiverSports - BlackfishRedDragonBlueWhale excursions.
I haven't had time to sit down and publish regarding my trip to Nimmo Bay (www.nimmobay.com), it almost feels too momentous, too grand; it was simply that spectacular, full of insight, inwards. It felt like another stepping stone on the path laid out by new friends, and peers, onwards towards what's next; and a glimpse into the glory all around us, if only, we stop, for a moment, sit still, breath, look and listen.
Nimmo Bay was all of that, and more; while I was up there I wrote a story about sentiment called, wait for it, sentimental, I'm holding on to it, just because, for now, its mine, and it feels significant, to me.
It's a story about a man and his fire.
Arent they all.
Video and photos: Simon Whitfield
Music: Patrick Watson
Photos below thanks to;
hey Jer and Fraser, remember that time we went to lagoon and played in the outflow, what a joy, grateful to know you.
"I sat down to write an acceptance speech for my induction into Canadas sports hall of fame and found myself with writers block.
What does one say in this briefest of forays upon the stage. Do i speak to the grandiose or simply stick with gratitude, is there a concise way to express both, to touch on the acknowledgement of achievement through dedication, opportunity, and luck while at the same time conveying the deep appreciation one feels towards the people in our life who make us better, the contributors and primary influencers, many of whom are here today.
Do i use this short window with the microphone in hand to convey thoughts on life lessons learned through sport, universal meanings gleaned from specific incidence. Do I press forward with thoughts on morality, our shared responsibility to coexist through constructive defiance, or do I pander to national pride, to empathize and in a sense justify common values and shared belief's; in truth I struggle with nationalism, I dont believe in us and them, we're all in this together, isolation breeds discontent and betrays the advantages inherit in true diversity. The best of us, is all of us, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I considered giving this moment to observation, my thoughts on performance decision making. I would focus on simplicity as the greatest sophistication and a vivid imagination being the mother of all reality; our greatest attitbute as humans is the gift of fiction, our ability to play how'bout (and imagine if), write and read fiction, in order to think on the grandest scale, learn to be still with your breath and at all costs retain self authority of your attention span, for what we pay attention to makes us human.
Eventually I overcame writers block by sitting and staring at the blank page before striking at the space with pen in hand until the words flowed, and when they stalled again, which they inevitably did, I simply sat a little longer, for this is my gift, through daily ritual I have taught myself to focus my mental landscape, to maintain propriety of my breath throughout, and be intensely persistent.
If for nothing else, with my children here, my daughters who's wide eyes, open hearts and ability to be perpetually present remind me daily what it means to be the best of ourselves, the innocence of youth, the gift of childhood, I lean forward and say, throughout your life "Live into your values", be kind and compassionate, be content, humble, forgiving, honest, principled and dedicated to the service of others by working to create safe space in which others can prosper, have the courage to step forward and believe in yourself, always ask why, express your gifts and forever, and I mean forever continue to play "how'bout".