HOW THE #$@&%*! DO I HELP MY KID DROP THEIR 2K SCORE?!?

It’s July 1st.

Your son or daughter loves rowing.

When they came home after their first “crew” practice, they were excited. You were so proud. You remembered that “crew” was the sport that the Winklevoss twins did in the Social Network.

Ivy education here we come.

Four year later, your athlete has their first phone call with a collegiate coach because they want to row in college. As your athlete takes the phone call upstairs, you and your spouse try to focus on something else as you wait in anticipation.

20 minutes later your athlete comes downstairs with either their head down or crying.

“What happened?”

“The coach says I need to drop my 2k score…”

There is no app. There are no Cliff Notes. There is no tutor. It is not something you can buy at the store or have dropped by a drone via Amazon. You can’t negotiate with the coach, the Athletic Director, or even the rowing machine itself. You have flashbacks to your glory days of “three-a-day” football practices, early AM swim practices, running “suicides”, baseball or softball double-headers, soccer tournaments, or line drills in hockey. Dreadful moments that you hoped your athlete would not have to go through with rowing. What do you say?

“Um, just do your best…??”

Cue the familiar eye roll, exaggerated sigh, fountain of tears, and even the custom exaggerated statement:

“You don’t get it!”

What the hell is right…

‘TIS THE SEASON

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If you have been a rowing (not crew) parent for a few years now, you have already been through this script. When your athlete comes home frustrated and upset from rowing practice you know that 2k season has begun.

2k season causes chaos in the household.

You make a wonderful dinner, and it is ruined because your athlete won’t eat (needs to make weight/or just can’t eat). You spend the entire evening getting stressed about it because your athlete won’t stop talking or moping about it. And they have to talk about everyone else on the team as well.

This 2k test determines where your athlete ranks on their current team, and will be scrutinized by some collegiate coach or national team coach you have never met or spoken to.  Coaches dangle an unreachable “carrot” that your athlete wants to reach, reminding you of the carnival game where you try to land the quarters on the glass plate. It might not even matter what your athlete pulls for their 2k score, because coaches tend to be like “Superdelegates.”

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If you truly want to help your athlete, and not cause 2k Anxiety, then realize they already understand the task they have before them. It is your perception of the situation that gets you into trouble because it is based solely on what you know.

If you were never an athlete, it will be difficult for you to relate to their physical and mental stress. If you were an athlete, then you have some experience with pregame “jitters”, but it’s not exactly the same in rowing.

If you were a rower, you will probably give the worst advice…

THINGS YOU DON’T SAY

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Below are things you don’t say to your athlete before a 2k test. You mean well, but what works for you may not work for them.

Don’t say:

Why don’t you just pull as hard as you can?

My father said this to me back in 2003, “Why don’t you just pull a 2k everyday, and try to beat your time each time?” Makes sense Dad, why didn’t I think of this? Setting a simple, lofty goal does not work, especially if you aren’t providing a plan to get them there. You also need proof that it would work. The thought of a personal best is overwhelming. Even if your athlete likes to be challenged (see 2k anxiety) you have immediately added more adrenaline to an already tough situation.

Don’t say:

“Hakuna Matata…”

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Ugh. Telling your athlete not to worry about a 2k test, is telling them their goal is not important. Their goal could be to pull a personal best, and now you are telling them not to worry about it. Now they are hesitant to push forward and achieve it, and your nonchalance is only reinforcing that. For those athletes who have a solid goal in mind you must acknowledge this goal. Otherwise, you are telling them that they don’t have a chance, and they will try to spite you by going out too fast or too hard, just to prove you wrong.

Don’t say:

You can do it! If you believe in yourself and you try your hardest…”

STOP. It is okay to try to connect to your athlete emotionally, but the 2k test is a painful experience. If you believe that your athlete will be able to remember your advice to “believe in themselves” with 1200 meters to go,  then don’t be around when they curse your name at that moment. There is nothing inspirational about a 2k test. The harder your athlete pulls the more it hurts, the slower your athlete pulls, the more it hurts.

Don’t say:

Just do it…”

Easier said than done. If you truly want to be inspiring, then you should actually get on a rowing machine and pull a 2k test. Just make sure you don’t eat anything beforehand. You believe you are being tough for your athlete, but they don’t need you to be tough for them. If you don’t acknowledge their emotional roller coaster, then they won’t acknowledge yours the next time you give them a hard time about them missing curfew or not their doing homework. Sport clichés worked in the 1980’s and 1990’s…that was over 20 years ago

Don’t Say:

“Who..What..Where..Why…When…How…?”

Asking your athlete a list of questions is going to create two outcomes. Either you will overwhelm  or overstimulate them. In your quest for information, your athlete will become a deer in headlights, and will question their preparation and even their plan of attack.  If you feed their adrenaline by checking in with more questions they will be inconsistent and unpredictable in their training for the 2k test. Remember who is causing all this turmoil with a million questions – you. This isn’t about you.

Don’t Say:

“Why don’t you just do a 2k tomorrow?”

“A time to laugh… and a time to weep. A time to mourn… and there is a time to dance.” Thank you Kevin Bacon. There is a time dance, and there is a time to do a 2k test. That is what a training plan is for. If your athlete is following a training plan, then it is important not to encourage them to stray from it. Training programs are designed to help athletes peak at the right time. Therefore, if they take a random 2k test, then they are more likely to fail. You wouldn’t appreciate your athlete asking you everyday when you were going to do your taxes or start drafting your will.

Don’t Say:

“You should…”

See “Just Do It” above. Avoid telling your athlete how they should do anything.  Unless you happened to be an elite rowing coach or Olympian, you are going to lose your credibility immediately. “Should” is a powerful word, and should be used in situations of expertise.  If you know little about rowing your athlete will not listen to you. They will either ignore you or do the opposite. Literally, a better way would be to say Do you think you should…?”  It allows the athlete to feel they have control, and you are not just telling them what to do.

Don’t Say:

“Don’t forget that you have to…”

Don’t distract your athlete from their mission. Right now the number #1 mission is to drop their 2k score. If you remind them of other things that they need to be doing (schoolwork, chores, standardized tests, etc) then you are taking their athlete “hat” away and forcing them to put on their student “hat” or son or daughter “hat”.

Moral of the story

It’s July 1st.

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“How the hell do I help my kid drop their 2K score?:

I don’t know…

Just kidding. I do know.

“The coach says I need to drop my 2k score…”

DO Say:

“What do you hope to accomplish?”

“I am hoping to pull a person best.”

“I believe that is a good goal. You certainly have trained hard enough for it, and you should feel confident in yourself.”

Providing positive reinforcement without telling them what they should do, and how they should do it will open the door for them to have a discussion, and maybe ask for some more advice.

And you’ll have something to give them.

First, have the right training program designed to have the correct balance of training components – aerobic, anaerobic, mobility, stability, strength, and power – which are all important to the sport of rowing. The Functional Movement Screen is the first step in revealing which of these components your athlete is missing, and establishing a baseline.

Second, understand what kind of athlete your son or daughter is. You need to know their strengths, and what truly motivates them. The AthleteDISC profile is an excellent tool and resource for your athlete to improve their mindset in training, racing, and performing well on a 2k test.

It’s July 1st.

You can start today. It doesn’t matter if your athlete is from the United States or is an international athlete. It is worth it. Technology is amazing. It allows us all to connect quickly and safely with the click of a button.

Click below to set up your your initial Mindset and Mobility Session. Your athlete will go through an initial Functional Movement Screen and Assessment and will take the AthleteDISC profile to establish their mindset. Once you register on Regatta Central, allow 24 hours for processing and instructions.

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Remember there is nothing wrong with wanting to help your athlete be successful.  We brought our children into society to make it a better place, and are responsible in guiding them through life. We certainly did our best in trying to change the world, but our children are much stronger and smarter than we are.  We can only watch in amazement at all they accomplish. Every once in awhile,  we manage to say the right things, so remember…

If they somehow walk away satisfied with your advice…

 

These are the hilarious jokes you think of at 2am when you have two daughters…

For more information on Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or follow me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

 

 

 

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“12 ANGRY HOLES” – The Trial of Jordan Spieth

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Two and a half weeks is a long time.

I apologize, as I wanted to publish this article over a week ago. Two and a half weeks also appears to be enough time for the drama surrounding Jordan’s Spieth’s recent gaffe at the 2016 Masters to fade. Spieth has moved on as well based on his “bro vacation” following the event.

Photo Credit: All images via Rickie Fowler/Snapchat via www.sbnation.com

Photo Credit: All images via Rickie Fowler/Snapchat via http://www.sbnation.com

This is a good thing.

However, I still wanted to write about “why it happened?” I learned that the previous winner has to put the Green Jacket on the newly crowned champion. In rowing, when you lose a dual or championship race you have to literally give the winning boat the shirt off your back. There is always honor in acknowledging a worthy opponent.

However, I’m sure Jordan Spieth and I would agree, we would rather just shake hands and say “I’ll see you again.”

“12 Angry Holes”

In the film, 12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda,  both the jury and audience began convinced that the defendant (a boy) was guilty of the crime. However, as the film continued, Fonda’s character was able to put reasonable doubt in the minds of the rest of the jurors.

The national media rode a roller coaster of highs and lows of sport for television ratings. First they built excitement and drama towards Jordan Spieth’s potential win at the Masters.  Now they write articles about his “collapse”  on the infamous 12th hole.

Something must have happened before the 12th hole that lead to this collapse. I recorded the final round to watch Jordan Spieth play every hole to discover where it all came unglued.

Athletes make mistakes.

Depending on the situation, their behaviors in those moments determine their results. If an athlete is unable to maintain control, they may be unable to turn things around. Sometimes, it isn’t even their fault.

I have used the AthleteDISC Behavioral Profile previously in the context of rowing. I don’t know Jordan Spieth personally, but I believe that he is a strong “S” (steadiness) and “C” (conscientious) because of the way he approaches his interviews and press conferences. He appears confident in himself, but he is also humble. He explains what and how he is going to do things with clarity.

He pays homage to the great players of the past, and is grateful that he is even playing at this level. He is passionate and systematic in the way he plays golf. Fans may root for a more “D” (dominant) and “I” (influential) player; one that is more outspoken and forthwith with the media.

To each his own.

Was this “collapse” that simple? It is not what people have been writing  about, therefore, I’ll do it myself.

1st Hole – Juror #8

In the 1957 film 12 Angry Men, the jurors meet to decide whether the defendant, a boy, has committed a murder. Each juror believes the boy is guilty. Henry Fonda plays Juror #8, and prevents a unanimous verdict because he wants to consider the possibility of innocence.  Fonda’s hesitation makes the other jurors visibly and verbally angry; it is unwarranted and a waste of their time.

Everyone had all but crowned Jordan Spieth as the first back-to-back champion since 1954 before Sunday’s final round. Spieth’s tee time began at 2:45 pm, and it allowed plenty of time for the media to do what they do: over analyze the potential outcome, and sell a lot of advertising. At 2:45 pm, Spieth seems very relaxed and confident on camera. He lines up for his first shot, shoulders slightly rounded, in front of the huge crowd. The first hole is a par 4 and he seems to want to get this first hole right. He takes his time between shots, and hesitates before each shot.

High “S” athletes need to execute their plan over time. In order to calm his nerves, Spieth is running through his internal checklist before completing the next step. The commentators confirm that it is important to get the first hole right. Spieth taps it in for par to lead the field at (-3).

 2nd Hole – Juror #9

Fonda tells the jurors he is looking for reasonable doubt, because believes the testimony of the two key witnesses is not strong. The jurors vote again via secret ballot. Fonda will concede if everyone votes guilty. Juror #9 votes not guilty based on Fonda’s willingness to stand alone against the majority.

Standing alone at the 2nd tee,  Spieth appears more relaxed, because his stance is  more square and hits the ball well. The 2nd shot is also very good. Enter Michael Greller,  Spieth’s caddie, The two discuss the 3rd shot and Spieth hits a great curving shot, which allows him to birdie the 2nd hole. Great assist Mr. Greller!

High “S” athletes need  both time and reaffirmation that they are going through the proper steps. A coach or caddie can be a great source of support, especially if they know the temperament of their golfer. They can reaffirm that the path the athlete is taking is correct. Result: Spieth birdies the Par 5 hole. Spieth at (-4).

3rd Hole – Juror #5 and #11

Fonda pokes holes in the testimonies of the two key witnesses of the trial. It is doubtful that the first witness is able to hear the voices of the boy and his father (who was murdered) because of a loud passing train. The evidence is significant enough for Juror #5 to change his vote. Other details regarding the murder weapon come out, and Juror #11 changes his mind.

At the 3rd tee, the crowd goes crazy for something else on the golf course. The noise very distracting, and it appears Spieth’s concentration is faltering. He takes the opportunity to discuss the 2nd shot with Greller,  who passes him a towel to wipe off his club. The crowd is cheering because Davis Love III has hit a hole-in-one on the 16th Hole. This was the second hole-in-one of the day on 16.  Spieth’s playing partner, Smylie Kaufman, is also having an interesting day. His shots are missing the mark, and it slows play down. Spieth manages par on the 3rd Hole which he is very happy about.

Consistent “pace” of play is important for High “S” athletes. Jordan Spieth must focus on playing his own game, but the person he is plays with may influence the pace of his play. Spieth must stay consistent, hence his happiness for getting out the 3rd hole hole at (-4).

4th Hole – Juror #2 and Juror #6

Juror #2 and Juror #6 change their vote based on the debunking of the first witness. Other jurors have not been swayed, but the jury vote is now tied 6-6

The crowd noise has subsided, and Spieth takes his time on the next drive. It ends up off the course. He immediately gets his towel, and focuses on the 2nd shot which ends up really close. He taps in the 3rd shot for par.

High “S” athletes will “follow script” in certain situations. Grabbing the towel allows Spieth to get back in the zone, and he plays the 4th hole systematically with no distractions. Spieth at (-4).

5th Hole – Juror #4

Photo Credit: Kevin Dietsch/UPI at www.upi.com

Photo Credit: Kevin Dietsch/UPI at http://www.upi.com

Juror #4 questions consistency of the boy’s story in regards to his whereabouts. Fonda indicates that under emotional stress it would be difficult for anyone to remember what exactly they did two or three days ago.

On the 5th Hole, Spieth loses his composure again, and drives the ball into the bunker. Smylie Kaufman continues to overshoot his shots, and Spieth rushes his 2nd shot. Visibly frustrated, he hits the back wall behind the green. He takes his time with the 3rd shot, but misses the 4th for par. Though smiling, he putts it in for a bogey at (-3).

Composure and routine are important for the High “S” athlete. Spieth is struggling to find this on the 5th Hole. Spieth at (-3).

6th Hole – Juror #5

The jury discussion shifts to the use of the knife, and Juror #5 shares that a switchblade knife isn’t typically used by stabbing downward. Rather it is used to thrust upward. If the boy killed his father then he would have used the knife differently than how it was found on the body. Some jurors begin wavering on their “guilty” verdict.

Spieth attacks the 6th Hole. Kaufman continues to take his time, and the crowd erupts about something exciting, but Spieth finishes the hole with a birdie, and the commentators calls him “clutch”. This is the golf that fans came to see.

There is no doubt that Spieth is adapting to the playing conditions. Being a little more “aggressive” is something he has probably done in the past. The questions is, “Will he maintain it?” If things are going well, High “S” athletes can tap into their “D” (dominance) when they need it. However, it requires energy. He leads at (-4).

7th Hole – Juror #7

Juror #7 switches his vote simply because he sees that things are shifting and he just wants to leave to go to a baseball game. The other jurors have big a problem with this, but Juror#7 says be believes the boy is now innocent.

Spieth birdies the 7th Hole, and is finding a rhythm. Kaufman continues continues to slow the game down.

Spieth is tapping into his competitive “D”, because he continues to adapt and have a sense of urgency to perform well. However, Kaufman’s poor play forces him to adapt even more. Spieth at (-5).

8th Hole – Juror #12 and Juror #1

Photo Credit: cscottrollins.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: cscottrollins.blogspot.com

Juror #12 and Juror #1 change their vote, but Juror #10 begins a rant regarding the nationality of the boy. It is revealed he has certain “prejudices” which prompts the other jurors to turn their backs. Juror #10 realizes that he is alone, and no longer speaks.

Spieth is in full “D” mode now, and attacks the 8th Hole. Playing well and pacing well, he is accurate and birdies to lead the field at (-6). The commentators highlight the fact that Spieth has scored the most birdies (47) in 134 holes of play at the Masters. The most by any player. A great achievement.

For a pure High “D” athlete, competition and achievements are goals they strive for and are very proud of. Spieth is proud, but as a High “S” athlete he eventually will need return focus to his pace of play and decision making, and focus less on his instincts. Spieth at (-6).

9th Hole – Juror #4 – “A Pivotal Moment”

Juror #8 discusses the 2nd witness – a woman who claimed to see the boy stab his father. Juror #12 changes back his vote. As the jurors deliberate, Juror #9 notices that Juror #4 rubs the indents on his nose when he removes his glasses. The woman wore glasses as well, although she did not wear them to court. He noticed that she also rubbed indents on top of her nose. Therefore, she was not wearing glasses while she was sleeping,  and woke up to see the murder without them on.

Spieth begins the 9th Hole with a great shot on to the fairway. Grellar and Spieth begin to discuss the choice of club, and the media coverage picks up their disagreement on the microphones. Grellar is concerned about the gusts of wind, but Spieth likes his own club choice and decides not to listen. He follows this up by saying,  “I’m calling you off”.

As a High “S” athlete, Spieth would normally listen to Grellar and take the time to weigh the options. Now in full “D” mode, he is challenged by Grellar’s opinion and wants to prove him wrong. He birdies the 9th Hole to go ahead (-7). The media and crowd acknowledge his “dominance” at this point.

10th and 11th Hole – Juror #3

Photo Credit: 2016 Masters, CBS Sports Broadcast

Photo Credit: 2016 Masters, CBS Sports Broadcast

 

The remaining three jurors change their vote based on the evidence of the glasses. This leaves Juror #3 with the final vote. The jurors ask him to explain why he will not vote “not guilty.” They are willing to wait.

As Spieth and Greller walk to the 10th Hole,  they are not speaking. You can actually see this on the television broadcast. The disagreement on the 9th Hole was brief, and this prompted Greller to stop advising Spieth. The high stakes and Spieth’s mission was clear; Greller didn’t want to get in the way.

Make way for the “adapted” High “D” athlete.

On the 10th Hole, Spieth hits a “safe miss”, according to the commentators. His 2nd shot ends up in the bunker, and he is rushing. The 3rd shot is short. The 4th shot is a wide miss. He taps in for bogey to hold the lead. Spieth at (-6).

The 10th Hole is also where golfers can see the leaderboard.  Danny Willett has been steadily closing  the  gap on Spieth. Spieth is very aware of this and his competitive High “D” is pushing him to finish with a win.

On the 11th Hole,  Spieth’s first shot is rushed and it ends up off the course.  His 2nd shot is the same and his 3rd shot is solid. According to the commentators,  he uses his “favorite” club on the 4th shot,  but misses the putt. The bogey leaves Spieth going into the 12th hole with a 3 shot lead. Spieth at (-5).

12th Hole – “The Verdict”

Juror #3 has been very emotional during this trial. The jurors find out he is very angry with his son. He projects his anger on the boy in the trial, and does not have any real reason to vote not guilty. After tearing up a photo of his son in his wallet, he lets go of his anger, and changes his vote to not guilty.

On 12th Hole. Greller steps back in the picture to help Spieth maintain his composure with the surging Willett behind them. Spieth is back in High “S” mode and they double check his club selection. Happy to be back in Spieth’s good graces, Greller agrees with him and Spieth takes the shot.

In the water…shock to everyone at the Masters and watching at home.

Spieth looks ill. Both he and Greller choose to use the drop zone. He takes his time but rushes the shot and it ends up again the water.

High “S” athletes will make mistakes simply because they overthink the plan. Why he played the drop zone that way to move forward will always be a debated conversation. One can be critical after the fact, but at that moment Spieth and Grellar both agreed it would be fine. After all, he was playing well!

The 5th shot ended up in the bunker. The 6th shot was good, and the 7th ends up in for a score of 7.

In one single  hole, Spieth’s lead goes from (-5) to (-1). Danny Willett takes the lead on Spieth’s mistakes, and it appears that Spieth’s adapated High “D” finally catches up with him. 

Moral of the Story

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Why do athletes fail?

A majority of time is spend on the physical aspect of sport. Athletes needs to be able to physically compete in the sport they play. They need a degree of talent and skill that allows them to do things that 99% of us cannot do to a certain degree. Mindset is developed over time as the athlete builds confidence with each success and victory.

Did Jordan Spieth choke? According to the media, he did.

Stop being so dramatic. Why do sports columns have to be written like a movie scripts? Why can’t the story simply be about an athlete choosing the incorrect behavior and learning from it.

The simple build up to the 9th Hole – from the loud crowd noise, to Smylie Kaufman’s slow play, to Grellar’s and Spieth’s disagreement, to Danny Willet closing the gap – was enough to push Jordan Spieth over the ledge.

Perhaps Grellar was aware of this, as he made it a point to honor Spieth with a public letter.

An subtle apology? For what?

I believe coaches and mentors forget to teach athletes how to handle defeats. They are afraid they are going to set the athlete on the wrong path – the wrong mindset.

I did the same. I never allowed myself to consider defeat because I was afraid to lose my “edge”. I know now that fear is the final barrier to break through. If you accept your fear, then you realize that is all it is.

Sports are not life or death. They are just “games”we use to challenge ourselves or entertain ourselves. And that is okay.

Otherwise, we may use that instinctual desire to compete in a negative way – war, fighting, the Republican nomination, etc.

For Jordan Spieth, I believe he will be okay because he is rooted in his respect and appreciation of how hard you need to work at the game of golf. As long as he doesn’t let outside influence push him towards being someone he is not…

Photo Credit: www.sbnation.com

Photo Credit: All images via Rickie Fowler/Snapchat via http://www.sbnation.com

Mr. Kaufman, I declare a mistrial…

For more information on Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or follow me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

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“TOP CHEF” – RIO 2016

My wife and I really enjoy the show, Top Chef.

We enjoy it because we love watching talented individuals compete to create something amazing under difficult conditions. Every chef is talented, but the show is about overcoming the variables and completing everything on time. Chefs on Top Chef are  sometimes given all the same ingredients, and the chef that cooks the best wins immunity and may eventually be deemed “Top Chef.” Each chef that fails to execute, either through their ability to perform or failed concept (what did you just make?) is sent home.

In some cases, the judges just don’t like them.

RIO 2016

I enjoy rowing banter (my wife could care less).

I have especially enjoyed the recent debate and build up toward the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and the plans of the US Olympic/Senior National Team and the “Selection Process.” A large group of talented individuals competing to create something amazing under difficult conditions. Every athlete and coach is talented, but proper selection is about overcoming the variables and completing everything on time. (Olympic Qualifier)

For 2016, I hope that our top two “chefs” have been given the right ingredients. The pool of athletes in the United States is very large, and many have earned their pedigree over the last 4 years. They are like ripe vegetables or high quality meats that you wake up and wait in line for at the local farmer’s market. There is absolutely no reason that they should “go bad” because you bought them fresh, and you plan on preparing them shortly.

Why all the drama then?

“Quick Fire Challenge”

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On Top Chef, the chefs are initially dropped into a competition where they are a given a few ingredients, and told to make something in 30 minutes or less. It tests their quick thinking skills and ability to create a concept in a short amount time. Only recently, did Top Chef start having chefs going home after a Quickfire; at least in the first few seasons the chefs got another chance to prove themselves later in the show.

For Rio, our US athletes are working hard to get noticed, and when they are finally invited to camp, they only have a short amount of time to impress our “chefs”. Either they are either included in the recipe or tossed aside for something else (it is only 30 minutes). Deciding whether they are  worth the time or not, is up to the judgement of the coaches. US Rowing will not fund athletes that are not in the system. Athletes must re-locate on their own, find jobs, and deal with the stress of knowing or not knowing whether they are going to remain on the team.

How do we know if our “ingredients” are no good if we don’t use them?

“Elimination Challenge”

The “meat” of Top Chef is the Elimination Challenge. The chefs actually have ample time to plan a meal according to the judges’ criteria and standards. In the early seasons, the challenges were pretty straight forward – make a lot of delicious food for a lot of people. As the seasons have rolled on, the challenges have become more an more interesting:

“You need to make a 4-course meal for over 300 people using only solar-powered microwave ovens on a cloudy day. And you need to walk backwards the whole time…”

Reality shows need to continue “raising the bar” to attract viewers, but it is still about making delicious food. Many of us will never be able to cook or prepare food the way these chefs do, but they are not performing under realistic circumstances.

For Rio, the US National Team Coach Staff are put under a lot of stress, and asked by the US Rowing High Performance Staff and Board to create boats that meet the world time standards. If they are unable to produce a boat that will qualify for Rio, they may go home. I thought producing an Olympic caliber boat would be an honor and a privilege, not a career life or death situation.

Everyone knows how fast you need to go to get a gold medal. It should be pretty simple to put eight athletes in a boat, at particular training time during the year, and start the stop watch. The Men’s 8+ boat has to go at least 5:20; the Women’s 8+ at least 6:00. It should be clear who is moving the boat and who isn’t. The time trial row may be sloppy, but isn’t that what practice is for? Yet, rowing “experts” and aficionados may disagree, “It isn’t that easy to put an eight together…”

Are our judges making this selection process a little too complex?

“Judge’s Table”

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On Top Chef, the Judge’s Table is made up of a potpourri of master chefs, food critics, and a rotating group of celebrities. The stables are Tom Colicchio, Padma LakshmiEmeril Lagasse, Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson, and Top Chef, Richard Blais.

At the beginning of each episode, it is apparent which chef is going home because they either screw up the concept or the execution.  As the season continues, the food gets better, and it becomes more difficult for the judges really to make any logical decisions. They don’t seem to let on though. To create drama, the judges will invent new standards or change things in the middle of the Elimination Challenge.  Chefs believe they are making one meal, and a judge arrives to inform that now they have to cook using one hand.

I trained through 3 Olympic cycles – 2000, 2004, and 2008.

The standards back in 2000  were pretty clear – pull this time on the ergometer, and you might get a look. Have a good college coach, that brings you to an ID camp and you might get a look. Compete and train for a top rowing club like Penn AC or Vesper and you might get a look. By 2008, US Rowing had added the National Selection Regattas (NSR)  to identify on-the-water talent early. If you didn’t perform well you still had the opportunity to compete at trials.

This did not stay consistent.

A few years ago you had to place at NSR’s to be allowed to compete at trials or the World Rowing Cup .  It required athletes to double or triple peak for completion, with no guarantees that they would make the team. As an athlete, I would believe that my mindset should be more focused on peaking for the Olympics, but our judges may have felt it important to eliminate any “flashes in the pan.”

Why change the standards each year?  

“Food Critics”

TOP CHEF -- Episode 1014 -- Pictured: (l-r) Padma Lakshmi, Emeril Lagasse, Hugh Acheson, Gail Simmons, Sean Brock -- (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo)

Photo by: David Moir/Bravo

On Top Chef, the food critics make their living tasting and writing about different restaurants and the food they serve. Initially chefs were “wowed” by their presence, but with each new season the food critics have become a part of the show. To the point, that they have become the show. The chefs and ingredients remain the same, but the food critics keep driving new “techniques and tastes.”

There is only so many ways you can make ceviche before it isn’t about the cooking anymore.

Chefs on the show struggle to come up with something new, however there aren’t any new concepts. Just because a meal does not look a certain way or taste or feel the way you wanted doesn’t mean that somebody else will not enjoy it. Maybe your palate is off.

For Rio, our judges continue to control all the variables.  Changing venues the year of the 2016 Olympic Trials is important for the long term development of the sport in the United States. However, it does not really help the coaches or athletes as they need to find transportation, lodging, and have the money to do so. Changing the selection standards each year makes for exciting racing, but preventing athletes from competing internationally because they did not meet a time standard on a choppy racecourse prevents athletes from gaining valuable international experience. It isn’t necessary to “wow” anyone. It is about winning a gold medal, and if you have the ingredients let the chef cook their food and create the best meal.

Whoever said they had to do it all by themselves?

“The Old Guard”

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The Old Guard on Top Chef is Tom Colicchio. He has been on the show since the beginning, and he is regarded as the “top” chef on the show. Colicchico is fair but firm. Lately he has been a little more unforgiving, probably to add drama, but he still tries to provide constructive criticism and advice. Emeril Lagasse is the proven, sympathic, grizzled, old veteran. Richard Blais won Top Chef: All-Stars back in 2010 . He brings a youthful style and “flavor” to the judge’s table. My wife doesn’t like him, but Colicchio may retire from the show at some point, so it must go on.

Lately, the rowing message boards are full of Old Guard who know what it takes to go fast. They did it, and they have nothing left to prove. A lot of energy is focused on talking about the old days and how they went about accomplishing things. Meanwhile, the standards for Rio are different, but not on the world stage.  On the US stage. Most of the online banter is criticism towards these fluctuating US standards, but there is a lot of criticism towards the athletes too.

“In my day, we didn’t have all these new-fangled boats, heart-rate technology, stroke analysis technology, and sunny California/Florida venues. We trained in Princeton, NJ, went to TAMPA and we liked it!”

Congratulations Old Guard, we know what you did, and I am always sure to ask for autograph. Perhaps you could be more like Tom Colicchio and actually help some of these athletes understand how to row a boat. Create a support system. In the end these “youngins” are doing their best. They want to go to Rio.  Help them go to Rio if you know how to do it. Otherwise, let them be. Rowing doesn’t have a lot of press, so when athletes read your criticism it just adds to their stress.

Coach Mike Teti told us all that we “suck”. Guess what we still do, and I am sure he will still tell us that today.

“Padma”

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Padma…the person on Top Chef that knows nothing about cooking.

Padma is very adamant about being critical about things she knows nothing about. She makes it very it clear what food she likes and what she doesn’t like. Chefs on the show are more upset if Padma spits out their food than if someone that has a trained palate critiques their cooking technique. My wife hates her because she adds no value to the show and is just there to keep the drama going.

For Rio, the complaints are also dramatic.

The latest complaint is that US Rowing does not have the budget to fund athletes. When I was training, I lived with my parents, then my in-laws, and I have a very supportive wife. It allowed me to train full time. It wasn’t ideal. I understand it is difficult to find a job and train full time, but there are real Americans that have multiple kids, work two or three jobs, and barely have time to sleep. I worked at Dunkin Donuts when I trained. The night shift. I would have done the same thing if I had to move to California or Florida. I would make it work if going to the Olympics was my goal. Was it stressful, yes? Make your choice, because you can always take the easy path.

Funding. If gofundMe.com will allow someone to seek funding to make a peanut butter sandwich,   then I am sure we can find a person or sponsor to send athletes to Rio. Maybe if the boats were selected earlier, and we could demonstrate (Time Trial anyone?) they had a shot at winning a gold medal, then maybe someone would open up their wallet or purse.

“Moral of the story”

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I failed in 2008.

I didn’t go to the Olympics. 11 other M2x competed at the US Olympic Trials that year. The M2x that won trials finished 13th in Beijing. None of us were fast enough. We can walk around and pretend that we are great or we can admit the fact that it takes a special coaching and athletes to make something special happen. As the next few months unravel, all I can do is sit and watch, and cross my fingers that the United States is successful. As an athlete, I secretly wanted my opponents to fail, but now that I am out of it I really want someone to root for at the Olympics.

The young athletes I meet remind me of me. “Chips” on their shoulders, but ready to shoulder the burden of become Olympic hopefuls. It doesn’t matter what school they rowed for or who their coaches are.

They have a dream, and if they want help I am here to help them.

I haven’t been asked. Instead I write.

On Top Chef, the chefs are trying to win money for their business, their family, their prestige, and to just inspire people. No one chef is better than the other. We all root for our favorites, and we understand the chefs eliminated were very talented. We wish them all success.

For Rio, there are a few Olympic hopefuls whose dream will end in the next few weeks.   No consolation prizes, and hopefully solace because they tried their best. If we are willing to help them, it might make sense to remind them that they will be able to move on to bigger and better things.

Their dream is over, but not their life.

That is the difference when you cook with love…

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I hate you Padma…

 

For more information on Mindset, Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or follow me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.