Interview

Geoff West, Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Famer, from Columbia High School to Rutgers and beyond

Photo above, Geoff West looking on, with Irv Kalb to left.

By @SimonCocking

We’re in a fortunate position that many of the people who stood on the pitch, or rather car park, for the first ever game of ultimate frisbee are still alive, and willing to share their memories of that day and the decades that followed. Geoff West is one of those original enthusiasts, here are his insights into how they began and grew the game now played so widely across the world.

2007 CHS Reunion Disc Pickup with Sparkle Motion

 

There are several Johnny Appleseeds in the CHS reunion pickup shot.

Back row from right end is Joe Barbanel and his crazy head of hair! 4th from the right is Dave Dinerman and to his right in dark blue is Ed Summers. To Geoff’s right kneeling is Larry Schindel. Next to him are several of that year’s CHS Women’s team, Sparkle Motion that scrimmaged with them that day.

You were at Columbia where Ultimate first originated before going to Rutgers. So did many of the other guys from the time at Columbia go on to start up teams at the different colleges they went to?

Every CHS (Columbia High School) grad on the “Johnny Appleseed” list started a college team. In fact, that first year or two, almost every team that formed was due to the exporting of CHS talent.

Joe Barbanel CHS ’72 RPI ‘72, Walter Belding n.a. Clark ‘72

Dan Buckley Staples HS ‘73 UConn ‘74, Jon “JC” Cohn CHS ’73 Cornell ‘73

Ed Davis Staples HS ‘73 UConn ‘74, Jim Diehl PVRHS ’72 UNH ‘72

Dave Dinerman CHS ’72 Hampshire ‘72, Jeff “Yogi” Durra n.a. Boston Univ. ‘74

Bob Evans CHS ’72 Princeton ‘72, Steve Frieman CHS ’72 Clark ‘72

Kevin “Igor” Harper n.a. Glassboro ‘74, Jon Hines CHS ’70 Princeton ‘72

Bill “BJ” Johnson n.a. Glassboro ‘74, Bruce “Frisbee” Johnson n.a. Kalamazoo ’74

Al Jolley CHS ’60 Staples High School ‘71, Irv Kalb CHS ’72 Rutgers ‘72

Ron Kaufman Staples HS ‘73 Brown ‘74, Rick Labasky n.a. Webb Institute ‘74

Dave Leiwant CHS ’73 Yale ‘73, Jim Lovell NVRHS ’72 Yale ‘73

Andy Magruer n.a. Hampshire ‘72, Dave “Buddha” Meyer CHS ’73 Columbia ‘73

Mike Miller NRVHS ’71 Tufts ‘72, Jim Pistrang NVRHS ’72 Tufts ‘72

Jim Powers PVRHS ’72 UNH’73, Penn St ’74, Dan “Stork” Roddick n.a. Rutgers ‘72

Larry Schindel CHS ’72 UNC ’72, RIT ‘73, Ed “Zoop” Summers CHS ’72 Tufts ‘72

Geoff West CHS ’72 Rutgers ‘72

Geoff Guarding Gino

Geoff playing D, last year during weekly pickup games, guarding his son’s friend, Gino, who organized games.

Is Joel Silver fed up of everyone asking him about Ultimate?

The only one I know with recent contact to Joel is Jonny Hines. I suspect that as Ultimate becomes more and more mainstream, any resentments Joel might have ever felt are lessened. 😉

Weekly Ultimate 2014 with Nick, Drew, Me, & Andrew

Geoff’s comments on the picture above

“The small group shot is our eldest son, Nick, on my right in the dark tee-shirt. The tall one on my left is Andrew, our youngest and the one who is friends with Gino. The one in back is Drew. Not a son. Our middlest, Ryan, plays trivia on the other side of town every Wednesday and never made our games. (While I’m recuperating from my rotator cuff surgery, Nick & I have been playing trivia with them until I’m well enough to whine for Ultimate.) ;-)”

How long did you play for / do you still play? I saw a photo of you that suggested you might still play the odd time?

My competitive career was limited to my years at CHS and Rutgers, where I left after 2-1/2 years. (The tail end I was nursing a broken fibula sustained upon a jostled, but scoring end-zone catch.)

After Rutgers, I became the unofficial CHS coach for a few years until marrying and relocating to AZ in late ‘80.

Out here, I fell in with the Thunderbird Graduate School team around ’83 and scrimmaged pretty regularly with them for the next 10-12 years.

As our three boys were growing up, I ran Ultimate training sessions for each of their Fifth grade Phys Ed classes.

A compound femur fracture in ’02 slowed me down, a bit, and it wasn’t until I started playing Ultimate every week with my 23 yo son and his friends back in ‘12 that I started to get back a reasonable running stride.

We had a really fun Rutgers Alumni Reunion game in ’09 during which I made good on my threat to score with one of those “out-dated” overhand wrist flips…but my athletics were lackluster, at best.

I just had rotator cuff surgery Nov 25 and expect my Physical Therapy regimen to have me back on the field within 2-3 months.

See more about the history of Rutgers here, and a report of the first match here , with Rutgers co-captain Geoff West was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I hope this will catch on. We really dig this sport.”

Me & Machine Cincy Nationals May 2014

My boys on the Rutgers squad from this year’s Collegiate Nationals in Cincinatti, Ohio.

Is the way that Ultimate is played now significantly different from how it was in the early 70’s?

Obviously the presence of observers (and refs in the pros) but comforting that they can always be overruled by players on the field.

I’ve given up even pretending I understand how the timing of games works, nowadays, and I really appreciated having willing Rutgers actives to clarify play stoppages/infractions for me at the 2014 National Collegiate Championships last summer.

Strategically, there are countless refinements and resultant terminologies that I’m only currently beginning to pick up given my years away from competitive play.

I’m wondering about tactics, in mentions you played zone defense back then too, so maybe they were there from the beginning? 

We utilized zone defense even back at CHS if man-to-man wasn’t working.

At Rutgers, I often called zone because it comported better with my smoker’s lungs. I could fly like the wind for a long floater in the end zone…but I wasn’t going to be good for much for two to three minutes afterwards.

Playing deep D gave me the ability to insert my pretty high-up-there hand in the way of potential scores with minimal energy outlay which was just the beginning of another Rutgers fast break! 😉

Did people layout for the disc then? (Risky in car parks).

Believe it or not, there were plenty of layouts at the original CHS lot, though they were generally at the sidelines. (Not a problem on the grassy, RR embankment side, a little sketchier on the downhill side into the brook. It was an unforgiving hazard that punished many victims, myself included.) Away games in HS were always on fields and our reckless abandon reflected that added cushion.

At Rutgers, we generally played on grass except for that first Princeton game where we were deliberately using the original Rutgers-Princeton football game site from 103 years earlier. (It had become the parking lot behind the Rutgers Gym.)

The match write up talks about Dan ‘Stork’ Roddick, scoring a lot of deep points, so was hucking it long also a popular option back them also?

Absolutely. As alluded to earlier yelling, “Go!” to a strong-armed teammate was understood to mean a two-three second delay before blasting that baby to the end zone by my senior CHS year. (’71-’72)

Are games significantly longer now compared to what you played?

They seem to be due to the increased stoppages in play.

What age do you think the body can sustain playing ultimate too? I’ve played since ’91, & my knees ain’t so viable any more?

I can’t address that from the perspective of a long term participant, though I’ve certainly tested my muscular-skeletal system in other ways! I’m on hiatus right now for shoulder re-hab, but I’ll be back soon at sixty. If you keep the physicality level age-appropriate? I’m hoping to be playing into my eighties.

NB it was fantastic for us in Ireland, when, after about 4 years we finally had enough players to enter world clubs in ’99. To expose our guys to such a range of playing styles and superior athleticism helped to light the fire for further growth in Irish Ultimate. Question, you must feel proud, pleased about how the sport has grown?

Walking around College Nationals this summer (which had attendance of about 20,000) was mind-boggling. (As was attending my first pro game in Jersey a month earlier.) We always knew the game was worthy of limitless growth, but none of us ever envisioned what it would look like realized. World Games and…soon? The Olympics? Again, we knew it would happen, but it’s still a little unreal that it’s all occurring.

My greatest source of pride, though, is the incredible things taking place with Ultimate Peace in Israel. More than any other sport or activity in the world, Ultimate is planting the seeds of peace in one of the most fractious regions on the planet. How cool is that?

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First Princeton Rutgers match (sadly no Geoff in this picture, but he was there, see first picture)

Hindsight. What things did you do that you think helped the sport to grow?

First and most important is the love that players quickly develop for the game and that is inextricably linked to the unique playing atmosphere that comes from SOTG. Once players are bitten, they’re compelled to create ways to continue playing despite graduations and relocations.

Absent the flopping and faking and trickery that plagues officiated sports, Ultimate players are free to harbor sincere admiration for excellent play…even their opponent’s. It’s not hyperbole when I assure people it’s the

Best.

Game.

Ever.

In no small part because it appeals to our better nature.

Next is the disc itself. As observed in Stancil Johnson’s Frisbee Handbook of the ‘70s, “When a ball dreams, it dreams of being a Frisbee.” The sheer unpredictability of what a handler might chose to do (and the variety of tools at his/her disposal) makes Ultimate the most continuously exciting game a participant OR a spectator can be involved with.

Is there anything that you think might have worked better if you had done it differently?

Most assuredly I’d have gotten into the HoF sooner had I graduated Rutgers in ’76 with Irv, but that calls into question all sorts of Existential dilemmas, so we’ll stick with what happened.

As far as establishing and growing the sport?

I don’t think it could be scripted better!

Looking forwards, what excites you about the future for Ultimate?

Obviously the Olympics will be huge and I hope to see the continued growth of both the pro leagues and the increasing establishment of younger player organizations and leagues.

If and when Ultimate does begin to alter the violence cycle in the Middle East, perhaps it will become a successful staple of NGO outreach efforts.

Having witnessed this last World Cup fervor here in the states, I’m fond of making this prediction to anyone who’ll listen:

Sometime within the next twenty to fifty years, (probably closer to twenty) Futbol/Soccer will overtake the NFL in popularity here in the US. It’s inevitable. The sport is reaching critical mass here and worldwide it dwarfs the NFL in participation and viewership.

But the sad part is……it’ll only get five to ten years in the sun before Ultimate blows past it both here and globally.

Three reasons:

Ultimate is still growing – soccer’s done doing that except for here.

Ultimate already has a worldwide foundation to build on.

Ultimate’s just flat-out more exciting, for players and spectators. (I’ve yet to meet an Ultimate player who left the game in favor of soccer…but I know LOTS who’ve made the opposite switch!)

Sean Covering Me @ 2009 Alumni Game

Come to Ireland sometime it would be great to have a game. We played the Santa Barbara Condors once in Dublin, so it’s about time we had some East coast superstars over.

Though far beyond anything superstar-ish, I’ll remember the offer!

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IFDA, Interview, Ireland, Irish Ultimate, Sport, Ultimate Frisbee

The latest 7 Ultimate interviews, with added girl power

@SimonCocking

We have a few  more interviews bubbling under the radar, not quite emerged, butterfly like, from their slow gestation process. So, meanwhile, here are the latest 7 interviews for those of you who missed any of them over the last month or two. Enjoy.

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Emer Mernagh : The most recent one

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Brian Boyle : Bienvenidos to our past, present & future Presidente

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Yvonne Halpin : The one everyone wanted to read

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Liz Schaffalitzky : The one that settled a few scores as well as scoring points.

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Kelly Mulholland : All round good guy

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Charlie Cheever : The guy that didn’t want to pick Mark Zuckerburg for the Harvard college team

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Raymond Stephens : Early Irish legend

 

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Interview, Irish Ultimate, Jamie Crick, Ultimate Frisbee

The Jamie Crick interview : Irish Ultimate’s own Bertie Wooster

Jamie1

With everyone busting a gut in Cork resolving who is the best on the pitch in 2014 it seemed apt, with the long winter nights coming in, falling leaves, and putting on the heating again, to return to a time where things were less organised in Irish Ultimate. To capture a sense of this time we tracked down possibly Irish Ultimate’s most shambolic and disorganised player from those halcyon long gone times. Now a hyper organised successful expat in Sydney, an occasional member of the Irish ultimate mafia based over there. Once upon a time in Dublin things were slightly more chaotic.

Thanks Simon for such an epic build up. Wouldn’t have expected any less though.

You were a byword for epic misadventures. To be fair Jamie personified the sublime to the ridiculous to the sublime again. Epic layouts for final match winning points in Soton, ambitious and never on hammers, and then back to fantastic game changing layout d’s again. Jamie probably personifies the transition in the Irish team from ‘have a go’, to ‘we can win this’. He’s a funny character and has a good take on how things developed.

.Anyway it’s better if he tells the story. From the beginning, once upon a time … 

What did the Dublin Ultimate scene seem like to you when you got here

Frankly, I was just delighted it existed. Coming from the UK uni scene, I hadn’t been short of Ultimate (though even there it took an effort to keep a team going), but Irish uni teams hadn’t made it over at that stage, at least not as far as my foggy student brain had registered.

Anyway, I thought it was great. Small, but very social with enough good players to help me raise my game. I guess it was a bit unstable, with the Americans, Aussies and Canadians in particular coming and going, but I was just glad to be able to slot into a team again and not be the worst person in it.

Where did you play before, Bristol?, 

Started at Bristol in my first year with Mythago, who were a bit of a force at the time. I think we won UK Student Indoors my first year, so by the time I, ahem, chose to transfer to the somewhat less glamourous Uni of Kent after my second year, I’d been lucky enough to play within a really solid structure. We even had a coach, an odd cove called Bud Tilden, who the uni paid to train us!

God, he was a character. I played against him a few times. He was really loud. He talked so much with his teammates about the rules, and what they should and shouldn’t have done. In the end most of them left and played for other teams instead.

Kent, on the other hand, didn’t have a team when I arrived. It had one a few years before but it had fizzled out, so I took it upon myself to try to revive it. Forgive the hubris, but it remains a source of pride that it’s still going strongly. And I made some great friends there, like Diggler, whom some of you may remember turning out for Pookas after I’d moved to Dublin.

(Dirk – played in Ireland’s first World Clubs and Nations teams. Probably the most normal of an array of public school characters that Jamie introduced to Irish ultimate including ‘Billy Bunter’ , Mango and Kim,  (not these guys  sadly)).

From a glorious start to a ragtag army, sounds like the ideal preparation for a move to Dublin in the late ‘90s.

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What were your favourite Irish tournaments / matches?

I only really remember the Dublin tournament. There was one in Cork too – wasn’t there? – but I don’t think I ever made it. One particular Dublin tournament sticks in my mind because a few UK teams with players I was good friends with came over, most of whom slept on my living room floor.

The party wasn’t my very finest hour but that’s been adequately covered in these august pages, so no need to go into it again.

I guess the guilty go unnamed sometimes ( in case you missed it, he was the celebrity DJ without any music for the party … darn I said I wouldn’t mention it again, ops).

Who did you enjoy playing with?

Lots of people for various reasons. Right from the start there was your good self just about holding the thing together; Brian Goode for laying out a lot and wearing skirts but barely detectable irony (and nothing underneath, possibly one of the most visually traumatic things to have happened in an Irish ultimate final. Certainly from where I was standing);

Heather for being practically the only girl and, even at 5’0″ beating most of us to the disk; Declan Moore & his then girlfriend (Nicole, she seemed like Audrey Hepburn to his Mad Max. Quietly wondering what on earth she had got herself into) for gamely taking on the substantial challenge of whipping us into shape for Euros; Brian McD for his boundless energy; and latterly Dr Dec, Oisin and Alan (with whom I still occasionally play in Sydney) for showing me that my best days were receding.

And, of course, Eoghan Barry and Chris “Moody Teenager” Stokes, for consistent poker-faced banter.

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European Clubs ’01, Crick back row, 2nd from right, Keano 4th from right

Worlds 99 & 00, 01, we gamely battled, but had a tough time, any battle stories?

I remember how humbling our first game in Heilbronn was against Japan. I mean, we knew there was a dicking coming our way, and we’d taken a few in our time (I’m beginning to regret this metaphor), but that was another level. As we put it at the time, they held us down and spanked us. (You see can the benefits of an English public school education coming through here, the ability to so effortlessly mix sport and sexual punishment imagery.)

We did win a game or two though (South Africa and Spain, I believe) and got some respect, as well as the Spirit prize, so I was happy enough. I’ve always got by quite nicely on setting my expectations low and occasionally exceeding them, and this proved to be a good ethos playing for Ireland/Pookas/Craic at the time.

Jamie StA's

St Andrews ’99, World Clubs, Jamie far left, unaware that the game is actually over and Ireland have finally won their first game at Worlds

I’m out of sequence, but as for St Andrews, I was just thrilled to be travelling “overseas” for Ultimate. It felt very glamourous. Plus my sister had volunteered for the tournament newspaper. Of course, we stank up the tournament but got to see some legendary teams and players (DoG, Jim Parinella, Condors, Skogs aka the Borg).

I think my most heartbreaking loss was at Euros in Prague against a Scandi/Benelux team (editorial reminder required – was it thebigez from Austria?

(Tough one to remember. We beat the Swedish & Scottish teams. Maybe Brian or someone else can remember), who were seeded much higher than us. We played as well as we ever had and so nearly took them. I remember Brian McD playing out of his skin.

One of my favourites was waking up in the morning and seeing the whole of your front door covered in porn, discuss?

It will tell you a lot that I don’t even remember that. The combined effects of being something of a stoner and the butt of most practical jokes at the time. Where was it? Was I in the porn?

One morning during European Clubs ’01, the whole of the front door and entrance to Jamie and Chris Stokes’  room had been plastered in pictures from a local ‘art’ magazine, with lots of young ladies using different chair parts in unconventional ways.

This is probably a wise and strategic move by Jamie. In his glory days at Doubleclick, pre Google buyout, Jamie, to the disgust and bewilderment of his work colleagues once spent three days online researching Anal Sex. To this day Jamie was never quite sure if his boss really needed this research done or if he had been set up in the way that you send the new employee to the hardware shop for glass nails.

Rooming with Stokes, scary?

Terrifying and never to be repeated.

Er, go on?

No no, a gentleman never kisses and tells. You’ll have to go to the mother of his child if you want grubby stories like that. You don’t get me that easily you bounder!

What did you miss about Ireland when you went to Oz

Definitely the way Ultimate in Ireland was run as clubs. Perhaps it was because I was coming from Pookas, who were a mix of students and “professionals”, but I feel like we really bonded in a way that you just don’t in a league-based scene like in Sydney.

Plus, let’s face it, Australians in general aren’t very funny.

Ha ha, they do take themselves a little too seriously sometimes. I think I actually enjoy them losing the Ashes, more than I care about England winning it. It just means so much more to them.

How is the Aussie ultimate scene? How does it compare?

There are a lot of leagues here, including hat leagues, plus people tend to drift from team to team depending on what big tournaments are coming up, such as open and mixed regionals and nationals. Consequently, though you might train hard with a bunch of people for months at a time, chances are that after the tournament’s done, you’re looking for the next team. Not the best way to foster strong bonds, in my opinion. That’s not as important to everyone but I didn’t feel nearly as welcomed as when I first turned up at UCD that first damp Sunday afternoon.

What I will say is that the standard is incredibly high. When I arrived, Sydney’s northern suburbs league had 4 divisions – and that was 13 years ago!

Dec Moore, the Roy Keane of Irish ultimate, discuss!?

Aptly put, Mr Cocking. If you had laid the foundations for Ultimate to thrive in Dublin, he was the man that showed us that we could turn our bungalow into, if not a palace, at least a modestly appointed 3 bedder not too far from D4.

He was an excellent motivator, whether because of his Keanian tendancies or not, and I’ve never trained for a tournament as hard than when he was coaching us. I remember getting to an unlikely D during training in Phoenix Park one evening, expertly circumnavigating the deer shit, and realising that it was down to the hours doing sprints on the Trinity cricket pitch and that they weren’t such a soul-sucking endeavour after all.

I think we will have to try and track him down for an interview. Much like Keano, his borderline sociopathic tendencies did wonders for Irish Ultimate.

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There’s many many Irish ultimate players in Sydney, is there an Irish ultimate scene in Oz, or are they all doing their own thing?

The latter really, or if they’re doing it together it’s not with me! Alan’s around but I haven’t seen Declan in about a decade. There’s the fiery and astonishingly good Emer Mernagh and possibly more, but I’ve wound down a bit now and it’s a frighteningly long time since my carefree youth in Dublin.

You have a great reputation for crickisms, tell us some of the highlights in Ireland from your point of view, did this continue in Oz too, or was it merely part of acclimatising to Irish culture?

By Crickisms I assume you mean logistical fuck-ups rather than pithy one-liners that people at parties like to pass off as their own in order to entice prospective bed-mates? In which case, fuck you, Cocking. I’m not your monkey boy.

It is true I have been known to take the more scenic route, both literally and figuratively, but one gets to experience so much more that way.

Too coy by half, see Eoghan’s  interview for details on one of Jamie’s epic, entertaining balls ups.

What was it like being English in Ireland. Maybe working for a tech company made it less striking?

I had been expecting it to be a lot more striking than it was, actually. For about the first year I kept waiting for comments in pubs that never came. Perhaps working for a US company with a fair few non-Irish colleagues was a factor, but I don’t think so. Generally speaking, I don’t think Irish people give a shit where you’re from. Not that there aren’t any terrible racists. I always found it equal parts hilarious and ridiculous how some people reacted to African migrants about 50 years after everybody else had moved on.

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Jamie at Worlds, looking far too happy after a universe point loss to the Russians

What was it like being English & playing for Ireland?

Sincerely, it was a great honour and something I never tire of boring people with. While I’m very well aware that at the time the main criteria were that you were up for training and could stump up the plane fare to tournaments – and that I wouldn’t have had a hope of getting into today’s team – I’m very proud of it and hope I represented as well as I could.

You’ve just been back in Europe, do you think you will move back to Ireland?

I have very fond memories but that I think that chapter is done for me. I do miss it, but you get spoiled by a place like Sydney.

Do you still play? What position?

I play in the local spring and summer leagues but now play football in the winter and have realised that I’m not motivated enough for the endless drills of training for higher-level Ultimate. I do miss the competitiveness of a tournament with something on the line though. I tend to take the hat leagues a mite too seriously as a result.

As for position, I generally handle, having mostly got my penchant for ill-timed (and executed) hammers under control – not to mention lost a fair bit of speed – but I like to think I still surprise the youngsters now and then with a burst of pace and the odd layout.

Other comments, what should I have asked you?

You’ve been commendably thorough. Thanks in advance for what this will undoubtedly do for my international profile.

Finally it’s now public news that you’re engaged now too. Congratulations, and great that you have followed good advice by marrying above yourself.

Thanks for that backhanded compliment, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from you. Life as a kept man is no bad thing. My lady just got her doctorate, so perhaps there’s a trend here for us underachieving frisbee players.

 

 

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Innovation, Matthew Syed, Psychology, Sport, Table Tennis

Bounce

Bounce book cover2010 Matthew Syed

He was the number one table tennis player. Maybe it was because he was unique.  And maybe not.

Matthew Syed deconstructs the less than purely accidental route to reaching #1 ranking in the UK. The more he dug into why he had been successful, the more it became clear practice had played a large part, both in his success, and those of pretty much every other sporting legend, Agassi, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, all had parents that encouraged /  pushed them into high levels of sporting activity from an early age.

It’s good to read a book that goes into a more depth than just quoting the over simplistic mantra of 10,000 hours of practice needed to succeed. That alone is not enough, it  needs to be intelligent, applied practice, and also for someone who has sufficient sporting ability too.

There are 10 chapters and each one looks to examine and demystify some well cherished sporting myths.

Syed looks at rituals in sport, and their value, versus the point at which they become a real drag on performance. Nadal for instance, endlessly adjusting his clothes as he prepares to receive serve. The obsession of ‘taking something positive from defeat’. We’ve heard it a million times. Surely the reality is that we / they played awfully on the day. However it’s hard to say this, and it might even be permanently damaging to their psyche. Therefore the mantras of taking something away from even the off days. On the other hand you probably need this armour, in the world of tennis for example, no one wins every game. No one has pulled off the men’s grand slam in one year in the modern professional era. So therefore you have to be able to lose the odd one, while still believing you can win the next game you are about to play.

Other interesting chapters cover choking and if black athletes are genetically predisposed to be better at sport. With choking, it’s a very popular term, especially in American sports. Thing is, in team sports I’ve always thought it’s a little harder for the whole team to suddenly start getting anxious the closer they get to the winning line. However  I guess if you consider the English football team, and how they generally, inevitably retreat closer and closer to their own 12 yard line once they have scored, before eventually conceding the inevitable equaliser / losing goal, then you might say that’s a form of choking. Momentum is important in sport though, as teams often go on strong sequences of points scoring.

The last chapter is a great read , probably slightly provocatively titled ‘Are blacks superior runners?’ He digs into the research regarding the place of origin for great middle distance runners in Kenya and Ethiopia. Invariably reaching one very specific region within the country, at altitude, where children spend numerous years running optimal long distances to school. It is much easier for journalists to write simpler stories about the reasons for sporting dominance, but time and time again genetic results fail to back these comments up.

It’s a quick read, good, provocative and challenging. The key takeaway is that nothing comes easy, but equally that smart practice brings great rewards. Whatever your own sport I’d recommend reading it, to question your own point of view, and see what cross sport insights you can bring into your own field of practice.

Mathew Syed  preview video  and longer lecture  @matthewsyed

 

 

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