Talent Transfer (Part 3)

In the last blog in my series on talent transfer, I discuss three more key points that I feel would contribute to a successful transition. If you missed the other two blogs, you can catch up with Part One and Part Two.

We will start with a quick reminder of the key points so far:

1. Consider Your Options

2. Approach People In The Know

3. Have a Taste

4. Commit

5. Set Goals

6. Become An Expert

7. Understand the Skill Learning Process

8. Compare Yourself To The Best In Your Field

 

So, without further delays, on with the final three tips:

 

  1. Accept That You’re Starting A Long Way Behind

 

The people that are already in your field can be ten years, maybe more, ahead of you in terms of experience and skill. The good news is that:

  1. Skill development is greatest in the first few years of doing something
  2. 80% of results are brought about by 20% of the causes (Pareto Principle).

This means that by doing a few things well, you can quickly catch up and get into the same ballpark as the experts.

 

There will be set backs that make you question if you can do this. For me, my second and third bobsleigh competitions went terribly. I was really really out of my depth (which in hindsight contributed to a lot of learning, but was incredibly uncomfortable), and I genuinely questioned whether or not I could do this. Fortunately, there were also times that reaffirmed my belief that I could be successful; my fourth bobsleigh competition in Sochi went exceptionally well, as did on-ice testing for selection before the Olympic Season. Then I endured a tough few months where I failed to integrate into the GB1 set up, and again I started to question whether I was cut out for bobsleigh, until I dropped down to GB2 and competed in Igls. I felt I competed exceptionally well there, which again reaffirmed my belief and spurred me on to being a part of the GB2 team that managed to qualify for the Olympic Games.

 

  1. Remember What Made You Good In The First Place

 

When you transfer from one area to another, something about you has made you think you can be successful. When I transferred from athletics to bobsleigh, I thought I could be successful because I was quick. Whilst I was learning all the new skills and becoming an expert (see #6), I still had to make sure that I kept the attribute that made me good in the first place; speed. It would have been a big mistake to neglect this aspect of my training whilst trying to make up for what I lacked.

 

Conversely, sometimes your strength can make up for deficiencies in other areas. Because I lacked the explosive power and acceleration ability of many of the top pushers, I played to my strengths by being as good as I could from 20m onwards. Instead of investing a lot of time and energy by trying to be the best over the first 5m, which would have been costly in terms of training time, instead I tried to get even better at what I was better than most at. I still worked hard on my first 5m, but I knew it was never going to be my strength, and so my focus was on not losing too much time in this area.

 

  1. Successful Integration

 

If you’re transferring into something new, you have to successfully integrate into the team that’s already in place. I’m a big believer that teams don’t have to get on and be friends to be successful, and I’ve definitely being part of teams where I have disliked someone, and in teams where I know I’ve been disliked. But there does have to be a mutual respect and shared goals. If you’re transferring, you have to work hard to cultivate that mutual respect. This was the element I found the hardest, and arguably was the element in which I was least successful. I found it difficult from the off, because I was immediately placed within the GB1 squad for competitions, despite having not gone through the qualification pathway. Again, with hindsight, this decision by the performance director enabled me to learn very quickly, but I wasn’t performing well, and I know that there was a lot of talking going on behind my back from both team-mates and staff. I also imagine that a lot of people thought that I though I was “big time”, which absolutely wasn’t the case; but I did whatever I could to try and remove that opinion of me. I also kept working as hard as I could and tried to perform as well as I could at testing, in a bid to gain the respect of the group.

 

Unfortunately, two incidents at the start of the Olympic season illustrated to me that I had failed in this aspect of my mission. I’ll only elaborate on one here in the hope that the person who made the comment has forgotten that it was him – I can’t describe the other incident as the person involved will definitely know who I’m talking about. Having scored really well in both single and team push testing, I was placed in the GB1 squad for the Olympic Season, and we traveled out to pre-season equipment testing in La Plagne. The brakeman who pushed at the back of the sled the season prior was injured, and I was taking his place. As we were preparing our bobsleigh for a training session, a group of competitors from another country came over and started looking inside it, and one member of my team remarked that some modifications on our sled had been made so that when the injured athlete came back and inevitably replaced me, he would be more comfortable. This made me feel like I really didn’t belong, and incidents like that continued throughout the year, to the point where I decided to re-asses my goals, and requested to move to the GB2 squad. I felt like I integrated into this squad much better. Due to this, I felt much happier and performed much better, and as a result helped that squad to qualify for the Olympics in what ended up being my last competition ever.

 

Hopefully you’ve found this blog mini-series interesting. If you have any other questions, or any other topics you want addressing, then please leave a comment or get in touch.

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