Stories, sport and performance

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Stories, sport and performance

I came across a great little anecdote while doing some research for a sports related project Sonja and I are working on – it will hopefully translate into a television series next year, but more of that once we’re actually allowed to talk about it 🙂 Here’s the anecdote:

ZA-swimmersAt the 150th birthday celebration of Grey College,Ryk Neethling gave an address in which he attributed his Olympic success to his education and upbringing at Grey. He recounted an experience he had with Russian swimming icon Alexander Popov, who attempted to speak to the Old Grey shortly before the relay world record in Athens. Neethling was oblivious to the approach by Popov, and stared “straight through him” as he was so focused. Popov said he knew then that a great performance was about to happen.

This anecdote got me thinking about how, if we are able to ask the right questions of a story in sport… we would be able to unlock, expose and harness that which leads to performance. For example:

  1. If we could interview Ryk, it would be valuable to gain a perspective on the internal subjective reality he experienced as he stared through Popov. How did he achieve this level of focus? Was he aware that he was so focussed?
  2. What heuristics (rules of thumb) does he formulate in response to this story for future performances?
  3. What artifacts (tools) does he use to get focused before a race – it would also be good to hear about the routine he takes himself through to get focussed and how he ritualises this.
  4. What has he taken away from the experience of virtually ignoring Popov?
  5. What other stories can he tell us about being focused and attaining a certain level of focus before performing?

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