Jeff Donaldson gives a Team BG athlete's bicycle TLC in Rhodes.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, the water was cold, really cold, at the World Cup race in Vancouver. I'm not sure how it came about, but the one of the athletes proposed that if any of them placed in the top ten, coaches and support staff go into the water. The others chimed in and thought it would be a good idea.
I'll take that bet, and so did the other support staff.
The top finisher in Vancouver was Lisa Norden from Sweden. After the race, I gathered the fellow that proposed the wager and a couple of the other athletes around and I said, "I want to be very clear about one thing. That is, I made that wager not because I thought I would win - not going into the water - but because I thought I would lose. That is, I expected one of you to place top ten."
I showed them my swimming suit and change of clothes in my bag.
When Lisa Norden proposed the five-meter platform plunge if any Team BG athlete placed top ten in Rhodes, I took the bet again. You know why.
Before getting to that top ten answer, I will say that the Team BG athletes are placing better and better. I have a theory on at least one thing what contributes to their success.
These athletes are treated like champions. They are selected to the team based on past World Cup race performances and the fact that their home countries lack the support system that athletes from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and others have.
When they arrive at a World Cup race, the Team BG staff is there to focus on their success and every person on the staff team does a great job. For example, Jeff Donaldson took each athlete's bicycle and did a complete maintenance check, tune-up and he washed every single bike. Other athletes, not on the team, made comments about how lucky the Team BG athletes were to have such a great privilege.
It did not go unnoticed that the coveralls he wore said "Full Speed Ahead". Good karma. Jeff worked for FSA and continues to do some contract work for them.
Every athlete on the team is encouraged to make an appointment with the athletic trainer and massage therapist, Diana Palmer. She typically sees every athlete at least once and usually more than one time. Every athlete received a post-race flush massage to help with a speedy recovery. (Photo later...)
Libby Burrell manages the Team BG program and takes care of the countless details involved in athlete selection, budget, accommodations, transportation and logistics. She can be seen adding to my weight training routine below.
I talk to each athlete about what is going on with their training, what they expect from the race and ask about any concerns they have. In the photo above, I offered to transport their bags to the swim course review that followed the bike course review. Who wants to ride the course wearing a backpack? (No I didn't end up carrying all of the bags, I did get some help.)
The staff tries to help each athlete have a successful race, capitalizing on the fitness they have when they arrive to the event. What it takes to do this is the summation of countless details and interactions.
Is it possible for a support team to have a significant positive impact on athletes that they see for a few days before a World Cup? If the overall result of athletes in the program is any indicator, then I'd say yes.
Additionally, I am reminded of a study done years ago. I don't recall all of the details, but the short of it is a group of students were gathered into a classroom. These students were not the top performers in the school. A teacher was assigned to the group and the teacher was told that she was teaching a group of gifted students.
She treated the students as though they were gifted students and their grades improved significantly. They responded positively to being treated like exceptional students.
Is a similar response happening with Team BG athletes? I think so.
The photos below show Libby Burrell, Tomas Wiker (Sweden's National Team Program Director) and myself getting ready to take the plunge and post-plunge. Yep, Lisa Norden placed seventh overall, her best finish in a World Cup race. That meant we took the plunge.
Sweden only has two elite athletes and an infant federation. I'm sure Lisa is an inspiration to other athletes and perhaps some age group people as well.
I'll leave you with a couple of links. The first link is a fantastic photo of Lisa Norden and Diana Palmer at the race finish area. The second link is for all the race photos.
Are you surrounded by people that treat you like you are a gifted person?
Do you treat the special people in your life as though they are gifted?