Archive for November, 2009

A sense of the Olympics

Team England in the World Cup

Two rounds have been played in this year’s World Cup of Golf out in Mission Hills, China. The Irish Team with Rory McIlroy and Graham McDowell have taken the lead in front of the defending champions, Stenson and Karlsson from Sweden. England with Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter are steady going, so far in 6th place. Team USA with Nick Watney and John Merrick are way down the list which I guess is not all that surprising considering that most of the American players would rather be at home celebrating Thanksgiving than out in China representing their country. Hat off to Watney and Merrick for at least making the journey.

I could not help smiling when I saw the logo for this year’s World Cup. A well designed player with all the flags, the trophy and then the punch line – “For the honour”. A bit of wishful thinking there I think but it would be great if that was true. Is it not time now, in light of the Olympics, to really do something with this event? Two players per country, or more if they are all top 15 in the World, will be competing in the Olympic Games in 2016. We have six years and another five World Cups to sort this out. Had it not been for the time of the year, the venue (Mission Hills every year for the foreseeable future!) and the lack of national involvement the World Cup could have been a great build up to the Olympics. For the honour – anyone?

A lesson in fair play

Was I too hard on Thierry Henry? Maybe. Or perhaps it was thanks to the night’s sleep that he, the day after the match against Ireland, said the match should be replayed. Or was he safe knowing that it probably would never happen? Arsene Wenger of course got it right when he said that we have to understand that the pressure on Henry is enormous. Wenger also said that Henry deserves the support from the French Football Federation, meaning that they ought to ask for a replay of the match.

I remember something that affected me quite strongly a long time ago. In 1982 Mats Wilander at the age of 17 had made it to the seem final of the French Open in tennis. I was 12 and I remember watching Mats play a really exciting match, which Google tells me was against Jose Luis Clerc. Mats had Clerc right where he wanted him and when the referee deemed Clercs ball outside the line Wilander was in the final. At least I thought so. Whether the ball actually was out was unclear though and Mats asked for the ball to be replayed. Mats won the replay and went on to win the final which made him the youngest ever winner of the French Open.

With this in mind, it is incredible to me that when the request came from the Irish to replay the match, the French Football Federation said no. Isn’t it fascinating that a 17 year old boy playing tennis could have more integrity than France?

What is he thinking?

Last night football and a lot of the people connected with it lost their integrity once and for all. It was a sad night at Stade de France in Paris where Thierry Henry qualified in the same group of cheaters as Maradona entered much in the same way in 1986. Not only once but twice Henry handball his way to the pass that paved the way for France’s 1-1 goal against the Republic of Ireland. Of course it is incredible that none of the referees saw it but it is even more incredible that Henry can stand himself.

After this it will be difficult for those in the game tasked with going out to schools and youth clubs to talk about fair play and sportsmanship. The message is loud and clear – Football is not about what is right or wrong. Whatever the referee does not see is allowed. Imagine what that would be like outside the pitch – whatever the police does not see is perfectly fine?

No, if integrity is something we value and would like to teach I know another sport where this still exists. Two England players competed out in Argentina last week. The rules were slightly different from what they were used to and after the round one of them were confronted with having done wrong. He admitted and was subsequently disqualified. It could have stopped there and still be a good story. Even better was that the other player realised that he had done the same mistake. What he did? As he had signed and handed in his card already, he disqualified himself!

Imagine what a society based on such values would be like!

Working together

I have just returned after a couple of days in Spain. On the Wednesday I was invited to speak at the Professional Golfers Association of Europe’s annual Professional Golf Forum in Murcia. This year the forum was held in co-operation with the European Golf Association and the European Tour and stretched out to both PGAs and Federations/Unions across Europe. This is an initiative that is worth a big round of applause. It does make a whole lot of sense that organisations that try to develop coaches (PGAs) and those whose job it is to educate the players (Federations/Unions) get together to discuss the what, how, when and where of coaching together with the, a bit further down the road, beneficiary (the European Tour).

It was in many ways a very interesting conference. For a few years now the PGA of Europe has had a punch line – ‘Working together’. I cannot help wondering what that actually means but after this week I am guessing that it most of all means that PGA organisations across countries are working together. The idea of this conference I think was to show how PGAs work together with their respective Unions/Federations. How that went? I am not sure…

Towards the end of the first day there was an interview with Peter Dawson from the Royal & Ancient about the return of golf on the Olympic programme. One of the things Peter said was that in terms of organisation golf is not really yet ready for the Olympics. We will be, he said, in 2016 but there is a lot of work that now need to go into this. I think that could be said more than once and it will be very interesting to follow how the different countries will meet this. Interestingly enough, there is no doubt that the smaller countries without the historical backpack will have an easier job getting their house in order!

Outliers

I picked up a new book today. One that I have had my eyes on for some time but not yet come around to reading. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.  An “Outlier”, according to Gladwell, is a scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience. This can for example be people who perform tasks or roles that lie way outside what most of us can comprehend, such as a World Class athlete in a sport. In the first chapter Gladwell hits me with what I kind of already know, but never really would like to admit. He has looked into the background of the most successful players on high performing teams, in the league as well as nationally in a few different sports and a number of different countries. Without a shadow of a doubt he manages to show that what we believe is somebody that has made it to where he or she is thanks to talent, hard work and ambition is actually something completely different. Why would there otherwise be such a huge over representation of people born early in the year in these teams? Gladwell argues that in fact what we see is a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We pick athletes at an early age because they are better than their peers. More often than not though the reason to why they are better is simple that they are older (=born nearer the cut off date for the applicable age) and therefore more developed. Once these youngsters are picked they are given more opportunities, better coaching and more resources and guess what happens? They leave their peers behind and what we thought was going to be the case is now a reality.

That is some pretty serious stuff to chew. Facts are though that in most sports, as well as in education, we disqualify people because of the time of the year in which they are born. What a waste of talent that is!

An old man in a hat

Yesterday was probably quite a unique day. 17 England Coaches spent a full day with John Jacobs down at Bramshaw Golf Club. I had organised the day to give everybody the chance to spend some time with one of golf’s true legends, one whose knowledge and experience is more or less uncomparable.

John Jacobs with the England coaches

John Jacobs with the England coaches

A few hours in the company of John go by quickly and his enthusiasm cannot be mistaken for. At 84 he is still as eager as ever before to see a new pupil in order to give a new diagnosis. In a way I guess he could be the father of all distance learning and coaching methods. He just did it in a slightly different way;
‘If you ever get into trouble again, give me a ring. But don’t tell me what you think you might be doing. I do not want to hear that. Tell me what the ball does. That is all I want to know.’
John’s forte of fixing people quickly, as opposed to providing quick fixes, is amasing and towards the end of the day when John’s back is starting to give way, it is us and not him that have to say that maybe we have had enough for today.

For those interested – there is a new Peter’s Monthly under that section. The October edition is out!

Golf entering a new era

I guess it had to happen. Golf has had its first case of violation of its doping policy. It feels a bit like the early stages of the swine flu.

“Is it a confirmed case?”

“We do not know yet sir?”

“Please analyse the tests a.s.a.p and let me know!”.

When Doug Barron became the first golfer to cross this line it was not a case of a podium athlete being stopped on the way to the medal ceremony. Barron has not exactly featured on the leaderboards over the last few years. It makes you wonder what he has taken. I was one of the people who could not really understand why it had to take golf so long to adopt a doping policy. To me it seemed a bit like the ostrich burying its head in the sand to just say that doping is not an issue in golf. Now we have a policy but yet it seems like the powers have chosen to do the head burying again. The PGA Tour say they will not let anybody know what Barron had taken. One cannot help to wonder why.


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