I turned up at Harefield last Sunday morning for a slalom session to find Campbell Walsh on the water already.  I know Campbell from my days working as sport psych with the GB slalom team.  Campbell won the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and has an outstanding track record over the years. Despite narrowly missing out on the Olympic K1 spot this year he’s still training for the last two World Cups.  Here’s the link to his website if you don’t know him http://www.campbellwalsh.com/

I joined in the session of short courses he was doing.  It’s so valuable to watch a top boater in action then try the same moves straight away.  Afterwards I was reflecting on what I could learn, as a Division 1 Masters paddler, from an Olympian.  Clearly there are many differences between Campbell and me that are pretty fixed – like an age gap of 15 years, a weight difference of nearly as many kilograms and a heap of natural talent! But there were three technical areas where I think I can learn from Campbell and improve:

1. Upstream gate technique

Despite working on bringing my technique up to date, my upstream gates are still based on the stroke patterns I spent so many hours grooving back in the 80’s.  In contrast to Campbell, I more frequently hang off a draw instead of using dynamic sweep strokes that keep the boat moving more smoothly. I need to persevere with developing a more efficient technique.

2. Pole awareness 

Campbell has the awareness to go much closer to the poles than I can and stay clean.  This shaves time off on every gate.  I can pay more attention to this when I’m training and push the safety tolerance more than I do now.

3. Speed of stroke transition.

This really showed up on a tight offset sequence.  Campbell was able to reliably do the sequence direct, while I needed to spin to get it clean.  Once I figured out the stroke pattern to do it direct (with some help from Campbell) I still struggled because I wasn’t able to get the power onto my blade fast enough.  Some more specific power work, on the water and in the gym, could make a difference.

What does this mean for performance  in business or in other sports?

  1.  Recognise that it takes time to change a well-grooved habit – but persevere when the rewards are going to be big enough.
  2. Challenge yourself about the level of risk you’re willing to tolerate – and re-calibrate this when there’s a gain to be had.
  3.  Identify where a key capability is holding you back – and do something about it.

I’m starting to use twitter more now, so for more news and updates follow me on @P1ltd.  Next stop volunteer training at Lea Valley with the Olympics only weeks away.