The Weekender: Training’s one thing, but what about trust in your team?

17 days until Christmas, and it’s been a fairly interesting week. Overseas, POTUS, having apparently decided the Middle East was looking a shade too dull and peaceful, was quick to come up with an innovative solution to that problem. Here at home, the British government, unfazed by 11th-hour negotiations and David Davis’s nasty cold, has managed to hammer out an EU divorce settlement, allowing us to progress to the next round of talks.

However, writing about either of those things is likely to give me a headache, so I’m going to go with doping and Russia’s 2018 Winter Olympics ban instead. Most reading this will have seen that, as of earlier this week, and following on from the revelations of state-sponsored Russian doping in the run-up to Sochi 2014, Russia has been officially banned from participating in the 2018 South Korean Winter Games.

I find myself with oddly mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, there’s a lot of resentment for a state willing to tarnish the games and laugh in the face of everything they stand for, particularly when it’s for the sake of a few bits of metal and the domestic PR boost they buy. The same resentment goes for any athletes who knowingly took part. However, at the same time, there’s a pang of sympathy for those Olympians – and the outcry suggests there are quite a few – who were involved in the programme unwittingly, essentially being fed performance enhancers alongside the dizzying cocktail of innocent supplements their dieticians hand them every day.

Imagine growing up and quickly recognising that you’re different, that you’re special, that some improbable combination of genetic and environmental factors has given you a raw talent most people can only dream about. Then imagine dedicating yourself totally to the relentless training and nutritional control needed for the development of that talent, from dawn ‘til dusk, for years. Imagine the commitment, the focus, the pain and sacrifice. Imagine giving all of that for the chance to stand up in front of the entire world, hear the fanfare, sense a nation’s eyes on you, feel the roar of the crowd in your bones, and give everything that you have, everything that you are, not just for yourself, but for your country. Finally, imagine all of that being taken away because someone behind a desk a lot higher up the food chain doesn’t like to lose.

Ultimately, no amount of raw talent is enough, no amount of skill, energy, or dedication. Not unless those above you, those you consider to be guides and mentors, have the knowledge and patience to build on your strengths, counter your weaknesses, focus your energies and – above all – keep just enough distance so as not to stifle you, to keep this about you, and not about them.

Here at Dartmouth we can’t promise you any gold medals (although some of the team here are pretty good, so I’m not ruling anything out), but what we can offer is steady guidance, and the commitment to help you define your goals, and then work towards them with integrity, bound by a clear ethical framework.

It’s nearly Christmas. Ask yourself: what do I really want?

Have a great weekend.


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