Ready to Perform

Last year I wrote a post about Coaching, Conducting and Performing. At that time I was fascinated by Leonard Bernstein’s work with three orchestras (New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra). I was struck by the parallels between his experiences and coaching sport.

This week I listened to another recording about performing in music and was struck again by its potential as a resource for coaches. The recording has a great title: Boléro! A Musician’s Nightmare. It discusses Ravel’s music from the performer’s point of view. Those taking part included: Bramwell Tovey, conductor; John Ludlow, concertmaster; James Blades, David Corkhill and Gary Kettel, percussion; Jack Brymer, clarinet; Dave White, saxophone and clarinet; Malcolm Frammingham, trombone; Margaret Campbell, flute. The reader: André Maranne. Each of the performers talks about how they overcome their nerves about playing Bolero.

For my part I have linked Bolero with athletic and artistic performance since Torvill and Dean’s 1984 Winter Olympics dance to the Bolero theme.

Photo Credits

Isham Jones and His Orchestra

Christopher Dean and Jane Torvill

Talent and Giftedness

I have written a great deal in this blog about the impact CCK08 had upon my thinking and practice. Recently I had an opportunity to catch up with one of my on-line companions from CCK08, Carmen Tschofen. We came together to discuss talent and giftedness. Our conversation drew upon some exchanges we had during CCK08 and subsequently after I wrote this post about nature and nurture.

I was fascinated to learn from Carmen about the Lighthouse Program in Minnesota (some background information here). A Lighthouse Program student is:

  • In possession of an insatiable curiosity
  • Drawn to complex ideas
  • Comfortable with ambiguity in learning
  • Self–directed in learning
  • Eager to learn the practice of experts from discipline
  • Capable of working effectively with team members
  • Capable of a sustained focus to resolve questions
  • Recognized as highly able in performance, as well as, potential
  • Currently 7-18 years of age
The Lighthouse Program comprises:
  • Accelerated pace of learning
  • Non graded, multi-aged grouping
  • Integrated curriculum
  • Opportunities for On-line Learning
  • Opportunities to experience the practices of experts
  • Depth of study in complex Inquiry
  • Student focused learning
  • Teacher/facilitator focused on students’ learning
  • Connections to rigorous high school options
  • Collaborative and Competitive Opportunities

Meeting Carmen and her colleagues gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore and reflect on generic issues around talent and gift that had prompted me to write about performance and share some early ideas about the identification process.

Our conversation used Elluminate and this is a recording of our hour-long exchange that linked early morning Australia and lunchtime Minnesota.

During that time we discussed:

2:40 Supporting and defining talent on an individual basis

5:15 The role of personal volition/motivation/environment

8:30 The importance of allowing time for self-discovery and play

14:30 On being the same/being different

20:00 The meaning of growth potential and potential triggers for growth

23:10 Resilience, persistence, and the issues with electronic entertainment

27:50 Understanding personal talent development through biography and narrative

30:30 Who guides talent development?

33:40 Values and ethics in coaching and mentoring

36:10 The “Birth Year Effect,” the development of talent over time, and “the system”

40:00 Relationships and life lessons

43:00 The role of deliberate practice, the problem of instant gratification, and computer games

48:35 The difficulties of “elite performer” lifestyles, the problems with shallow praise

51:50 Extrinsic rewards and the issues of ownership and autonomy

54:00 Self-ownership and self-accountability

I really enjoyed the hour I spent with Carmen and her friends. It was quite difficult to go back to bed (4 a.m.) after such a stimulating conversation. I am hopeful that this is the start of a close link with the Lighthouse Program. Sport has a great deal to learn from innovative educators within and beyond its cultural contexts.

I am convinced that any approach to talent and gift must have a profoundly personal focus that celebrates learning biographies. I am keen to explore the interrelationship between context and opportunity that can permeate personal stories.

Photo Credits

Lighthouse

Girls skipping at an athletics carnival

Lessons for Sport from OECD Education Insights

Andreas Schleicher (Head of the Indicators and Analysis Division of OECD’s Directorate for Education) visited Australia earlier this month (May 2010). One of his presentations whilst in Australia, Seeing Your Education System in the Mirror of Other OECD Systems, can be found on SlideShare.

His presentation included data from the OECD report The High Cost of Low Educational Performance. This YouTube video outlines some of the key points of the report (please excuse the music!).

I think both OECD resources have fascinating implications for decision-makers in the governance of sport and for coaches as they contemplate long-term development. The report “uses recent economic modelling to relate cognitive skills … to economic growth, demonstrating that relatively small improvements to labour force skills can largely impact the future well-being of a nation. The report also shows that it is the quality of learning outcomes, not the length of schooling, which makes the difference.”

I am keen to promote high challenge/high support learning environments and liked Andreas’s slide (27) from his presentation:

Andreas explores how continuous professional development can transform education. Within his data there is an important message about innovation and insight. His case study of Finland should resonate with any sport or coach seeking to bring about cost effective change.

I liked too his juxtaposition of integration and personalised learning (slide 35):

After looking at the report and the Slideshare presentation I wondered how a sport system at the macro level (a national sport system) and at the micro level (the club) might support an innovative investment in learning that might take a decade to develop.

Andreas’s slide on skill development (slide 15) raises the question of lead and lag investments in a sport system.

His final slide (slide 41) encouraged me to think how a system can be changed and what role intrapreneurial vision might play in change. Do sport systems evolve despite or because of inherent conservatism? How does any macro or micro system move from the left to the right of the slide below?

Andreas’s presentation and the report share how Finland did it in education!

Photo Credit

Bouw houten huis in Finland