sports

What Skating Judging can Learn from Workplace Performance Evaluation

At every Winter Olympics, it seems, there are complaints about figure skating judging. Occasionally those complaints lead to something more – as in 2002, when a second gold medal was awarded in the pairs event because of alleged bias in the judging. But usually the complaints are along the lines of “The judging was unfair because my favourite skater lost”, or “The judging was unfair because I didn’t understand it” – that second one often coming from sportswriters and commentators who don’t regularly follow figure skating, or who can’t be bothered to learn how the judging system works.

At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, there were complaints about the judging in every one of the figure skating events, including allegations of fixed results in at least two of the events.  The purpose of this post isn’t to argue about those results. Instead, I want to look at the judging system itself, and analyze it using the model of an effective workplace performance evaluation system. I’m using this model for two reasons: (more…)

How Latvian Mythology Contributed to the Olympic Silver in Bobsleigh

Fascinating insights from the designer of the graphics on Latvia’s Olympic bobsleds. And how great is it that all that attention to detail helped the Latvian bobsled team win a medal!!

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These past Olympics have been mind-blowing for the Latvians. A very small country, with the third most medals per capita of all participating countries, Latvia also managed to induce partial heart attacks to 35million Canadians with the show-stopping Canada vs. Latvia hockey game, drawing all eyes on Latvia (similarly to the last summer Olympics when Latvia won gold in men’s Volleyball – “Wait, do they even have summer?”)

Edit: not gold in volleyball, bet bronze in beach volleyball, beating the US team in the quarter finals. Thanks to the readers that spotted that mistake!

Bobsleigh Ornaments

A satisfying end to the Olympic run was when team Latvia’s bobsleigh team nabbed Silver on the last day. The bobsleighists had been a favourite and everyone had hopes for the team. They didn’t let us down, and just missed gold by a sliver.

But my rooting for the Latvian Bobsleigh team has a backstory, and…

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Behind the Music (and Other Stuff): Creating a Skating Program

During the 2014 Winter Olympics, a lot more people than usual will be interested in figure skating. As an adult skater, I appreciate any attention that my sport gets –  but I also realize that occasional watchers don’t always know how much has to happen off the ice for skaters to look so good on the ice. So I thought I’d give some insight, from my own experiences, into how a competitive skating program is created. (more…)

A Great Introduction to Skating Choreography

Anyone who wants to learn about choreography for competitive skating programs  should take a look at this excellent video, put together by American Ice Theatre. It uses examples from programs at the recent US national championships to demonstrate what a well-choreographed program includes, and what the judges are likely to be looking at in the choreography when they score a program. Thanks, AIT!

Caring, Not Caring, And Success

I’ve just finished reading David Epstein’s excellent book The Sports Gene, a fascinating exploration of the research on genetic and physiological factors that may contribute to exceptional athletic performance. Ironically, I got the book only a few weeks before I saw the fascinating Alex Gibney documentary The Armstrong Lie, which was intended to be about Lance Armstrong‘s 2009 return to competitive cycling in the Tour de France, but instead ended up being about Armstrong’s secret use of performance-enhancing drugs. Clearly anyone who takes PEDs is trying to gain a physiological advantage in competition, but watching Armstrong’s behaviour in the film made me wonder about another factor in exceptional athletic performance: (more…)

The Joy of Figures

Over the past two weeks, the international competitive ice skating season has started, with the Skate America competition in Detroit and the Skate Canada competition in Saint John. In most countries, the local and regional competitions leading to national championships are also underway – and all these events are more intensely competitive than usual because of the upcoming 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. But I’m going to talk about a part of skating that sadly disappeared from (more…)

Malcolm Gladwell’s Weak Defense of the “10,000 Hour Rule”

The “10,000 hour rule” – the idea that 10,000 hours of practice is the amount needed to excel in an activity, as described in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers – has been getting more attention than usual recently. The attention is partly because of the release of Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath, but it’s also because of the discussion of the rule in another new book –  The Sports Gene, by former Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein. In his investigation of what leads to outstanding athletic performance, Epstein points out some contradictions to Gladwell’s rule – for example, that athletes at the same level of competition can have very different amounts of practice time or playing experience, and that success in sports isn’t determined only by how much an athlete practices.

A few weeks ago, in this article in the New Yorker, Gladwell responded to Epstein and to other critics of the “10,000 hour rule”.  Since I’ve written a blog post about Gladwell’s misinterpretations of the research cited in Outliers in support of the rule, I was very interested in what Gladwell had to say. But it seems that the article is full of  (more…)

Activism: It’s Not Just for Labour Day

It’s Labour Day weekend, and as many of my colleagues ruefully note, this is the one time every year when labour and union issues are guaranteed to get some attention in the news. And it’s usually mentioned in this news coverage that unions’ activism doesn’t just benefit their own members, but also improves society at large. When I teach industrial relations, I always talk about how workplaces don’t have things like minimum wages and regulated working hours because employers woke up one morning and voluntarily decided to give these things to their employees. Those things are required by law – and while unions were among the activists fighting to get those laws passed, the unions wanted better working conditions not just for their own members, but for everyone.

I’ve been thinking about this kind of activism in a very roundabout way recently, because of (more…)

Hooray! The 10th Anniversary of Canada’s Adult Figure Skating Championships

This weekend, the 10th annual Canadian adult figure skating championships are taking place, in Kamloops, BC. It’s a historic occasion for adult skaters in Canada, and since (sadly) I can’t be there, I’m instead going to write about why this anniversary is so important.

As explained on this blog’s About page, I am an adult skater. (more…)

Another Critique of Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule”

I’m currently reading a very interesting book entitled Selling the Dream: How Hockey Parents and Their Kids are Paying the Price for Our National Obsession. (The “our” is Canada, if you hadn’t already guessed that from the reference to hockey.) If nothing else, this book has made me, as a figure skater, realize that participating in hockey can be almost as expensive as participating in figure skating, especially when parents put their kids into all kinds of additional hockey training and coaching.

However, the part of the book that I found particularly fascinating was its comments on Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour rule”, which I have criticized in another post(more…)