This winter has been really killer--as in freezing, snowy, and (in my opinion) just plain 'ol stupid. That's the only way I can classify this weather, "stupid"! I guess if I lived some place I could ski or something, it might be different, but this has brought much (all) of my swim, bike, run training indoors. This indoor training is great, but after months of it, can be quite taxing on the mind. This is especially true as most of "us" are either still in or just coming out of our base phase of training. This repetition has been termed the grind, or as I prefer to call it, the mundanity of excellence.
After reading an article regarding Olympic swimming routines, I felt it might be good to remind others and myself, that these seemingly mundane, boring, same bull shit everyday type activities or training actually may lead to excellence. And probably more importantly, at least anecdotally, Olympic athletes struggle/cope with similar obstacles that average-joe does!
The author suggests that excellence is achieved through consistency and states, “excellence does not result from some special inner quality of the athlete” (Chambliss, 1989, p. 72). Chambliss (1989) discusses the misconception that some individuals are born with a special ability, talent, or athletic gift, but suggests that other factors may influence excellence. Every day, individuals achieve some form of excellence in something, but athletes share their excellence to the masses on stages periodically, and therefore the audience only sees glimpses of their excellence. Talent is also purposed in the opposite direction, stating that if an athlete’s excellence is due to talent, then why is only noticed after they have achieved success?
The mundane aspects of achieving excellence are the little things that are repeated over and over, until they become habitual. The author discusses the breakdown of the flipturn and various stroke mechanics as the mundane. These mundane activities may be labeled as very short term/immediate process goals to achieve a much larger goal. Interestingly, these mundane activities can also be applied to any circumstance in which an opportunity to improve presents itself—whether it is shaking hands more firmly, speaking more confidently when asked a question, or any other task.
There are other factors that are suggested to have an influence on the attainment of excellence besides the mundane. The author lists these as genetic make-up, geographical location (is the athlete in the best climate for their sport), is the family able to meet the financial investment required, and the coaching ability/level of the coach. There is also a time commitment that is involved, and when younger, the athlete will need to rely on the transportation of others. Similar to Jonny Law’s story of overcoming adversity and injury (Law, Coleman, & Orlick, 2008) a “crucial factor is not natural ability at all, but the willingness to overcome natural or unnatural disabilities of the sort that most of us face…” (Chambliss, 1989, p. 80).
Chambliss, D. F. (1989). The mundanity of excellence: An ethnographic report on stratification and Olympic swimmers. Sociological Theory, 7, 70–86. Retrieved January 14, 2010, from Academic Search Complete Web site: http://wf2dnvr2.webfeat.org/QhKVN14727/url=http://content.ebscohost.com/pdf14_16/p df/1989/86G/01Mar89/15440384.pdf?T=P&P=AN&K=15440384&S=R&D=sih&Ebsco Content=dGJyMNLe80Sep7I4yNfsOLCmr0iep7ZSsqa4SLGWxWXS&ContentCustome r=dGJyMPGrsU2vp65KuePfgeyx44Hy7fEA
Law, J., Coleman, J., & Orlick, T. (2008). Embracing the challenges and gifts of big mountain free skiing: An interview with Jonny Law—world tour champion. Journal of Excellence, 12. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from Journal of Excellence Website: http://www.zoneofexcellence.ca/Journal.html