The Dirty Double discuss their reactions and how they coped with disappointment and why critical analysis is an important part of performance
The Dirty Double is presented by Lindsay Jennerich & Patricia Obee
Podcast length: 21’52” The full transcript of this episode is below.
Rio Olympic Silver Medalists in the Lightweight Doubles, Lindsay Jennerich & Patricia Obee, are back and their topic is Dealing with Disappointment in competition as an individual and in a team. They share their personal experiences of how they coped when they didn’t get the result they hoped for or expected, how critical analysis is critically important not just in defeat but also when you win. And why being honest with yourself and your team mates is key to a successful outcome. They also explain why it’s important to distinguish critical analysis of yourself as an athlete not your character or personality.
TRANSCRIPT of Episode 2:
So for those of you out there, thanks for joining us once again, it’s Lindsay Jennerich here and Patricia Obee, Canada’s lightweight woman’s double from the Rio Olympics, now retired, and we’re on our second podcast here with WiSP Sports and a bit of a follow up from last month which was about the World Rowing Championships and athletes competing in that regatta which was the culmination of a year of hard work. We’re going to talk today about disappointments in sport and some of the ones that we’ve experienced ourselves and how we overcame them and what it means to move on. So Patricia I guess we could start off maybe with maybe just explaining maybe we could each tell everyone what one of our bigger disappointments were in our rowing careers and kinda go from there.
[00:00:51] Yes sure. I think like pretty easily the biggest disappointment I ever experienced was the 2012 Olympic Games where we came seventh. That was not that fun. And I think that one of the reasons it for such a disappointment was because it was the first one for me. I’d only been rowing for a couple of years but every time I’d gone to a regatta I’d come home with a medal which was at the time I think I thought it was a bit more normal than it actually is. So to have the first time did not get a medal and I even get to race the A Final be at the Olympic Games that one was really tough for me to get over.
[00:01:34] It’s almost like kind of like it wasn’t necessarily an absolute in terms of ranking yourself and being disappointed. It was like a relative kind of feeling which I feel like athletes probably do that all the time like you don’t. You know you’re just gauging yourself based on the last thing and it’s the last thing has always been good and even a pretty decent result can can feel really bad if you’re gauging that relative off of all your experiences.
[00:02:04] I totally like I think in training like each time you do something you’re trying to get better and better and better so that each stroke you take you’re trying to improve on the next stroke and so then you start doing that with the result and when you when you’re winning silver medals it’s pretty hard to go up there to keep improving off of that. And I think it’s natural that you’re going to have good performances and bad performances. But when you’ve only ever I had only ever had good performances that one slightly off performance seemed astronomical.
[00:02:37] Right. And I also think that like we would both kind of say that why do I definitely say this. I assume you’re similar in that in all those moments that you have that are like that like that disappointing experience in London and then for me I’d say you know.
[00:02:53] Backdate another quadrennial to missing out on making the boat for Beijing and then by literally hundreds of a second like that was the first time I’d really tried out for a team and set my sights on and didn’t make it.
[00:03:06] And then I look back on our journey through to Rio and and how we went about getting that medal all the learning that went on and I’m thinking now like that was really brutal and that at the time. But do I regret it at all. Not at all.
[00:03:22] I feel like it always turns around at the end to the something that you realize you actually needed to get to that end point.
[00:03:33] Totally I felt after the I always thought that way in my life that in my rowing career prior to 2012 I remember I’d maybe like I don’t even know not get the erg score I wanted on one erg test and be like oh well that’s great because that’s going to help me on my next erg test because I’m going to learn something. But that’s why it was. It actually hit me really hard in 2012 after the regatta I I could not for over a year see what was positive about it how I was like how could this possibly turn into something positive like I just can’t see it.
[00:04:11] And it took me I would say two years until you and I got back in the boat together in 2014 and won a medal there’s I was like Ah now I know why they came 12th or why we came seventh in 2012. And I really distinctly remember thinking that it’s like day in day out like how can this possibly be a benefit to me these negative feelings I have. Yeah, it was really weird. I don’t know. Did you feel like that after. How long did it take you after when you say that 2008 was your biggest disappointment.
[00:04:44] Well I think it’s not really the biggest in terms of like the gravity of it because I was just starting off with my first attempt at Olympic Games and I knew I’d have more. No I agree with you that the sevens in 2012 felt heavier a heavier burden it felt like a heavier disappointment because it was it was more meaningful to me in the setting. I thought I was going to retire but it wasn’t the reason why the 2008 one stands out to me is kind of the same reason that totally what 2012 stands out for you and that it was kind of the first big wasn’t like whoa whoa. He’s like really bad moments can happen. And that’s an interesting thought to think that you know I had mine in 2008 four years before we got together and we’re rowing. So it’s like it almost felt like disappointment that we experienced together were different marginally because it’s like I just been having disappointments for longer.
[00:05:46] Yeah I totally.
[00:05:48] It’s more about like how long have you, how many times do you have to go through it is all how much it hurts in a way.
[00:05:58] I’m thinking that that kind of relate to that I kind of think about you all the time like my parents are not you know exceptional athletes. So maybe one of them or both of them could be if they just had the right opportunity. Who knows. But they’re not. And and I think what you know what is it like what what’s my thing or how is it that I got so far knowing and I honestly think it comes down to exactly this which is why I think it’s such a great topic we’re doing it because it’s transferable to life in that what my parents just didn’t allow me to. They didn’t allow me to stop something because I was disappointed about it or they did it really grade successes too high and quote unquote failures so low that they were things that I could just kind of that could happen and I could move on. And I think the biggest thing was that always a very conscious awareness about I don’t remember necessarily the things they said but this awareness of at least learn from it. Right. So yeah you know that’s going to happen. But you’re going to if you learn from it then something will be better in the future because you’re going to take that information you’re going to utilize in a productive way. I think maybe that’s that’s the thing that they gave me that’s my thing. Yeah I mean I feel I see similar qualities in you for sure.
[00:07:26] Yeah I think that like I I don’t know where I got this really from my parents or her a friend or something along the way. But that idea that it’s not really a mistake if you learned from that. So in order to say something happens and you’re like well I kind of messed up. I don’t really feel good about that result or that you mean that thing I did. It’s not really an issue until you don’t learn from it.
[00:07:49] So you can kind of go through life with this mindset where you’re just coming to all these learning experiences instead of making all these mistakes. And I guess that’s kind of where maybe a definition of resilience which I think is paramount to well research says it’s paramount to happiness. And then in terms of sport I think it’s paramount to success.
[00:08:21] Would you agree with that Lindsay. Yeah for sure.
[00:08:24] And I think I’d like to. We’ve had conversations about the outside of sport and mostly you know retirement even like I can’t even think about us necessarily talking about that a whole lot while we’re going. It’s almost like a quality that – take it for granted is not the right description but it’s almost like I just you know you’re good looking for
[00:08:49] Yeah. To say it was so there was a good eye for it.
[00:08:52] I wasn’t aware that that’s the kind of thing that was happening but when I look back at my work for sure I was resilient.
[00:08:59] Yeah. I think I saw instead of calling it resilience while I was an athlete I thought of it more as critically critically analysis analysis critical analysis with some of what we are doing so I think one moment that really stands out to me that I was like oh we were great at critically analyzing what went wrong which really was resilience was in 2015 when we were in the final at the world we thought we were for the viewers out there that probably don’t know the story. We were a long list of events led us to a very poor result at World Cup three in 2015 in 2014 at the world. We had been silver medalist and that our next big regatta we raced the following year we were 14th which means you race the C Final. It was on both of our worst results ever and it was six weeks before the Olympic qualification regatta the world championships that year where we had to become top 11 to qualify for the Olympics and so it wasn’t looking great for us. We come 14th and we fly home the next day and as we actually ended up we got to be able to get to the actual day off.
[00:10:26] Yet in Switzerland and we hiked up Mount Pilatus and spent about eight hours discussing what went wrong. I don’t even know if I took in any of the view.
[00:10:42] So then the next day we fly home and we’re on an eight hour flight from Switzerland to Ontario and we sat down together and wrote a 14 page document on what went wrong and what we needed to do to improve and how we were going to qualify for the Olympics in six weeks time. And a lot of it. We broke it down to things that were in our control and things that were out of our control although what I say out of your control I think sometimes as athletes we think things are out of control. Yes good point. But they actually are somewhat in our control.
[00:11:20] It just depends how much we want to fight for what we believe in. Or maybe work the system.
[00:11:29] Whatever you need to do to to take something that’s out of control and bring it into your control is a skill I think that is important. And that’s part of just having that growth mindset of you know this can improve.
[00:11:42] Some of the things we had to do was trying to transfer some of those things from the out of control list to the in control list.
[00:11:51] Yeah. Which is more challenging with things that are in control. OK maybe I need to train harder maybe to spend a little bit more time with the sports psych or make a few lifestyle changes. Those things are easy but the ones that were hard for us were OK, we didn’t really jive with our coach. So how do we how do we change that. That was out of our control our coach what coaches are saying and how can we bring that into our control which in that case involves talking to administration , yeah stands out as compared to 2012, how we dealt with that was pretty different.
[00:12:29] I mostly just go away just go away for life as opposed to you know working very hard to analyze and to adjust behavior and move forward.
[00:12:42] Yeah. Whereas in 2012 maybe because as a combination we hadn’t fine tuned that skill of resilience of bouncing back. And I think it’s a little knowledge base too right.
[00:13:00] Like we had Yeah we kind of reached a point where we really do. We knew a lot about sport and most importantly we knew what our bodies and our mind needed. So it was like we had weapons in our arsenal if you will in terms of being able to write that document because we were able – knowing what some mistake is only possible if you really know what it should be. So you could almost say that I know I felt like in 2012 there are mistakes that I realize are making as they’re going into their regatta that I wasn’t actually seeing as mistakes in that moment.
[00:13:39] Yeah. When I reflect back on that we made a lot of mistakes. And then you have I guess the ability to analyze our mistakes in our most recent disappointment which I would say was in 2015.
[00:13:53] It came from the 2012 discipline and the lessons we learned there. So I guess the disappointments the way you make the more the better you’ll be able to analyze and bounce back from your mistakes. You become educated. A disappointment, educated athlete.
[00:14:16] I think that’s really the key the sport is that you know you’ve got to you’ve got to go through those processes and there’s athletes probably I’m assuming out there that you know they kind of have a bit more of a breezy pathway maybe they’re super super super talented really naturally gifted and things just come back a little bit easier for them but I do think that it’s a pretty big stretch to say that no athlete doesn’t ever experience some kind of major disappointment or something that they need that bounce from.
[00:14:45] And then I think that what makes victory in the end so sweet and very very possible most importantly is analyzing those disappointments, understanding where they came from why it happened and and moving forward in a way that educated intelligent and analytical and if you make it I think that’s what the thing about that document was that we really made it at business. It was very very factual. And I remember that that’s the thing that stood out to me was in our kind of our darkest results moment where we were extremely emotional. We managed to create 14 pages of facts. And I think that that really is the impressive thing about what we did there.
[00:15:37] You know I think that comes up as we’re talking about this is making me realize that there’s a certain level of disconnect you almost need to have with yourself. And Lindsay we’ve talked about this like what’s so important is to be honest with yourself and you have to be very self-critical to be a successful athlete. But if you’re always just beating yourself up and being self-critical without kind of that factor of resilience or self-belief or just kind of that slightly removed like this is me as an athlete. I’m not saying I’m a bad person this is me as an athlete and I didn’t perform well and this is why, this is how I’m going to perform better. It’s just slightly removed. You can’t you can’t take your results personally even though they’re your results you kind of have to take them, like you said like a like a business. And if you can do that I think you can more honestly analyze what went wrong and then therefore learn more and improve your results forward.
[00:16:41] Say that’s how you make successful teams like think of how many of our kind of negative interactions with people within our pathway. Usually it’s stemmed around the inability to do just what you described. Right. Because on an elite performance pathway there’s going to be a lot of critical thinking and there’s going to be a lot of required like you have to do better kind of moment. And so if you’re around it by people that are trying to help you who don’t take on that mentality then it can be a very negative environment. I think that’s something that you and I had in our own little bubble of 2015 was this ability to kind of speak to each other and about each other in that business like way and not be offended and then take it person on. And unfortunately we’re existing in a system around us that we had to kind of work against in terms of that. But then when we got that kind of environment of people around us in 2016 the outcome was an Olympic silver medal. So yeah it shows you that that mentality is not only important for your own growth mindset and personal growth but it’s also how you make functioning and successful team.
[00:17:54] Yeah totally. I was talking to Will a little bit before well my boyfriend also a rower for those who don’t know. He set the world record in 2012 in his eight and I was saying that we were going to talk about disappointing results and he brought up this world record that he set and said well actually sometimes even positive results require reflection because he said that you know they set a world record a few months before they got a silver medal at the Olympics and they said OK we didn’t reflect at all. We said OK that’s a great result. I don’t feel any emotional pain right now so why do I need to critically analyze what we did right.
[00:18:32] And therefore they don’t know why they were the fastest boat in the world at one point.
[00:18:35] Yes. So I thought that’s another like we are talking about disappointments today but because so much of talking with disappointments is talking about critical reflection. I think that there is it needs to happen on both ends and I know that’s something that I think we did a really good job of.
[00:18:52] When we won Lucerne before the Olympics the World Cup race is not is making sure we analyzed how that race went what worked and what didn’t work and I think had we not done that it was quite I was actually quite scared that we may not reflect on it and therefore move backwards or not be able to build off of that. And unfortunately we didn’t race the Dutch in that regatta so we didn’t get to see if we improved after that but we did open the gap up on the others crews that we raced at that World Cup and I think that came from taking that critical approach even when we won. So that’s an excellent point. Do you have anything more to add Lindsay? We should think about wrapping up here.
[00:19:38] You know I mean just I think that was you know some good stuff there. And I would hope that you know it’s an advice column or anything but I would hope that people who listen would kind of relate it in some way to what we said about resilience and about analyzing her behaviors and using that analysis to better yourself. And that doesn’t have to be in sport. And I think one of the things I struggle with now in life is that I have this ability to do that. But you know that the grand prize at this point in time is not an Olympic medal so you know my motivation to operate in that matter it is a lot less than I kind of be honest folks. See I see the effects of that. But you know maybe that’s a topic for next time.
[00:20:26] But yeah I just hope that one it’s got something about this topic and that can translate it somehow into what’s going on within their lives right now.
[00:20:36] Yeah for sure. All by all the skills I have I learned in rowing I’m just trying to figure out how to apply that to life and that is definitely one of those. I get a bad grade – I analyze about performance
[00:20:50] I look back on my notes and try that out with school and a new avenue. Sport is so finite it’s actually very easy to do that part. All right. Maybe that’s a good topic for next time. Yes maybe.
[00:21:07] OK. Well thank you for listening. And for more conversations from the world of women’s sports, there’s articles, videos, blogs and over 700 podcasts on wispsports.com. We’re also on social media at out with sports on Twitter and Facebook page which Lindsey and I discussed maybe hosting a few live Facebook live videos on there over the next month or so so keep your eyes open for that. Until next time, bye.