Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Resume *’s

On the way to a high school regatta this weekend, my best sailor was beginning to write a resume he wanted to submit to college sailing coaches. He was reviewing his personal accomplishments and those of the team over the last couple of years. As we recalled our final standings, he kept asking the same question – “Can I explain that I would have finished ….. if it weren’t for…………?” I explained to him that there are no footnotes in resume writing – just the facts, usually simplified.

Upon reflection, I wondered what a resume would look like with a bunch of asterisks explaining the details of the basic facts. It would surely be silly. The writer would appear to be an excuse maker, amplifying his shortcomings and revealing his less than perfect accomplishments as failures.

But for a coach, the series of asterisks could serve a positive purpose. If each asterisk represented a lesson learned, the resume would become a list of really important things discovered about how to improve sailing performance. If from each of our mistakes, we found out how to avoid repeating the mistake, we would be very successful indeed. To a college coach, what is high school sailing but a place to make a few mistakes and learn as much as one can?

Here’s what the asterisk part of my sailor’s resume for last year might have looked like:

* At state championship, would have finished second in division instead of fifth if I had not protested another boat who claimed inside room at a mark and then been DSQed myself. Apparently, you have to give him room and protest, not hit him and protest. Team would have finished third instead of fifth.

* At post-season team race regatta, beat the team that won, but finished third because our team sailed the first two races before really waking up. In one of these races, all three of our boats gave away the start to a very good team, and in another, we failed to capitalize on opportunities we routinely take advantage of, and then we sailed poorly to lose boats we were trying to cover.

* At post-season team race regatta, I held onto the 1 in a 1,4,5, as conventional wisdom suggests, only to watch the other team hook a teammate on the downwind leg and take him to 6; thus we lost instead of won. Repeated this losing strategy in next race. Lost regatta by virtue of these two races.

* At fleet race regatta, my team finished first on the water, but third after protests when a teammate was DSQed for tacking too close to the one sailor we had seen protest everything possible over the course of the season. (The team that was second on the water ended up fourth after a protest with the same protest everything team.)

* At fleet race regatta, finished second, both individually and as a team, after blowing away the field because I grazed the committee boat, and the RC said nothing at the time, but protested later. RC’s don’t have to notify competitors of their intention to protest. If I had taken my penalty spin, I could have finished last in that race and still won the regatta, but in high school a DSQ is everyone plus 4.

Writing this kind of resume is a good way to reaffirm lessons learned the hard way. I hope it served that purpose for my sailor.

If I were a college coach, I would love to have a kid who could sail fast, team race well, and never make the above mistakes again!

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