One of the more interesting things that I remember from my thirty years as a swimming coach is how the power of high expectation works. How expecting athletes to rise to the challenge of whatever they are training for quietly helps them focus their efforts on exactly where they should be and what they should be doing." />

    Great expectations: Expect more, get more! What we learn from raising the bar in sport performance

    One of the more interesting things that I remember from my thirty years as a swimming coach is how the power of high expectation works. How expecting athletes to rise to the challenge of whatever they are training for quietly helps them focus their efforts on exactly where they should be and what they should be doing.

    I witnessed high expectations in action while working with my sport association in hosting the annual swimming championship. The competition was an age group meet and there were qualifying times for each event that swimmers had to meet before they could enter. But over the years the number of athletes attending the meet grew to the point where the meet became almost unmanageable. There were too many athletes and the competition was simply taking too long to complete.

    One year we decided that we had to reduce the number of athletes attending. Since it was a championship it wasn't possible to simply cap the numbers, everyone had to have a chance to qualify. Our only option was to lower the qualifying times, thus making it harder to qualify for the meet. Adjusting the qualifying times was really the only tool we had that could do this.

    So, we lowered the qualifying time in every event. Athletes would now have to swim faster than they did the year before if they wanted to earn the right to compete in next year's championship. This, we thought, would reduce the number of athletes qualified to enter the competition and the meet would be back to a more manageable number of competitors. Or so we thought.

    The following year, when the entries started coming in I noticed something strange. Team entries were bigger, not smaller as we expected. Teams that had only 10 swimmers in the meet last year now had 20. Teams with 80 swimmers the previous year now entered 110. We ended up with a meet that was even bigger than previous years. But the athletes in the meet were swimming faster than ever before. Every coach was talking about how making the times more challenging somehow motivated young athletes to greater heights.

    This response to 'raising the bar' reinforces how behaviour of large groups can be influenced through structural frameworks. The qualifying times were part of the swimming championship structure. As coaches we believed that we were simply controlling the size of the championship meet when we made it tougher to qualify but the athletes saw it differently. They saw it as a challenge, one many responded to in exactly the way we hope athletes would. By training harder and swimming faster.

    The lesson is that in sport we should always have high expectations because that's the best way to motivate athletes. Expecting anything less than what they're capable of disrespects their efforts and dooms them to mediocre performances. As Steve Prefontaine said, "To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." Never underestimate the power of expectations.

    --------
    Bill Price (price@ussa-my.com) is the Chief Information Officer at USSA Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

    All articles

    Dietary sugar comes from lots of different sources - 15 October 2018

    Who won the Malaysia Games? Selangor, but Terengganu is the real star of the show! - 01 October 2018

    Deliberate practice vs. late specialization - 24 September 2018

    Is talent identification even possible? - 17 September 2018

    Who won the Asian Games? USSA Malaysia fires up its research department for another riveting analysis - 10 September 2018

    Re-thinking the mission of Malaysia's sport associations - 03 September 2018

    Does Malaysia need the Podium Program? Yes, but it also needs something more - 20 August 2018

    The youth sport talent illusion: How we confuse early-maturers with good athletes - 13 August 2018

    Naturalized footballers: Is it really the Malaysian national team if the players aren't Malaysian? - 06 August 2018

    The tip of the iceberg: What are we seeing when we watch elite sport performances? - 30 July 2018

    What are bicycle gears for? Hint: It's not what you think! - 23 July 2018

    Tour de France: Looking forward to Stage 17 - 09 July 2018

    3 tips that will keep your fitness program on track - 03 July 2018

    7 things youth sport coaches should know - 25 June 2018

    Who is responsible for athlete performance: Athletes, coaches, or committees? - 18 June 2018

    Creating a culture of achievement in sport - 05 June 2018

    Sport development in the headlines (sort of): Is Malaysia really serious about revamping their sports system? - 28 May 2018

    Why can't the SEA Games have a core list of sports? - 21 May 2018

    Some ideas for Malaysia's new sports minister - 14 May 2018

    The daily mile: Can this simple yet brilliant idea help improve fitness at your school? - 07 May 2018

    The Podium Program: One of the bright spots in Malaysian sport - 01 May 2018

    Who won the Commonwealth Games? A points analysis of the Gold Coast games - 23 April 2018

    Is it possible to win the Commonwealth Games? Why '10th place or better' is not a good goal for the Malaysian team - 09 April 2018

    Kaizen: Improving sport administration will improve performance - 02 April 2018

    Is anybody really interested in the medals target for Malaysian athletes in the Commonwealth Games? - 19 March 2018

    Living inside the bubble: American football seems tone deaf to concussion fears - 12 March 2018

    More efficiency tips for coaches: Dealing with more than one email address and other communication ideas - 26 February 2018

    Efficiency tips for coaches: What can you do to work more efficiently? - 19 February 2018

    What kind of fun do you have in sport? - 05 February 2018

    Is public investment in E-Sports a good idea? - 29 January 2018

    LTAD: Training to compete - 22 January 2018

    Sport clubs are the lifeblood of national sport development. They need help from sport associations to do their job. - 15 January 2018

    YES! Malaysia is starting to talk about sport structure! - 08 January 2018

    Why are there no local coaches to take Zhuliang's place? - 25 December 2017

    Sometimes taking risks is the only way to improve: Take a chance! - 18 December 2017

    What is bio-banding? Can it help reduce the relative age effect in sport? - 04 December 2017

    Three problems facing Malaysian sport - 27 November 2017

    Understanding the role that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation play in the athlete development process - 20 November 2017

    Great expectations: Expect more, get more! What we learn from raising the bar in sport performance - 14 November 2017

    Malaysia's sibutramine incident offers a glimpse into the complexity of the drugs in sport issue - 06 November 2017

    Want to lose weight? Try the USSA Malaysia 1-month, 'Choose Water' challenge - 30 October 2017

    Swimming disputes in Sarawak highlight governance, development, and data issues - 23 October 2017

    You're out! BAM eliminates players from Super Series and Grand Prix Gold tournaments unless they join BAM program - 10 October 2017

    Is American football about to meet its Waterloo? - 02 October 2017

    Why process is far more important than outcome in a learning environment - 25 September 2017

    Sport associations are embracing physical literacy training - 18 September 2017

    Who won the SEA Games? - 04 September 2017

    KL2017: Reporting individual sport results deserved better planning - 29 August 2017

    Is the SEA Games event program too big? - 21 August 2017

    Bicycling safety tips - 14 August 2017

    Can we please forget about ways to identify talent and just work on getting more athletes? - 07 August 2017

    The difference between sport and energy drinks - 31 July 2017

    Using the team selection process to boost motivation and increase athlete participation - 24 July 2017

    Physical education is not the same thing as physical activity - 17 July 2017

    LTAD: The Train to Train stage - 10 July 2017

    Training for performance vs. exercising for weight loss. Yes, there's a difference! - 03 July 2017

    LTAD: The Learn-to-Train stage - 26 June 2017

    When it comes to fitness, ROUTINE is the magic word - 19 June 2017

    Athletic training for youngsters - 12 June 2017

    Visualization and imagery in sports - 05 June 2017

    Young, single-sport athletes suffer more injuries and do not reach their full potential - 29 May 2017

    Transformational vs. transactional coaching - 23 May 2017

    Happy Teacher's Day! - 16 May 2017

    Footballing in Pyongyang? - 15 May 2017

    Will they come back tomorrow? The most important KPI for youth sport coaches - 08 May 2017

    Advice to parents of young athletes - 01 May 2017

    Need to lose weight? Stop drinking sugar - 26 April 2017

    Some thoughts on the National Football Development Plan - 18 April 2017

    Talk, Show, and GO! Long descriptions in PE class hinder learning - 03 April 2017

    Is VIP leadership of sport associations a good idea? - 22 March 2017

    PLKN Training of Trainers completed in Malaka - 13 March 2017

    Pre- and post-testing for 6 fitness elements in PLKN camps - 06 March 2017

    What happens after an athlete's initial introduction to sport? - 27 February 2017

    Every Student, Every Day: Let's make physical education part of every student's school day - 20 February 2017

    Malaysian schoolchildren study illustrates relative age effect - 13 February 2017

    What is the anaerobic threshold? - 06 February 2017

    "Naturalization is the key to sport success." Really? - 30 January 2017

    Knowing the difference between a sports program and a sports team is the difference between high performance and poor performance - 23 January 2017

    "Where do athletes come from?" A paper presented at the Kuching sport psychology conference - 16 January 2017

    Understanding sport talent pathways - 09 January 2017

    Make 2017 the year of the growth mindset - 02 January 2017

    Individualism vs. collectivism in sport - 26 December 2016

    Performance Data Project releases percentile tables for International Physical Performance Test - 19 December 2016

    Teaching physical literacy skills in youth sport practices - 12 December 2016

    Developing sport from the ground up: How d