This article is guest blogged by Lee Ness, a UKA qualified Event Group Coach for Sprints and Hurdles, the Head Coach/Sprint Coach at City of Salisbury Athletics, and Running Club and Track and Field Team Manager for Wiltshire Athletics Association.
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The X Factor
I had the X-Factor inflicted on me on Saturday. I don’t watch the later stages usually but actually, the drama of the whole on the chair, off the chair process was quite interesting.
So for those of you who avoided it, there are 6 chairs representing the final selection of the judges ahead of the public voting shows. As each person auditions, if they are good enough they get to sit on one of the chairs. Invariably, the chairs get filled before everyone has auditioned, so if someone came along who was better, as the also invariably do, then one of the person who has a seat is then thrown off. The crowd are going wild and booing, all the competitors are crying, both the people in the seats and the person who has just taken one of their places. It’s all very dramatic.
It all seems very normal, because that’s what we’re used to nowadays. But actually, when I thought about it, it is just a competition. The best get through and the others don’t. Eventually, someone wins. It is no different to any other competition, including athletics.
I can give countless examples, but I’ll give just a few, but what is the difference really? So, it’s a national competition and the equivalent therefore would be the national championships. There is an entry standard, so some people miss out by the narrowest of margins. There are many factors that can affect this, including nerves. That’s the way it is. Tears are rare.
For those that get there, the next stage is the first round. Now arguably, when the first heat is run, pretty much all the runners in that heat have qualified for the next round (usually the semi-final). But no-one thinks that way. They know that it isn’t decided until everyone has run.
Again, the competitors don’t usually cry (I’ve seen it occasionally) even when the process is repeated in the semi finals. In the final, everyone runs (or throws or jumps) and the best person wins. They get congratulated by the others because they were beaten on the day, then everyone goes home.
So why, when it involves singing or some other performing art is it more emotional for everyone. It isn’t that the people involved have put more into it. Practising to sing or play guitar, or even to teach your dog to do tricks, is nowhere near as painful as training to run a fast 400m for example. So it isn’t related to emotional investment. It isn’t that it means more. Qualifying for the world championships or Olympics is going to knock winning the X factor into a cocked hat, unless you include money into the equation, but I don’t believe it is the money.
So it can only be one thing. Competitiveness. Athletics is a competitive sport so the people competing in it are competing with someone. It might be someone specific, it might be the whole field and often they are competing with themselves. But they are competing. The funny thing about this mindset is that competition is just that and anything can happen. No-one expects to win with certainty, so although there might be disappointment, every competitor has been there before. Because the sport IS competition. And I think this is the difference. The participants in the X-Factor, the performers, the judges and the audience, don’t perceive singing as a competition in normal circumstances. It is usually a participation endeavour. Athletics is a zero sum game. Only one person can come first. It is the nature of the beast.
But the performers are wrong. They should see it as a competition. They are competing for votes the same way as a politician is. They are competing for sales once they are professionals.
Simply put, they (and everyone for that matter) need to be more like athletes!
About Lee Ness
Lee Ness is a UKA qualified Event Group Coach for Sprints and Hurdles, the Head Coach/Sprint Coach at City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club and Track and Field Team Manager for Wiltshire Athletics Association.
The book,The Sports Motivation Masterplan, is a support guide for athletes and parents, helping them with the role of mentor through their journey from young aspiring athlete, to elite performer.