After two Olympic Trials, 16 year old Molly Renshaw apparently found recently herself in the apparent position of being the only swimmer in the world to have a FINA ‘A’ time, be in their country’s top 2 and not be selected for the London Olympic Games (as reported by PullBouy.co.uk - not yet independently verified)
Understandably an appeal was lodged and tonight PullBouy.co.uk also reported that the original decision had been upheld as the selection policy had been applied.
I have a few different thoughts to add to this story.
Testing the policy
First, with my corporate hat on (the day job), I think it was correct to appeal and test the policy. It may be that once written there was no going back but there should always be room, in my view, for recognising that a policy is never written with a crystal ball to hand and cannot be fully tested until it is applied. I’ve supported government departments in policy implementation and one thing i’ve learned is that it is difficult to predict every possible scenario.
Retain a little more discretion
Second, as a sports fan I have watched as other sports, notably athletics, have retained much more discretion in their selection policies. I’m proud that British Swimming have what I see as a more rigorous policy than UK Athletics, who have not held their athletes to performances at a particular trial. However, I hope that when lessons are learned British Swimming will recognise that a young athlete that could have quite legitimately participated at the games has not been selected, and that in future they will not limit themselves quite so much.
Of course, my human response to the whole situation is to feel sympathy for Molly Renshaw. I’m sure that she was desperately disappointed not to make the games and possible quite upset and confused by the nature of her non-selection.
Park it, use it later, but get focused for now
As a sport psychologist, however, I recognise that Molly, her parents and her coach at Derventio, Andi Manley cannot afford to get stuck in ‘sympathy mode’. Molly has a bright future ahead of her, and the next step on her swimming journey is at next week’s European Juniors where she has the opportunity to get right back on track and show what she is capable of doing – not for anyone else, not to prove British Swimming wrong, but because as an elite athlete (albeit a 16 year old) that’s what she does.
How would I advise Molly, if she was my client? Well, I don’t know how she’s thinking or feeling right now, as to her credit she seems to have maintained a dignified silence. However, I would advise her to compartmentalise any sense of injustice or any other emotional response to the Olympic decision, and save it as motivation not for the European Juniors but for when she gets back into training afterwards, and to focus her mind on the next four years of work. I would expect her to have a plan for the Europeans based around process goals, and I’d expect her to focus in on the process; and rather than looking back or forward, to try to stay in the moment.
What’s your view?
You can follow Molly Renshaw on twitter at @MollyRenshaw.