Tramp and Tumbling on the world stage

Last night, NPR aired a rare piece on World Cup and Olympic Trampoline competition.

American trampoline artists say their sport sometimes gets tagged as the kind of spectacle that belongs in circuses, not the Olympics. But the sport combines gymnastics and dance — all while mocking gravity at 30 feet in the air.

Short, but worth a listen.

This story was inspired in part by the Trampoline and Tumbling World Cup going on this week in Lake Placid, NY. A press release from USAG yesterday gives the results, including these highlights:

2006 U.S. tumbling champion Kalon Ludvigson of Cedar Lake, Ind., and 2007 Winter Classic tumbling champion Susannah Johnson of Roanoke, Va., both won their first World Cup medals when they claimed bronze medals in men’s and women’s tumbling, respectively….

Canadian trampolinists set two world records for degree of difficulty at the World Cup. Canada’s Jason Burnett set the mark in men’s trampoline at 17.5, while Rosannagh MacLennan and Karen Cockburn of Canada set a world record at 14.2 in their women’s synchronized trampoline win.

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Champions, present and past

If you would like to see a bit of current World Series Champion history, the World Championship Trophy will be on display at the Missouri Historical Society (Missouri History Museum) in Forest Park here in St. Louis beginning this Saturday. Society members will get a chance to see it Saturday morning before it is open to the general public , so now may be a good time to become a member. The 30 pound, sterling silver trophy will be on view in the museum’s MacDermott Grand Hall 7 April – 13 May 2007 (except for 23-25 April, when the trophy will not be on display).

A bit of interesting trivia, thanks to the folks at wikipedia: The trophy, officially called the Commissioner’s Trophy, was first presented in 1967 to the St. Louis Cardinals (!) following their victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Speaking of baseball, yesterday was a beautiful day for it, and a great day for opening day ceremonies for the reigning World Series Champion Cardinals. In addition to the current champions and new additions to Busch stadium to honor them, the festivities included quite a few champions from the Cardinal’s past.

After the Budweiser Clydesdales got the party started, parading around the field, Cardinals radio voice John Rooney and actor Billy Bob Thornton took over as the official emcees of the evening festivities.

Shortly after each member of the team took a trip around the field in a convertible, past Cardinals greats were introduced, commemorating St. Louis’ last two World Series championships, in 1967 and ’82.

Some of the former players on hand were Keith Hernandez, Joaquin Andujar, Bob Forsch and Bruce Sutter from the ’82 championship squad. Representing the ’67 championship team were Tim McCarver, Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson, among others.

OpeningDay07The pregame festivities continued when Adam Wainwright, Gibson and Sutter threw out the ceremonial first pitches. Those were the three pitchers to record the final out for the Cardinals’ last three World Series titles. The three hurlers threw to the managers that led them to the World Series: Tony La Russa, Schoendienst and Whitey Herzog.

Sutter joked before the toss that he didn’t know if he could get it to Herzog, and if he did, he didn’t know if Herzog could catch it. Sutter had no problem delivering a strike to his former manager.

All in all, it was quite a day for Cardinals fans, who waited 24 years in between for their World Series titles. Some fans were so eager for the first game that they went to downtown St. Louis several days early.

Pretty much a perfect opening day. Except, of course, that the Cardinals lost to the Mets.

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The new gamer generation: Not who you think

The New York Times today writes about the new gamer generation in Retirees Discover Video Games. Yep, retirees. They are making up a larger and larger part of the market for “casual” games, and game developers and distributors are taking notice. The Nintendo Wii, with its simple controls for many games, is making a splash of its own.

My favorite part of the article is that told by semi-retired businessman Dick Norwood:

Dick Norwood, 61, a semi-retired businessman who lives in a community for residents 55 and older in Crest Hill, Ill., spotted the Wii in a mall in December. After playing Wii bowling with two other couples at home, he persuaded Giovan’s, a local Italian restaurant, to begin a “seniors only” Wii bowling league, where nine couples now show up every Thursday.

“When I started calling people about it, they had no idea what I was talking about, and they were laughing at me saying, ‘You want to start a bowling league on a video game in a bar?’ ” he said. “Well, we got there the first time, and we were there for six solid hours. In the past, I probably would have agreed that video games are just for kids. But I’ll tell you, at our age when you bowl for real, you wake up with aches and pains. Those balls aren’t light. But with this you’re getting good exercise, but you’re not aching the next day.”

Regular readers here know my fondness for the Wii, and I’m not the only one. My wife, my brothers, even my mom love to play games on the Wii, especially Wii Sports. The appeal of the Wii, especially in a sports game, is captured by Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good For You, in 5 Thoughts on the Nintendo Wii:

What strikes you immediately playing Wii Sports — and particularly Tennis — is this feeling of fluidity, the feeling that subtle, organic shifts in your body’s motion will lead to different results onscreen. My wife has a crosscourt slam she hits at the net that for the life of me I haven’t been able to figure out; I have a topspin return of soft serves that I’ve half-perfected that’s unhittable. We both got to those techniques through our own athletic experimentation with various gestures, and I’m not sure I could even fully explain what I’m doing with my killer topspin shot.

In a traditional game, I’d know exactly what I was doing: hitting the B button, say, while holding down the right trigger. Instead, my expertise with the shot has evolved through the physical trial-and-error of swinging the controller, experimenting with different gestures and timings. And that’s ultimately what’s so amazing about the device.

Games for years have borrowed the structures and rules — as well as the imagery — of athletic competition, but the Wii adds something genuinely new to the mix, something we’d ignored so long we stopped noticing that it was missing: athleticism itself.

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Update:  For every silver lining, there is apparently a cloud, including for the Nintendo Wii.  The physical exertion that makes the Wii so fun seems to be leading to an increased risk of physical injuries, as described in Virtual video games cause real injuries.  Just like all games, people need to learn to play in moderation.

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Technology makes it easy to ‘remember,’ the trick is learning how to forget

A blog post I wrote a year ago. Playing around with David Allen‘s Getting Things Done. A recent article in Fast Company. Reading Steven Johnson‘s book Mind Wide Open over Thanksgiving. Autism.

All of these things came together in my mind over the past few days. (If the internet is a global cocktail party, and blogs are its conversations, I’m the guy who takes it all in and thinks of something to say as he’s driving home from the party. At least that’s how it feels sometimes, especially with topics such as this one.)

Just over a year ago, I wrote the following:

My early days in Knowledge Management included a lot of time developing, deploying, and getting people to use “knowledge repositories.” (At least trying to get people to use them.) A worthwhile endeavor in some regards, I’ve always had misgivings about the whole idea, at least how it has been implemented in most cases. The cheapness of mass storage these days, and the way we just keep everything, has nagged at this misgiving over the past couple of years.

I finally realized one day that the problem has become not, “How do we remember all this knowledge that we’ve learned?” but rather, “How do forget all this knowledge we’ve accumulated that we no longer need so we can focus on what we do need?”

This same question has come up, albeit in a different context, in that other domain in which I blog: autism autism.

MOM – Not Otherwise Specified recently posted a very interesting piece about the role of memory, and the inability to purge it, in autistic behaviors. In her post, she quotes Paul Collins’ book The trouble with Tom:

Memory is a toxin, and its overretention – the constant replaying of the past – is the hallmark of stress disorders and clinical depression. The elimination of memory is a bodily function, like the elimination of urine. Stop urinating and you have renal failure: stop forgetting and you go mad.

This also plays on my long-held dislike of best practices, at least how most people implement them. If you are so caught up in what has happened before, it is hard to get caught up in what is to come.

In the context of mastery, especially of something new, it is sometimes hard to know when to forget what you’ve learned. You have to build up a solid foundation of basic knowledge, the things that have to be done. And at some point you start to build up tacit knowledge of what you are trying to master. And this, the tacit knowledge that goes into learning and mastery, is probably the hardest thing to learn how to forget.

Sometimes, though, it is critical to forget what you know so you can continue to improve. Witness Tiger Wood’s reinvention of his swing, twice, and Neil Peart’s reinvention of his drumming.

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A winning attitude

Anyone who has ever competed in a sport knows the value of having actual competition. Runners, for instance, are much more likely to improve their personal best time if they are running against someone that is as good as or slightly better than they are.

Ian Back 1

Even in the world of business, competitive pressures provide the incentive needed to do your best work. (I think we all know how much competing against a deadline ‘encourages’ us to get things done faster, if not better.)

I’ve written before about my son Ian’s trampoline and tumbling. Competition season has begun again, and with it comes the inevitable preparation, travel, and actual performance. One of the hardest things about the early part of the local competition environment is the lack of competition in all age groups and difficulty levels, especially among boys.

Ian Back 2In the absence of this competition – especially this early in the season when the goal is simply to participate so you can attend the State Championships – it would be all too easy for Ian and other athletes to not give their best. When you are the only one in your competitive group, you will get the gold even if you give your worst performance ever. For the ultra-competitive athlete, this is even worse because they don’t really consider it competition if they’re not actually beating someone.

During Ian’s first competitive season, we worked around this by turning it into a competition with himself – the goal was to improve the score of his routines from meet to meet so that by the time he got to the State Championships he was ready for any competition that may come his way.

This obviously sank in. Here’s what Ian had to say about not having any direct competition at the first event of this competition season:

I’m not going to win gold because I’m the only one. I’m going to win gold because I did my best.

A winning attitude we would all do well to remember.

(If you live in the St. Louis area and your kids are interested in Trampoline and Tumbling, check out St. Louis Elite Tramp and Tumble at Gateway Kids World in Hazelwood.)

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