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Life Lessons

Fatal Distraction

Speedskating coach Gerard Kemkers made Olympic history Tuesday night — but not the kind anyone would want.
Kemkers cost Sven Kramer a gold medal with a blunder so elementary you could compare it to a baseball manager forgetting how many outs there are.
He sent Kramer into the wrong lane in the 10,000 meters Tuesday, producing a disqualification in an event Kramer would have won easily.
“How is this possible!” screamed a headline in a mass circulation newspaper in The Netherlands.
How is it possible? How about multitasking?

Kemkers said the fatal distraction was caused by trying to do too many things at the same time. Writing down information, forcing him to look away from the ice for a few vital seconds, did him in. Most other coaches use finger indicators, but Kemkers has it written down on a white board. He was also using a wireless phone for the first time at the games to get word from other Dutch officials.
He was multitasking. And multitasking is the enemy of quality. But people do it every day. Overwhelmed by the daily pace and distracted by everything from cell phones to American Idol, they make silly errors. Most people never commit these blunders under the Olympic glare. Kemkers was not that lucky. and he could have avoided this infamy by keeping things simple.
Sports psychologist Dr. Rob Gilbert says, “The most important thing is to make the most important thing the most important thing.”
This episode reminds everyone that success and failure are not complicated. Usually when you try and fail, there’s just one basic cause. If Captain Smith had slowed down in the ice field, the Titanic would not have hit the iceberg. If Kemkers had watched the ice instead of a clipboard, Kramer would have the gold medal.


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