Fast Tracking & Pine Trees

A couple of hours drive from where I grew up in South Africa we had some family friends who owned a pine tree plantation.

Those with an agriculture bent will immediately identify that pine trees are not native to the tropical South African landscape, and you’re correct.

Pine plantations were introduced artificially since the year-round sunlight, nutrient dense soil and plentiful rain would encourage a growth rate that could not be matched in the natural, colder climates that pines trees are more commonly found.

And this proved correct.

The pine trees flourished. They grew quicker; meaning when they were harvested there was more wood in the same time frame.

All this seemed very positive.

Except for one thing.

The accelerated growth rates also meant the wood was softer, not as good quality. It could not tolerate being under high pressure and was sold at a significantly lower price.

I think of this anecdote every time I hear a National Sporting Organisation (NSO) or professional team talk about ‘fast tracking’ – the idea that coaches, athletes or officials can be developed through special programs that will foster a greater rate of improvement in performance.

Experienced coaches, those who understand the slow, grinding process of progression, seldom mention the term. It’s the under-pressure coaches, administrators or failing NSOs who 'need a result now' that throw it around.

They are less concerned with the person’s ability to handle the expectations, or the media, or the criticism, or the accolades and more concerned about their own position. They rush development.

And, just like the pine trees in tropical SA, the product is softer, doesn’t handle the pressure well and isn’t as good quality.

Grant Jenkins is a Physical Performance Coach who prefers the grind over the flash. Follow him on Twitter @Grant_Jenkins.


PS A Coaching Heuristic: 'Fast tracking' is a sign the person or organisation is under-performing.



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