In the current age of volleyball, very few expressions have earned as many different definitions as “High Performance”. Since my position at the OVA is the one of “High Performance Manager” and since I am responsible for the development of a High Performance plan for volleyball in Ontario, I feel it is important, if not necessary, to define this broad term. Having a clear understanding of what High Performance means to us will definitely help us achieve our goal of having more Ontario players reach the highest level of competition by joining the National Team.
The definitions of High Performance being so diverse, I would like to use an image to illustrate the vision I have for it in Ontario. To me, High Performance is comparable to making a cake. When making a three-level cake, we really only have two options:
1) We can make a beautiful three-level cake like the one below. It has different colors and textures on each level. It is esthetically beautiful and
we perceive the artistic talent of the baker behind how slightly tilted each level is positioned. The top layers is small and pretty with some glowing flakes decorating it. This cake can definitely win next weekend’s cake-making competition for us. The problem with this cake though and that despite its pretty look, it is not very sturdy so it would be very difficult to add an extra layer to it.
2) Our second option is to make a three-level cake that offers a great potential for growth and added layers because of its wide and thick base. The levels are big squares stacked on top of each other. This cake might not be as pretty because there is less room for fragile creative features but it is so solid it can withstand another ten layers. It might not be able to win next weekend’s cake-making competition but it will be well equipped for top level competitions down the road.
In my opinion, High Performance in volleyball is designing programs according to the principles applying to the second cake. That means developing programs with a long term vision of athlete development by making sure that we train our players in a way that will allow them to continue their growth when we are done with them.
The second cake will be made by multiple bakers. Each baker is responsible for putting a few layers on the cake. Once a level is laid on the cake though, it will be decorated and improved by all the bakers working on it in the future. In that sense, all bakers contribute to the cake as a whole and since each baker possesses a specific set of skills, they are all as important.
In the example of the second cake, each layer represent a distinct aspect of the elite player; technical skills, mental skills, physical qualities, emotional control, etc. In the same way, each baker represents one of the programs our athletes will go through; school team, club team, provincial team, post-secondary team, national team, etc. Each program is then responsible for adding value to a player’s current skills and to teach them new ones.
I like this analogy to talk about High Performance because it puts the emphasis on development as opposed to so many other definitions that point towards success criteria such as winning. It shows that our goal in Ontario should be to allow our athletes to become the best they can be and to make sure that the best they can become is as good as humanly possible.
I like the image of the cake because we can all understand it. In the context of a cake, it is easy to see how a wider base will help us build a bigger cake later. When it comes to volleyball though, it is much harder to see how all the different skills add on to each other over multiple years to produce an elite level player. The cake example helps us understand that going after quick and artificial proofs of success such as gold medals without a long term vision of athlete development is not High Performance.
High Performance is about having a long term vision of athlete development involving all the different levels. That’s the vision I want to bring in my new position as the High Performance Manager for the OVA. I want all High Performance programs to be designed in a way that will allow athletes to keep adding layers to their cakes. I want the OVA to work with clubs, colleges, universities and national teams to make sure that together, we allow athletes to become the best they can be.
Approaching High Performance with this definition will benefit all of Ontario and make us leaders in athlete development, not only in Canada, but in the World.
To your ovens! Let’s get baking!
Manager of High Performance