Wingate Congress March 2012, Netanya Israel
I first met Professor Michael Bar-Eli in 1998 on a bus somewhere near Olympia, Greece, on the occasion of the first World Congress of Olympic Winners. He asked about my story and I explained the techniques I developed on my own since they weren’t being taught at that time, not only the Flop technique, but how I prepared myself mentally. I described how I visualized my body clearing the bar and would not start my run up until I had completely convinced myself that I was going to succeed. I used my mind to prepare my body for whatever the action, in this case clearing the high jump bar. The conversation led us to a discussion about visualization and positive attitude as they impact achievement and success in sports in particular, and how this carries over to using the same strategies to help in achieving success in any endeavor. He invited me to come to Israel someday and we have stayed in touch by email over the last decade.
Michael Bar-Eli teaches at Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Business Administration and is associated with the Zinman College of Physical Education and Sports Sciences located in the Wingate Institute, Israel’s National Centre for Physical Education and Sports in Netanya Israel. I received an invitation to participate in the 2nd Wingate Congress in March of 2012, which I was honored to accept. I was very pleased to see my old friend’s name in the email trail.
The Wingate Congress of Exercise and Sport Sciences was chaired by Dr. Yoav Meckel and was a great source of inspiration for me. I was asked to be one of the keynote speakers, and prepared a short discussion of the challenges and benefits of using Olympians to promote physical education and sport. The many benefits are obvious, as Olympians are heroes to our youth in all countries and can be used as ambassadors to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to everyone, young and old. Olympians can help garner interest, participation and support for sport programs by citizens of all ages.
One of the major challenges can be how to get the Olympians themselves motivated to take part in community service: how to get them to visit schools or to act as spokespeople for various causes such as nutritional education or fighting adolescent obesity. I proposed that part of the initial education of young athletes, before they achieved fame on an international level, would be instilling the expectation in them that with success comes the responsibility to use it to benefit others.
I participated on a Panel examining The Meaning of an Olympic Medal. Yael Arad, the first Israeli medalist, Shay-Oren Smadga, (both Judo) and Gal Fridman (sailing) participated with me. We talked about our own stories, how we won our medals and what the Medals meant to us individually: how our lives changed and and the impact of winning a medal. For me, I don’t think I fully realized what I had accomplished until I had an opportunity to reflect on it with the perspective of distance and as the impact on my life truly unfolded. The medal created a title for me that I would carry for the rest of my life. I gained confidence and a strong belief that following a program towards success works: create a plan, work hard at it, and that the same pattern of a set program to achieve success carries over to everything in life. I had confidence that I could be successful because I learned the lessons of how to focus, how to develop a schedule, and how to work with coaches and team mates toward a goal.
One of the topics which I found most interesting was a presentation by Brian Martin on the development in Physical Education in Europe. Denmark has one of the highest levels of development in terms of programs and participation but most of the countries are challenged with lack of programs and lack of facilities. In the last 20 years there has been a push to have more broad-based programs, and European countries have begun to meet with each other to coordinate and collaborate in the creation and sustainment of programs, and with problem solving. It has yet to be determined if this approach is working, but it is a good effort. Because the efforts are on a Continental scale the coordination has not been fully developed or implemented. There were a few organizations to help facilitate broad-based programs but funding issues with the Central European Commission have been limiting to their development.
Another interesting presentation was given on the genetic determinants and genetic mapping. I learned that 99.99% of our genetic code is the same, and the .01% that makes each of us unique is where the propensity and talent for a given sport lies. It confirmed that we are all unique and have special talents which are bestowed on a genetically determined basis. I was also interested in hearing from Professor John Ivy, from the University of Texas at Austin, about various dietary supplements for good health. and how we should proportion our intake of proteins, fats and carbohydrates in order to have the right energy level for physical activity.
Finally, I was inspired by a presentation by Daniel Rosenberg from Barry University, Miami. of some of Bud Greenspan’s films. This re-confirmed once again the importance of telling our stories, not about winning medals but of the struggle and how we as individuals can express ourselves through sport.