Nurturing team climate

Last week, the Spanish canoeing sprint team wrote a new page on the history books, winning the medal table for the first time thanks to the 4 gold and 2 silver medals won by our outstanding paddlers.

This year we’ve actually won two medal tables. First at the World Cup in Racice (Chzec Republic) and then at the World Championships in Halifax (Canada).

Some team leaders and athletes from other countries commented how relaxed our athletes and coaches seemed during these competitions. I must admit that it is true that we’ve had an amazing team climate during this season’s international competitions but it can only work out that way when there is an insane amount of hard work, organization, trouble-shooting and emotional control prior to each event. Then you can enjoy the pressure and shine on D Day.

One of the gold medals that helped us win that medal table was won by the young C2 crew Cayetano García and Pablo Martinez. If you watched their interview after the race in Canada, you probably listened to them thanking those who supported them during some difficult times. I won’t go into much detail here but if you were wondering what they meant by “difficult times”, it was because their coach decided to leave them 8 weeks before the World Championships and just a week after they won the C2 500m at the World Cup in Racice.

They were one of our most hopeful crews for a gold medal at the World Championships so we had to act quickly and find a solution as soon as possible.

That very day I talked to Kiko Martin, one of our most experienced and successful coaches,  and thankfully he accepted the challenge of coaching these two young paddlers and Olympic finalist Antia Jácome. Two days later they were catching a ferry to Mallorca to continue with their preparation under a new guidance but within the same system that has been supporting them over the past few years.

Two weeks after they landed in Mallorca, I went to see them train and I was sure that those three paddlers were going to achieve great things this year (you’ll see Antia Jacome in action this week in the Women’s C1 200m at the European Championships in Munich).

To have a good team climate on D Day is not natural. There is too much at stake. Too much pressure. Anything can blow up at any moment. That is why, in order to achieve and maintain a good team climate, it is so important that the team leader and the coaches do all the groundwork looking after the smallest details and finding solutions to any unexpected issues.