Every competition in the world has its own feel.   Team Trials, however, is perhaps the most unique for kayaking.   it is the “Final 4” for basketball, the AFC championships for football, etc..   The best are here to compete and there are plenty of people who won’t make the cut that are your local heroes on the water.  

Each competitor has their own feelings about the competition, but they tend to fall into three categories:

1. Those who are here to compete, but don’t really expect to make the team and aren’t super nervous because they have no real expectations.  They are here to see how they fair against the best and just want to have fun.

2. Those who have never made the USA Team for the World Championships and feel that this is there year.  this is a tough position because until you have done it, how do you know you can do it.   That group also falls into two subgroups.  

        a.  Those who feel they can make it but haven’t been in this exact position before, so their confidence level is high, but they have nothing to base it on…

       b. Those who have tried to make it before, but failed to, and are especially nervous, because they know what it is like to really want to make it, feel qualified, but just not been able to perform under the pressure, or perhaps not be quite good enough yet.

3. Third group is your past, and current USA Team Members.  These people have already successfully done it, and have seen just how awesome it can be to go to the World Championships and compete against the rest of the world, and hang out with them.   It is truly a life changing experience for most, and like an addictive drug, you want your fix.   The feeling most people have that have already made the team is, “this is mine to lose.”   They have an advantage in that they already know that they have the right stuff to make it, but the disadvantage of playing defense if they aren’t careful.   They tend to think, “I should make it as long as I don’t screw up.” while the non-USA Team members think, “if i paddle really well today, perhaps I can make it.”  a more offensive and motivated approach.     Ultimately the advantage always goes to the current team members as they already know they can do it and that extra confidence usually shows up at the right moment.    That moment is the final cut to the team.

Today is prelims.  The men, for example, cut to the top 10.   5 Men make the team.   Most of the top guys who think they can make the team, will be fairly confident in the first cut.   No big stressing will go on until tomorrow, where the cut is from 10 to 5 from 10 to the USA Team.   That cut is where those who have made it before feel it is their right to make that cut, while those who haven’t done it feel that they deserve to make it and hope they can pull it off.   Normally smiling faces start to get nervous looking, and people start to either rise up or fall apart.

I actually wish i was in that position, as your brain goes into hyperdrive and your goal is to control your thinking.   Since I am the current World Champion, I already earned my position on the USA Team, from the International Freestyle Committeee.    I am competing in the trials, but know in the back of my head that it doesn’t really matter, other than to say, “See I would have made it again, anyhow.”    or “oops, good thing i got my position secured already….”     In the 2007 Team Trials I competed and won that one on the Garberator on the Ottawa, even though I was the then invited world champion too.   i hope for a repeat of that tomorrow. 

The brain is a funny thing and looking back on life you have many defining moments, but most of them are when you ask something large from yourself and either rise to the occaison, or don’t.   How you interpret those feelings at the moment determines your fun factor.   

When your adrenaline hits the roof and your heart beats too fast, your breathing gets shallow and you can’t control your runaway brain, you are having the symptoms of either,  Love, Fear, or extreme excitment/challenge.    Your conscience brain has to lable that feeling, and how it lables the feeling determines whether you want to repeat that feeling again.    An old trick for getting a girl to fall in love with you is to scare her first by asking her to walk over a log or something that she is afraid of, then give her a hug  at the end.   With a little luck, she’ll forget about the log, and think her cold sweat is being in love with you.   (Haven’t had to pull that one off for a long time, thanks to Kristine falling for it.)     Some kayakers never want to feel like they’ll feel today, scared.    some can’t wait to feel the same way again- alive!  Both are experiencing the same thing at the same time but interpret it differently.    I am fortunate to live my some of my favorite moments right before I am competing, when they are calling my name and announcing my arrival.    so much positive energy, so much to gain or lose at the moment.  fully alive!   Love it.

Good Luck to everyone competing- have fun and paddle hard!

EJ