19 February 2018

How is Year 12 like Great Britain's professional cycling team?

Maximising performance and achieving personal excellence in Year 12 is about making the most of all available opportunities. It is about accessing the resources and expertise the College offers through our teaching and learning programmes, by following-up with teachers to clarify and ensure understanding, by reading more broadly than the syllabus suggests, by accessing revision materials available online, by using extra support in the Residence and after school 'Maths Help' classes and by attending the sessions run by the OSC in the Targeted Tuition programme.

So, how does this relate to Great Britain's cycling team?

No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France and their performance at the Olympic Games had seen them win only one gold medal prior to 2010. The new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain's professional cycling team), Dave Brailsford, was asked to change that. His approach was simple. Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the "aggregation of marginal gains". He explained it as "the one percent margin for improvement in everything you do." His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just one percent, those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. They started by optimising the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training programme, the ergonomics of the bike seat and the weight of the tyres. But Brailsford and his team did not stop there. They searched for one percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for one percent improvements everywhere.

Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years' time. He was wrong. They won it in three years and continued their success by winning four in a five-year period. In addition, Team Sky had great success in ensuing Olympic Games and World Championships.

While Year 12 students do not have three years to see the change they may desire, they still have abundant time to address the 'one percenters' that can aggregate to see improvement. Taking advantage of the wonderful support on offer from the College, mentioned in my opening paragraph, is one way to do this. However, it is also possible to make a number of changes to personal habits and study habits to make improvements. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Mrs Cara Fugill ran a session for current Year 12 students when they were in Year 11 outlining some of the changes that can be made, some of the one percenters. Eating well, sleeping well, finding a balance between study and exercise, setting up a study planner which blocks out the things you enjoy as rewards for hard work are all examples of one percenters that when aggregated can lead to improvements. Consistently attending revision classes, not just after a poor result, revising work covered on an ongoing basis and setting up study groups where you can collectively work and assist each other with study notes and explaining concepts to one another are all examples of behaviours that can go a long way to seeing improved results.

James Clear, author and speaker on the topic of habits and routines that make people the best at what they do, says the following, "Change happens habit by habit: Evolution; Not Revolution. Over a broad span of time, actions you do once or twice fade away. Actions you do for the bulk amount of time day after day, week after week accumulate". As we start a new term, and after a long break, now is a good time to start new and successful habits which collectively add to your success for the remainder of the year and beyond. We are here to help you make the change you wish to see, but the leg-work is up to you.

Mr Dean Shadgett
Head of Senior School