Biathlon uses reactive metal targets. If you miss, it stays black; if you hit, it turns white; you either hit or you miss. Some see this as the ultimate learning machine, others see the instant feedback on misses as deleterious – producing anxiety and distress. One thing is clear:Biathlon is not ambiguous! It is very difficult to hide from the result of each shot, although Biathletes, like anyone else, often try to weasel out of personal responsibility for the outcome.
Jack Rabbits and Bears at the Range
There has been considerable research into how people learn over the last twenty years or so and at the same time there have been numerous reactions and over reactions to regimented pre-1970 school systems. Mantras such as ‘no child must fail’ or ‘everyone a winner’ became cultural memes that have had a large influence on schools, but also on amateur sport. Much of the research is/was over-interpreted and resulted in movements like ‘no Zero grades’ or ‘no medals, just participation prizes’. The take away lesson was that one learns best solely from success.
Learning and Failure:
It is a truism that if one is to master a sport, one must execute its motions and strategies correctly, i.e. one must be successful in practice in order to be good at a sport. It was argued from this that coaches [and teachers and parents] should do their utmost to make sure that their athletes only experience success during practice, and as a corollary, do their utmost to protect their athletes from mistakes and failure. But is this the whole story on how humans learn? It seems not.
Without failure there would be no success.
This aphorism is elucidated in an article by Marc Smith a British high school teacher, which I discovered while reading an article in the Guardian Weekly, titled “Children Should Not Be Afraid of Failure“.
These two articles provide a good synopsis and a lead into the recent findings about ‘grit’ and ‘mindset’ as key ingredients in success. And that these qualities are teachable and most importantly, transferable to different contexts, i.e. foster success at everything.
This is of great interest and import to biathletes and their parents. Biathlon, which combines an endurance sport with an eye-hand coordination sport, is perfectly suited to creating learning environments that invoke grit and foster a positive mindset. Shooting is mentally challenging; it requires a calm mind and a high degree of coordination. Biathlon targets measure out success and failure without ambiguity. Skiing fast over long distances is hard; it requires mental fortitude as well as extreme physiology. Add cold weather and dark nights. Put these all together, and you have the perfect system for bullet proofing your child against the vicissitudes of real life. Read More about how your child can participate in Biathlon.