1992 Olympic Games, Parc del Segre, La Seu d’Urgell, Catalunya (photo courtesy of Ramon Ganyet)

At the Parc del Segre, just a few seconds of sprinting our doubles canoe across calm water separates the Olympic start line from the first drop on the river channel where we descend into the whitewater.

From outside the river, our quick and synchronized strokes off the start line must look like an assault on the water.

But actually, it feels calming. Nearly comforting.

Only Scott and me. Our canoe. The water. The race course.

A moment like this is practiced, visualized, and dreamt about countless times over the span of many years.

And when the final run of an…

Parc del Segre, La Seu d’Urgell, Catalunya (Joe Jacobi photo)

“More pasta? Lecky asks me.

“Of course!” I reply.

On a cold, late winter evening in northwestern Connecticut, in a rustic house next the training site on the Housatonic River, we stand up from our places in the living room and make our way towards the kitchen.

Plates in hand, this is not an ordinary walk to the kitchen.

Throughout the house, there are “slalom poles” hanging from the ceiling that extend down to about a foot from the floor.

These are the same sets of slalom poles that hang from the wires that extend across rivers which form our…

Segre River, La Seu d’Urgell, Catalunya (Joe Jacobi photo)

“How do you handle setbacks and disappointments?” asks the attendee.

As I ponder an answer to this question while leading a group coaching call, I consider the possible context and what leads to challenging moments.

I consider how setbacks and disappointments that appear in our pursuits are often beyond our control and relate to a response or an occurrence outside of our choosing.

When we find ourselves outside of the boundaries of “controlling the controllables,” we shift into the territory of relationships.

Naturally, nearly automatically, the idea of Relationships Bound By Water formulates in my mind.

Finding myself at the…

Parc del Segre, La Seu d’Urgell, Catalunya, April, 2021 (Joe Jacobi photo)


This is the sound of his clipboard slamming against the plastic table.

“I imagine you guys must be pretty happy with that run,” said Fritz, speaking through his teeth.

“But let me be clear. If you do not find a way to improve upon that run, you will not walk away from these Olympics with a medal.”

The thing was… my doubles canoe partner, Scott Strausbaugh, and I were happy with what had just happened.

But, in the amount of time it takes for a clipboard forcefully contacting a plastic table to produce its attention-grabbing sound, our smiles had…

Interviewing Payson Kennedy, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Summer, 2015

(Pre-S: This article connects to the Sunday Morning Joe post that I published two weeks ago, which you can read HERE. Also, don’t miss the “PS” below — I think you will enjoy it.)

While working as the Global Media Ambassador for the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC,) one of my major responsibilities involved our hosting of the 2015 Junior and Under-23 Canoe Wildwater World Championships.

As excited as we were to welcome the world’s best young canoeing athletes to NOC, one of the most memorable parts of the experience was hearing the stories that many of the athletes from far-away…

Chattooga River, Mountain Rest, South Carolina (NOC photo)

In the early stages of Sunday Morning Joe, I would expand upon ideas that I never imagined that I would share publicly. This was, and continues to be, a cathartic process for me.

As the writing found its rhythm, people would respond.

Perhaps they relate the weekly topic to events happening in their own lives. Or to acknowledge a different side of me they didn’t know had existed during my time working inside the Olympic movement… a side of me that I didn’t know existed during those days.

More than six years after starting this project and an inbox filled…

Oklahoma City Boathouse District, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Mike Knopp photo)

(Pre-S: This article connects to last week’s post which you can read HERE. Also, don’t miss the “PS” below — I think you will enjoy it.)

As we motor up the Oklahoma River, I gaze over the starboard deck at the Oklahoma City skyline. This is anything but a dustbowl.

The orange light of the late afternoon sun reflects off of the upper floors of the glass buildings that form Oklahoma City’s modern downtown. Next to the river, a new and neatly groomed trail system is bustling with healthy-minded foot and pedestrian traffic.

I begin to make small talk with…

1972 Olympic Canoe Slalom Venue, Augsburg, Germany (Joe Jacobi photo)

Normally, I would not have stepped onto the boat.

I am not invited and question whether I really belong on this boat.

Yet, on this spring evening at 2008 Canoe Sprint Olympic Trials in Oklahoma City, I am glad to have a few minutes to catch up with my longtime friend from summer camp, Norm Bellingham.

Our respective work brings us to Oklahoma — Norm as the Chief Operating Officer of the United States Olympic Committee and me for my broadcast duties with NBC Olympics in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

Norm also happens to be a…

Lleida, Catalunya, Winter, 2021 (Joe Jacobi photo)

Clutching a rock where the river meets the rugged shoreline, I feel a mix of tension between trying to catch my breath and wanting to cry.

As I look out towards the river, some of the paddlers on this outing wrestle with my canoe, which is full of water and floating downstream in the center of the current. Other paddlers chase my paddle as well as other possessions that were previously inside of my boat… before I “swam.”

In this situation, to “swim” means that when I flipped upside down in my boat in the middle of the rapid a…

1972 Olympic Canoe Slalom Venue, Augsburg, Germany (Joe Jacobi photo)

One of the most challenging transitions from sport to life-beyond-sport is the off-setting ratio of practice-time to game-time.

On the river, game-time could be an elite level competition. Or moving a huge number of whitewater rafting guests through day-long river trip. When a highly skilled river paddler navigates a complex and unforgiving river rapid, this is “Game-On!”

In all of these river situations, a LOT of practice precedes a little bit of game-time.

In our normal lives, our daily existence is nearly all game-time with MINIMAL attention to practice.

When practice is in such short supply, what we practice and…

Joe Jacobi

Olympic Gold Medalist & Performance Coach helping leaders & teams perform their best without compromising their lives. http://joejacobi.com/5-with-joe/

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