“In psychology and the cognitive sciences, perception is the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting, and organizing sensory information.” (From Word IQ on line).
Everything human beings perceive is colored by past experiences, personal preferences and prejudices as well as countless other current physical, genetic and emotional factors. Thus forming an opinion is a complex process that is influenced by a myriad of things.
What’s the point? The recent brouhaha that erupted after the “mini-slate” or “slatelet” (for lack of better descriptions) of U.S. eventing coach candidates was announced is a prime example of a situation that is rife with perception gone way wrong. The situation (for those readers who have just emerged from a month long sabbatical with Marmaduke) – from a group of nine (more or less) candidates, only two were brought forward for further consideration. The two are eminently qualified – but so are many of the seven who were eliminated in the first round.
The climate in which this decision was made is a fragile one. The eventing world at the elite levels, right or wrong, has been severely criticized for lack of transparency. This recent decision seems like the cherry on top of that sundae. Why only two names? What is the rationale behind this move? Was any thought given to what a public relations disaster this was going to be? Did those who did this even care how the eventing community would react? What would have been the harm in presenting a broader slate for consideration instead of leap frogging over a more appropriate and democratic process?
The perception of the selection committee’s action is that the ultimate choice has been preordained from the get go. Now I don’t know if this is in fact the case, and I naively hope it isn’t, but the perception sure as hell looks that way. As I said earlier, I have no quarrel with the quality or the C.V. of either of the two “finalists.” They are both really good at what they do. My problem is with the complete oblivion manifested by the candidate selectors to how their actions would be perceived and the long term ill effects this might have.
The elite levels of our sport culminating in last year’s WEG results have admittedly disappointed, and right or wrong, the American eventing public is itching for a change at the helm. With the 2012 Olympic deadline looming, this hoped for change was eagerly anticipated. It would seem, however, that with the aforementioned first step taken by the selectors, it’s just going to be business as usual.
Could this whole mess be salvaged? Probably. A “Mea Culpa” could be issued, and a more inclusive list of candidates could be brought forward for further evaluation. The ultimate results would probably be the same, and that’s O.K., but the process would be a whole lot better. Will this happen? That remains to be seen. A line in the sand seems to have been drawn. My optimistic side hopes something will change, but realistic side doubts that it will.