Will what got you "here" get you "there"?
Will what got you \"here\" get you \"there\"?
Just about every team "here" can recall that uneasy feeling when they first found out they were going to the ACM-ICPC World Finals. Solutions to previous contest problems were accessible and the hard work had paid off. But will doing the same thing, just more of it, prepare the team for the competition at the Worlds level?
Let's take stock. Talented problem solvers - check. Great programmers - check. Coach/mentor who cares - check. Experience with programming competitions - perhaps less than a full check. Experience with world class problem sets - never enough (college level isn't the same as professional). Beyond hours of practice and familiarization with the canonical problem sets, what will be needed to rise to the level of those who win at the Worlds level?
So, where is "there"? That depends on the team's perspective. In the Olympic Games, most competitors dream of the Gold Medal. Many would be delighted to get a medal in the top three. Most envision the top ten well within their personal goals. But all want to compete; to test their skill against other talented teams! All want to be competitive! All want to use their talents to represent their countries to the best of their abilities. Will this be sufficient to be there and train with your team members on a regular basis? Is it enough to put the team's goals ahead of your own? It is enough to perform as a team under the pressures of international competition?
What motivates members of the teams to train and compete? Is it like physical sports or is there a substantial difference with something as intellectually challenging as programming? In the United States, we have the National Champion Teams in sports like basketball, compete against the all-start team (those individual players who are recognized as top in the league). Invariably, these National Champion teams win, despite their deficit in the sum of their individual talents. How does this translate in other countries and cultures. What motivates the teams who won last year and previous years? What recognition is given to winning teams from different countries and cultures? What drives the successful team?
Some teams have members who are specialists - perhaps a strong mathematician, a strong programmer, and a specialist in problem solving strategies. Others are more aligned with strong leader, and team members who excel in programming, problem solving, and mathematics. What mix and personalities play best for teams who compete at the ACM-ICPC World Finals?
It would be both instructive and interesting to hear perspectives from coaches and contestants of previous year's ACM-ICPC World Competitions. What this abstract suggests is a panel with invited panelists of previous years' winning coaches and competitors. The narrator would assemble a set of questions designed to tease out some of the team dynamics that led to successful competitions. These would be distributed to the panelists in advance and each panelist would be prepared to give their insights during the panel session. Since there would necessarily be different languages involved, there would need to be translators.