I’ve had a great deal of internal conflict about being recruited into coaching at the junior levels. Too many parents living vicariously through their children. Too many coaching entrepreneurs building expensive elite academies, and so much more stress being applied to children and teenagers who aren’t being equipped to succeed in life let alone mastering the ups and downs of a possible elite career.
Strangely we see lots of attention on mental health these days with little introspection as to root cause.
I’m coaching adult runners these days, and a common theme I see every week is how people feel like failures for not meeting the shifting goals set on paper for them to achieve on a particular day.
People work very hard to feel so inadequate about themselves while putting in incredible performances day after day while juggling children, work, staff, cross-city drives at 4:45 am or mid afternoon rush hour. I see this self directed tension going into children every day.
Reflecting on this I think there is a lot of room to bring mindfulness/meditation/introspection as a competency to the sport realm. I also feel we need to address they “why” of pro sport as well. What are they working so hard to achieve?
We are overflowing in technology now, I think there’s plenty of room to add a bit more to other side of the scale and explore the why of competing alongside the “what” and “how”.
My personal contribution:
I recall the “talk” my running coach gave me in 1988 when it was suddenly a very real possibility that I could be Olympic-calibre inside of 4 years. I also recall his /very real/ anger when I rejected the notion of making the olympics as a goal. I just enjoyed a safe place to grow and learn inside of our training plan. If we made it great, if not, we’re still improving, right? For me, we could end up in the same geographical place even if we took separate spiritual/psychological paths getting there. I always thought goals like that were also restraining, as I found it possible to exceed goals as much as fall short of them. To me the goal was perfecting the routine, and finding new ways to muster more focus and more energy towards already very difficult training regimen. The science of a great athlete must include the science of self mastery – this is not an easy path.
I’ll leave you with this:
If I’d embraced my coach’s way, I could have found myself rudderless like many other athletes focused on a single thing as a motivator for their lives. I’ve known several Olympians who disintegrated after failing to make those Olympic teams. There’s almost a cliche about old athletes “finding” themselves after their careers ended. One career I was familiar with ended in a personal psychological breakdown and a murder suicide, despite said athlete succeeding massively in life (Med grad, studying to be a surgeon I believe, married to another surgeon).
In focusing on the **process of excellence, I found emotional, philosophical, and practical strength to power myself to any goal. I also found great peace in choosing my own goals irrespective of fashion, prestige, or power.