I have met many people who struggle to adapt when a challenge comes their way. They are typically amazing planners, very detail oriented, and have every step of their life planned. However, they often struggle when life happens, a new obstacle is added, or something outside of their control stops their plan from happening the way they envision it. Rather than seeing a detour and the new possibilities it can bring, they see a road block and become mentally and emotionally paralysed.
The true measure of a youth coach is not in how many trophies ‘they’ have won, or whether ‘they’ won their last game. The true measure of a youth coach won’t be seen for many years, but it will be seen when the player gets into high school or university. It will be seen when the player is no longer reliant on being the biggest, fastest, or strongest (which tend to equalise over the years) but in how well the player is able to read a game and make the game-changing decisions. It is seen when a player is able to be gracious in both victory and defeat. It is seen when a player supports a team mate who scored an own goal, or made a potentially confidence destroying mistake.
I started this blog with the intent of talking about performance and social identity, especially as it relates to Tourette’s Syndrome. Instead I have found myself bouncing around from mental illness to youth sport and from suicide to hope. Last week I questioned my intent and asked myself some questions about what it is I want to achieve here, as recently I have found that a lot has been about hope. I started to think about this as typically I start out each article thinking about the direction my writing will go and often find myself veering off as my thoughts take a new direction. Now, after some reflection, finally I think I have the answer. No matter what happens in life, hopelessness will destroy it. While this is true across humanity, the most instantly observable environment is sport.
There are two aspects to hope that I am going to talk about in this article and both will demonstrate just how important hope is in any endeavour, including survival. Maybe even especially survival. One aspect is self-reliance, and the other is being reliant on others. Both are equally important in hope. First though, we have to get through a little bit of dark research from the 1950s.
When I was a kid my Grandad, knowing I loved books, rescued a book from the garbage which I am guessing was written around 1890 and wrote almost the same words inside it before he gave it to me. I still have that book, it’s called “History of England” and it sits on my bookshelf to this day. I am a bit of a bibliophile, I love books, especially old ones. The value I have on that book is beyond what most people could offer for it, yet to someone else it was literally garbage. Value is relative.
The majority of people who commit suicide do so because they feel the world would be better off without them. In fact, suicide letters in a study revealed that this was the difference between people who completed suicide and those who attempted suicide. People who succeeded felt they had nothing to offer the world. We can do better.
If willpower were so easy as “Today I will start/stop *insert goal here*” we’d all be a blazing and unstoppable success in all we tried to achieve. Ideal weight? Easy, all you have to do is willpower it. Want to run 10 miles? Yeah, willpower it, no problem (that said, watch this space for the rat article). What’s that, you want to be the best in your field (whatever that may be)? You can willpower it into existence, easy peasy lemon squeezy. Nope – I’m calling shenanigans! Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult, as Toby Wright would say.
One of the (many) things I really like about my son’s coach is that there is always a take away. There are always positives, and always something to work on. Always. Even if they win every game 10-0 there is still something to improve on. This is every bit as important as working to improve when you are losing. Failing to identify ways to grow because of continual success can result in complacency and a decline in a growth mindset. The coach practices the right things to inspire confidence (high self-efficacy), and a belief that external factors are mere obstacles that can be overcome (high locus of control).
And there you are, January 15th, half way through a pack of cigarettes you bought last night and feeling down on yourself. But, but… the mountain – and the little train. I thought I could. And suddenly your whole identity as a mentally strong, focused and goal-oriented individual dissipates into the air, and instead of exercising you get out the ice cream and prepare for a Netflix binge session. I think I can make it though six hours of Netflix and a tub of ice cream before bedtime. Yeah, I am 100% certain of this. And I’m right – hit that one right out of the park and didn’t even have a SMART goal.