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Friday, 13 July 2012

Soul Sucker


My athletes often accuse me of being grumpy.

Surly. Grouchy. Irritable. Blunt. Gruff. Ill-tempered. Ornery. Mean. Annoyed. Disagreeable. Some of the more well-spoken have even called me cantankerous. Contrary. Crusty. Or curmudgeonly.

Mostly though...it's just grumpy.

I'm trying to be more cheerful, but it's a work in process.

One time when I do make a concerted effort to remain positive. To be happy. Pleasant. Patient. And nice. Is race day.

Race day is an emotional day. For everyone. But mostly for the athlete. This is easy to forget. However emotional YOU are - as the coach, the therapist, the nutritionist, the psychologist. The athlete is more so. Guaranteed. This day is not for you. It's not about you. And there is far more you can do to screw it up than you may realize.


What's important to me on race day is energy. My energy must be positive. The therapist I work with - his energy must be positive. Other staff members' energies must be positive. If they're not, I take the athlete as far away from that negative energy space as I can. Too often, I have seen negative or disinterested energies rub off on the athletes I work with. Rarely are these 'energy-suckers' even aware of their own emotions, let alone how they are affecting others. And on the day of the race, there is no time for these discussions. I just eliminate the situation by either removing the sucker, or going elsewhere.


Psychology researchers call this transference of energy emotional contagion - the process through which feelings pass from one person to another. This effect is amplified when individuals are in frequent contact with each other - as coaches, athletes, and their therapists are. It is especially prevalent with those who are empathetic by nature. Basically, the theory is that non-verbal cues - such as frowns, poor posture, etc. - are non-consciously mimicked. By seeing someone frown. Or yawn. Or slump, etc., it will increase the likelihood that you will begin to frown. Or yawn. Or slump.

The good news though, is that this mimicry works both ways. Positive non-verbal cues are also contagious. By smiling, you will make someone else smile. By laughing, others will join in. Carrying yourself confidently - with good posture and positive, energetic movements - will transfer to others. In essence, the confident and positive coach will produce confident and positive athletes.

This phenomenon is especially important on race days. Stay happy. Stay positive. Stay pleasant. Move deliberately. With confidence. And purpose.

And steer clear of the suckers...


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