Why Systemic Coaching in Professional Sports is essential (Taking up the cudgels for... )

Controversial Feedback on the letter of Olympian Courtney Thompson: "8 Reasons no one cares you’re tired"


Thanks for this interview and for giving athletes a voice. As an Ex-athlete and Coach I appreciate the thoughts and controversial letter that I would like to give some feedback to, as I think some of the statements shouldn’t be left without challenge. (Notes in Bold are Vincent's comments)

"Most of us respond to fatigue by getting frustrated and feeling bad for ourselves. We let our fatigue take us out of our game and into a mindset that isn't helpful to us or our team." ( Notes in "Italic" are C. Thompson's letter) 

The original letter you'll find here: <a href="http://www.positiveperformancetraining.com/blog/8-reasons-no-one-cares-you-re-tired-letter-from-an-olympian?utm_content=buffer49d95&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=facebook.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer" target="_blank">www.positiveperformancetraining.com</a>

Reading this, I want to say: Sorry, for every athlete who feels that way because especially in these situations it’s the job of a good coach to understand and know your athletes that well and have built such a trustworthy relationship in order to talk and agree and take the right actions together! These can be very different. Even if it means to look for THE RIGHT mental coach or sport psychologist or outside person other than the coach, to talk to. But it always should be based on an open communication, based on trust.

"Luckily, I have a few tips you can use to help get out of that destructive thought pattern and back to focusing on becoming the best athlete you can be. It may sound harsh, but here are:


#1:  It’s not about you, so get over it." 

It should be about you! Because you want to be the best athlete that you can possibly be, so how can it not be about you?

"The fact of the matter is you play a team game, even if it’s an individual sport, and as a teammate one of your jobs is to serve your team, to do whatever it takes to make the team better. Doing so requires selflessness and a commitment every single day you show up. If you’re tired, if you’re sore, if you’re sick, you have to choose to not let that stop you and move past it. In that moment, it doesn’t matter how you ‘feel’ because it’s not about you; it’s about making the team the best it can be. In order to do that you have to show up every day with the intention of giving it everything you have.
Put the team ahead of your ‘feelings’ and get it done!"

This means to also have the courage to admit if you can not serve the team at it’s best because you are sick or tired or other, so you’d need to get help and most necessary, take the important rest to recover.
That is the biggest reason for failure or misinterpretation that you go over board being a “responsible” teammate to not care about yourself as much as you care about the team! In the big picture it’s ok but a team is only as good as it’s weakest point. That means, if you are sick or tired you are not able to perform (even supporting your team) in the best possible way. It has an impact of the whole system of the team.
So to support the team and get the best results possible it can also mean, that you have to talk to your systemic, mental coach or team or doctor and  take a rest and recover fast which helps the team more than putting yourself (and your health) in jeopardy.


"#2: All champions experience fatigue when pushing their limits. So feel it and embrace it… Fatigue means you’re on your way!
As athletes, we’re in a perpetual state of becoming. There is no finish line; even if you win the championship one year, your training for the next year will quickly follow. The only way to truly improve, learn, and take your game to the next level is to push the limits.
Pushing the limits can be physically, mentally, and/or emotionally tough, but that’s the beauty of sports! Pushing those limits on a daily basis is necessary in order to become the best version of you. It’s inevitable that in pursuit of your best YOU, you’re going to get tired, so change your attitude towards fatigue. When you feel tired and want to stay in bed—or just want to get through practice without giving it your all—remember that this is what you work for, this is what all champions feel when they’re trying to reach their full potential. In short: embrace your fatigue. No one said success would be easy. [Tweet "Embrace your fatigue. No one said success would be easy. @courtLthompson”]"

No one said, it is the only way to takle a problem, either! Also, no one ever said it’s healthy to tango with your enemy!) So, get rid of false force and push culture and start knowing yourself and what is right for yourself, because it doesn’t mean that it is also right for another one!
Start to cooperate with coaches and the team on the partner level in order to find the smartest way to success.Again, most part of the statement I can support but it sounds like the old world thinking and way of learning, that most of my coaches told us too.
Actually, the best coaches I had, especially the systemic coaches actually were able to bring in another perspective into (consideration) the “game”. The point is actually to work and practice smart. It is not always about quantity! Even in sports. More important than pushing the limits when you are tired is to work smart and do more of the things that really get you better, do more of what works and focus on the target objective. Define very clear, what should happen and what the result looks, sounds and feels like when you did it.
Fatigue is the signal of the body that you are at your physical or mental limit and it needs adjustment. So working and practicing smart means also to understand, what the right steps are and what they look like to actually overcome fatigue and get to your own best state of yourself again. What does it need to become a champion?
I agree, that sometimes success can not be achieved without some pain or fatigue, but most of the time the recipe is even more simple: tired - sleep, hungry - eat!
That can also mean that when a champion feels tired in the process of reaching her/his full potential, that the best decision can be to take a good rest. Most athletes know (have learned) how to push limits and working as perfectionists but this is exactly the state in which the danger of burnouts lay.
Very view athletes actually learned how to work with systemic coaches or take good care of them selfs. So, I suggest high performance athletes to (re-)learn to appreciate and love what they are doing and value themselves more because the physics is your capital. If you look at it like a bank account to invest, your body would tell you not to go into dept because you need a loaded one when it’s show time. Not only focus on the statistics or results. As a part of that process also learn to be good to yourself first than you’ll be confident and better in supporting the team (others).


"#3: Your mind is incredibly powerful. Use it to help you!

You train the brain to perform just like you train your muscles."

You train your muscles every day and in every practice but take special weights practice to focus on just the muscle work out, so you should take actual hours of practice to consciously work on your brain the same way too! Schedule sessions with your mental or systemic coach to really get your brain working out for success.

"We’ve all had days where you feel more tired than usual and in that moment you have a choice: you can marinate in those negative thoughts (‘It’s too hard’, ‘There’s no way I can do this’, ‘I didn’t sleep at all’, ‘I’m not feeling my best’, et cetera) OR you can take a long, deep breath, reconnect with yourself, and get your mind right. You can choose to put your energy and your thoughts on something that will help you rather than something that will distract you.
You’re an athlete. Being tired is a part of that, so accept it and move on."

I disagree, That is not necessarily part of being an athlete. It might be the believe system that the athlete grew up with but even that is a negative perception of your profession! The athlete should feel healthy, strong and fit most of the time in order to recall the best performance at any time possible. Being tired is the result of a lot of workout or issues in the surrounding system.
How great is it actually that nature gave as the biological safety net and signals that we should acknowledge and do what is right, when feeling down, fatigue or sick.

"Choose to think about what you need to do to help the team in that moment." YES, good point.

In these moments it can be of unbelievable huge help and progress to work with a systemic coach who knows and uses the right techniques to get you in the positive state and right mind because even educated coaches or psychologists struggle to get their own thoughts channeled and focused on what you want to achieve if trapped in issue centered environments.


"#4: Your mission doesn't care if you’re tired.
The mission of your team doesn't hear anyone say they’re tired… and it doesn't go away. Either you move towards it or away from it with each day you train. So, when it gets hard, remember the mission and find inspiration wherever you can."

It sounds sad. I think the intrinsic motivation of each member of the team should be enough to stay the course and continue to focus on the mission. That again, doesn’t mean that each of the individuals can not be open and speak out if there is fatigue in the way.                                                                                          The opposite is the truth, there it shows how great the team really is and how much you trust and support each other in extreme situations. If you know how to handle and tackle these moments together, as stronger you’ll feel as a team in the important situations of the final competition. What helped and inspired me for most of my athletic career was actually the time spend and shared with the team mates.
Together as a team sometimes it is easier to agree on the right moves in order to achieve the over all goal of the group. It can also become an incredible source of support if the team decides to practice better if 1 or 2 colleagues take a break. So start to establish a culture of openness, trust, respect and confidence in your team. With the right staff you should also build a base of conflict resolution within the system. That would also change the approach and behavior with fatigue or problems in general. The real issue with that is that most coaches create and believe in a overly competitive culture within the teams so the individual athletes learn not to work with each other rather than against each other as a base for progress. That might be the wrong approach, practiced since decades in sports, societies and outside of sports.

"For some people, this is accomplished by visualizing winning a championship every morning, or by listening to their favorite pump up song, or by watching a video of their favorite teams competing. (good suggestion). Find what works for you and use it. For me, I try to ‘empty the tank’ every day I compete. I want to go to bed at night knowing I did everything I could possibly do to help my team reach our mission. (This can be a good approach)
Again, it’s not always easy (and it shouldn’t be), so on days when it’s hard to remember the end goal, take a few minutes to visualize that goal—see, taste, smell, hear, and feel what it would feel like to reach it. Then, get to work! Find inspiration wherever you can and do everything in your power to become your best until the mission is accomplished." (Fully agree!)

I had a wise coach who actually said sometimes in these situations: It might be a bad service on what you are capable of already if you practice with too much fatigue and than start making wrong decisions, stupid mistakes or false movements. So you actually practice doing wrong by pushing or forcing something that is not meant to be that day. That’s why he said. Don’t practice if you are not in the conditions to perform well and reach your new limits. So go out and do something else or just rest. That can help more effectively than practice on any costs.


"#5: We won’t always feel 100% in a game. Train yourself to be ready for those days.
It’s unrealistic to think that we’re going to feel awesome all the time. You might have a cold; you might have stayed up all night studying for finals; you might have had to get up early to finish reading that book for class. Whatever ‘it’ is, we’ve all been there!
The real competition in sports and in life is competing with yourself to bring your personal best, day in and day out. It is unrealistic to think we will perform feeling 100% all the time. On the days you’re feeling like you’re operating at about 80%,  you still need to compete to bring your best on that day. That’s all we can do.
If you spend time worrying about the fact that you’re not at 100%, those thoughts are just distracting you from maximizing what you do have, your 80%.
Therefore, work hard to bring YOUR BEST every single day. Try not to judge where that is, but rather keep fighting the good fight by working to bring your best one play at a time."

I like the last sentence. Actually this point has a calculation issue in my eyes. If you are not in the best possible conditions to perform, than you might be not on a 100% of your individual and natural possibilities but if you look at it from a systemic point of view for that day, you always perform on 100% because we would always think that everybody would give the best possible to achieve the mission goal. So it means that this day already an 60 or 80% of your best performance covers the maximum, 100% of your capacity on that day or for this competition. If you still have the right attitude, doing your best to win, it might be enough to succeed. Prepare to put your mind in performing always on your limit but don’t mistaking it with performing on 80% because that does not model the situation that you will facing in the competition.
The most important training in this sense would be with a mental or systemic coach! Practice the tools to use the brain and body accordingly if meeting these situations.


"#6: Check that your behaviors are in line with your objectives.
The pursuit of becoming your best is hard. Again, no one said it would be easy. People often look at an athlete who wins a championship and think that getting there must have all been fun, happy, and maybe even comfortable. Get that out of your head. It’s not."

It's just a personal perception that people think this way. I personally don’t believe that people think it is all easy and fun and comfortable because first, also other professions are not always easy and a stroll towards success, and second there is a reason, why only a view people take that bumpy road as an athlete and commit to it. In summery one should be happy with what they do and athletes have the great opportunity to turn their passion into a profession. So be happy about it, with all that it takes. Otherwise do something else if it doesn’t make you happy!

"Trying to reach your full potential takes grit, determination, commitment, perspective, and resilience.  It may be easy to say that you want to be the best when everything is going well, but the real question is will your behavior be in line with those goals when it gets hard? Yes, that is a good question!
It’s hard when it’s 6 AM and you have to get up for weight training, (NOT ONLY FOR WEIGHT TRAINING) or when it’s a Friday afternoon and you’d rather leave practice early than to get extra reps in on the skill you’ve been struggling with. It’s difficult when it’s already been a long day, but now you need to have a tough conversation with a teammate. Those are the real choices we have and make that determine how good we will become. Don’t take the easy road.

But take the road that works best! Challenges are probably good because we can grow on but you don’t have to take always the difficult road if the easy one works in certain ways. More important is how committed you really are.

If you want to do something rare, you’re going to have to make choices that most people aren’t willing to make. That’s why winning feels so good when we’ve done it the right way. (There are many possible ways and I'd like to say, the result shows that the chosen way worked.)
Next time you’re tired and trying to decide what to do, ask yourself, “Are my behaviors in line with my objectives?”


"#7: Mood follows action. Start little, and keep going.
We’re human. Some days we just wake up tired, annoyed, and distracted. Still, you don’t have to be subject to your mood every morning.
From the start of a rough day, act in line with your goals—make just one small step—and you’ll gather momentum and come to realize you’re actually in control of your mood and your day. Then take one more small step, then another, and another. At some point your ‘mood’ will change as you involve yourself in each step, each task. You’ll realize that being productive and working to help yourself is a fun and rewarding process."

Good one! Happiness is a choice that you can decide every day to live on. This also needs practice, so take the support of your mental or systemic coach to work on the mindset if you struggle to convince yourself the way it’s described.


"#8: Remember: the pain of not going all out is much bigger than the pain of holding back.
Being a member of a team composed of people committed to becoming their best, and hopefully doing something special in the process, is an incredible thing.
 I’m fortunate to have been on teams that have won several championships; in high school, in the NCAA, and recently at the World Championships with Team USA. I’ve also lost my share of big games at every level. What I've learned is that at some point the high of winning and the sting of losing will wear off, and the real joy comes from knowing you exhausted every possibility to help your team reach its goals and whether or not you and your team were good teammates along the way.

Did you overcome failures together and push each other to work hard when it wasn’t easy? Did you enjoy the successes but continue to push each other to reach new limits?
These are the things that bring true satisfaction and fatigue is only one challenge of many along this road to success. When fatigue pops up, help each other through it because, in the end, it’s in overcoming the challenges that ultimately leads you to become the best you can be."

Great! Still, I think it does not always need pushing each other all the time. It might be a better choice for a team to pull each other up if necessary, supporting appropriately with a variety of tools and ways that the coach or at least a mental coach should be able to provide.

"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." - Teddy Roosevelt.

"Ein kleiner Unterschied im Ansatz, ein riesen Schritt in der Praxis"

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