Yesterday morning when I went out for a run along the marshes in my beloved Hackney, I sadly brought a tired, uninspired attitude and the feeling of reluctance to move my body and my brain telling me “I hate running” and “just get this over and done with”. This negative feeling, whilst doing something positive, reminded me of the role of coaching. Whilst I was slowly starting to lift my feet from the semi-heavy ground and making my way forward in a slow pace, my brain started to think about the need to have someone pushing and guiding you (and high-fiving you) .
Some people think that just because they are good at helping others they don’t need help themselves. They seem to think that guiding others makes you good at coaching yourself. I discovered early that I needed (and enjoyed having) a mentor and/or coach, and that I need the cheering on as well as the reporting to someone to ensure I do the best I can. Left to my own devices I can, like most of us, sometimes lack the motivation (and then naturally lose any inspiration) to achieve the best I can (and much more actually, as sadly what we think is our upper limit is only the level we are ‘aware of’).
In my sporting life, which mainly consists of a handball career which started at age 10 and only ended a few years ago (well, with a return to the handball court only a few months ago, but that is a story for another time), I have always had a sports coach in my life (and they are still in my life inspiring me). Someone who has pushed me, set targets for me and have inspired me to do better, whether through teaching me tactical moves or practising a shooting technique or simply through believing in me. It doesn’t mean that I have not had criticism throughout my handballing career, as of course I have had faults and flaws pointed out to as well ‘tellings-off’, but I have been lucky enough to have been surrounded by amazing leaders in sport who knows how to constructively criticise and turn a negative into a positive. And there to high five you when you have followed the advice and turned something around. Success starts with your mental strength and confidence, believing that you are damn good and that if you occasionally fall you will soon rise again. And that mentor or coach is there to lead you.
The mental power was never more obvious as when I attended sports psychology sessions around 15 years ago. I never thought that lying on a hard floor in someone’s fairly scruffy office, visualising cheering crowds and my own totally imagined flawless game, and training my brain with trigger-words in order to snap out of that negative mental state you get into when you have missed a few goal chances, or you have conceded a goal because of your defending mistakes – at which point your brain is starting to tell you that you are pretty rubbish. And we all know what happens if we are told that we are bad or stupid – that is sadly exactly what we become. Even when we tell ourselves that. But to my total surprise, my eight hourly sessions of sports psychology set me up with tools I never thought I would have which resulted in me being the most improved player of the year and was given the captain’s armband, which I wore for the next 8 years until I felt it was time for someone else to take over. I was a decent player before that, but suddenly I had the tools to ensure I stayed a consistent confident player who believed in herself and the self-belief shone on court and I enjoyed the game even more. A few years later I was also asked to help coach the national England handball team which I thoroughly enjoyed, and which meant I got to pass on the knowledge I had and help build skills and confidence in others, which I myself had developed throughout the years.
Whilst I continued to run along the Hackney marshes, but now, via an app, with Jo Whiley in my ears telling me not to give up and there was only 10 more minutes to go and “you can do this” and suddenly the sun was shining on my sweaty happy face (yes women glow…but they also sweat!), I kept thinking about how we all need help and support. Whether on a handball pitch or in the work-place or on a Sunday morning running when totally not inspired. And this can come in the shape of a supportive manager, or a coach, or by learning tools to help you push and inspire yourself, or simply by using an app on a phone. And by having to be accountable to someone and them cheering you on so that you push yourself a bit extra – and having the mental equipment to change your own attitude – you can go far! And life is too short to settle for ‘uninspired’ and therefore most likely only achieve a fraction of what you could have done. Plus, you will feel so much happier, which is what it is all about.