How exciting are the Olympics? This has been an opportunity to see fantastic feats of human performance. The athletics, cycling, rowing have been the sports I’ve watched the most with exciting races and achievements. Along with this I’ve seen the vulnerability of athletes exhausted by their effort. Also I’ve noticed a number of athletes who have missed out on gold apologising on TV, saying sorry for what they feel is below expectation performance.
GB is sitting third in the medal table with 52 in total behind China with 80 and USA with 90. UK Sport set the target of winning at least 47 medals which was the medal haul at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when GB came fourth overall. So was this a courageous goal? Was equalling the Beijing haul audacious or was it safe? Whatever you think GB has exceeded the target and the games are not finished yet.
On an individual level we have seen courageous goals achieved and exceeded. Personal bests achieved, Olympic and world records smashed. It is as if the Olympics creates an environment in which athletes feel the need to step up, but also the ability, energy, and belief that they can deliver more than ever before. Anything is possible. This applies to us all, not just Olympians. How can I create for myself and my coaching clients the true and unshakeable belief that courageous goals are possible and not ridiculous? How do I avoid playing safe and allowing the fear of failure becoming more present than the belief in possibilities and opportunities? This is about creating the conditions, so the environment physically and psychologically supports risk and audacity while challenging and pushing so that greatness flourishes.
During the Olympics I have seen superhuman performance. But I have also seen vulnerability. For example my friend Alan Campbell collapsed after winning bronze in the single sculls and was helped by Sir Steve Redgrave. It’s interesting to watch this video to see this vulnerability http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/19114000 [availability may be time or geographically limited]. We all have this vulnerability inside us, it may remain hidden, but it is there. However, when have you been exhausted by the effort you put into an activity? Has there been times when you have put heart and soul into a task, or have you held back to conserve energy, and so not achieved the highest performance level possible? Accepting vulnerability seems part of the journey towards achievement, denying it or hiding it may mean we are not prepared to put everything into an activity. What conditions do we need to create so coachees feel able to be vulnerable?
There has been a great surge of expectation for home athletes, and I’ve seen a number interviewed after their competition and say sorry to the watching public for not achieving gold, or a medal of any colour. It is as if they feel accountable to the country for their performance and need to apologies. Who do we or our coachees feel accountable to and to what extent?
I feel that this blog sounds very achievement orientated. To go fastest, highest, scoring the most points and winning a medal are the most important things. I don’t think this is the whole story. For an athlete to have the single drive towards a medal once every four years seems a target too slender and vague. The athlete must enjoy the journey and the process of training, challenging themselves day after day to be better than the day before.
For each of us we can define our own measure of success, this may be achievement based or our journey around new experiences. However, like athletes we can challenge ourselves to be better than the day before. Anything is possible.
We’d welcome your thoughts via the Challenging Coaching Linked In Group