The Brain!

Just a short post from me today at least I am thinking it will be short but those who know me know I do have a tendency to go overboard with writing.  Currently I see this as a skill that I need to improve upon. i.e. get to the facts, make sure they are the important ones, and focus in on those.

So to the point at hand. The Brain.  Last week I gave what is called a Podium Presentation (co-hosted by Coach NB and the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic) which is a free session in Fredericton on a topic by an individual to coaches/anyone looking for some learning and professional development.  So after a few discussions I finally got the call and presented on Coach Adaptability: Maintaining Control of the Uncontrollable. Now skipping to the important stuff. I had a power point. It was good and overall the presentation went well. No major screw ups or anything like that. Decent feedback also but I know I could have done better. I touched on a process that coaches should go through and how it comes down to understanding bias, having a philosophy, and a bunch of other stuff. Also got a great question which was answered well (probably the best thing I did that night). But I had made a note earlier in the day to use a specific example from the morning practice. It was 5:45am and I opened up the gym and soon enough the girls volleyball team was there and then the guys. OK, we always share on Wednesdays but as UNBSJ is upgrading new curtains, basketball hoops, etc the guys working were there early and my court was off limits and my group got tossed around a bit. Now, I really wanted to touch on this during the presentation because I could have reacted poorly. I could have gotten flustered. But I was aware that the simplest and best option was to just go with the flow, and go on the back stretch, deal with some volleyballs flying around, adjust practice (safety and all) and get on with it. We actually had a great practice and I was very happy with it. It was a fun, focused, and in the end a quality session with lots of learning. I thought this would have been the perfect example when discussion adapting as a coach. Maybe you show up for soccer practice only to find out that the field is double booked or maybe your dinner reservation for your team never found its way to the restaurant. But in the end my brain went blank. I was nervous. I was feeling it. I have presented quite a bit and I was a teacher back at the UofS for 2 years and in Korea for almost 4 years. Presenting isn’t a big deal. I enjoy it and to be blunt think I am decent at it but it has been a while since I presented to coaches and the last time I presented in a similar situation I was much younger and honestly too stupid to realize the importance of coaching education.  So my perfect example disappeared. Funny how the brain works when it is stressed and under discomfort. So good example but all for nothing. Stupid brain!

Lets take this thought to a broader topic. For my UBC Grad School right now my classmates and I have to do a online presentation (30-40minutes) on the podium pathway for our sports due next week.  So research, make a power point, load it all up on collaborate, give your presentation by yourself which will be recorded, and then the professor watches it and a few classmates watch it resulting in the grade.  Not a huge deal but this one has been on my brain for a while and more than a few of us have been feeling the stress of this one. Honestly I started working on it back in early October. I was pleased with the early work that I did but eventually started to hit mental road blocks.  Some of that was coaching, work, and life related but for some of those blocks it was just the material and my stupid animal brain.  Something was getting in the way and it started to snow ball. It became harder to think. It became a chore to problem solve and critically think about things because the project was always there like a fog.  A fog caused by lots of things but the end result was poorer cognitive function.  Well thankfully the last week has been great. I put in some bigger chunks and I am now looking at a power point that I am very happy with. I can see the podium pathway in athletics. I can see benchmarks, talent ID, anthropometric norms, transfer, and ways that the pathway has been altered.  It isn’t a grand slam but it might be a homer. So this is where my brain did something funny. The fog lifted. I began to get some focus back, some ability to problem solve and critically think. I found the resulting focus and energy to check off some to do’s that have been building up and that snow ball effect has lead to some great revelations.

But whats the point you ask?  Well when it comes down to athletes performance how often do we think that they might be in a fog? That they might be negatively impacted? I apologize for not giving credit where it is due (my mental fog….might be Stu McMillan) but I recall reading about decision making fatigue where individuals are impacted physically and mentally by the number of decisions that they have to make.  That reducing the number of decisions that an individual makes can have a performance enhancing effect . I also relate this as to why training/staging camps are most effective is because it removes much of the “crap” that is going on in their lives and they finally can relax and open up.  I think about exams, relationships, and everything else in their lives and while I am not asking my body to perform at a performance level  at the moment on the track I do ask my brain to perform at a higher level quite often. I know that my performance was negatively impacted for the last couple of weeks.  So if the mind – body connection is that strong how often do we as coaches work on helping our athletes by talking strategies that will allow their mind and in turn body to operate at performance level?  Is this something that others have dealt with? Is it something that can be implemented in a systematic function?  Now, in the above examples for myself I was aware and tried. I tried taking a movie break, I tried date night with the girl friend, I tried sleep and while all of those might have been part of the reasons I finally got my breakthrough (additive effect) with a week before the deadline they weren’t major and weren’t immediate.  While yoga or meditation come to mind I am not experienced enough with them to say if they would have helped me. They aren’t in the bag of tricks and honestly I can usually watch a movie and go brain dead and feel recharged after.

So here is the situation it is our first track meet of the 2015-2016 New Brunswick indoor season this Saturday, November 28th.  What is the state of my athletes? How can I assess this? What can I do about it? Are they aware that this fog may have a performance reducing effect? Are they trying to reduce the fog? Do they see the fog as a negative? Is their confidence effected by it? Is their confidence so resilient that they know their body is ready no matter what (I would love this to be true).  I am going to have a little discussion with the group around tomorrows practice on this topic and direct them to read this blog but this is a new thought for me and one that I am curious to look more into in the future. If anyone has some thoughts I am always game to eager to listen. So send me an email.


Also big shout out to the Japanese reader or readers who have posted some comments. I have thrown them in google translate and just want to say thanks for reading.

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