Friday, December 13, 2013

Are you afraid? Heck no! Not you!

Today I watched a great video of Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal recounting his feelings about ski racing in Beaver Creek after his injury the season before on the same course. It is a great video and you should watch it. Here’s the link.

In 2007 Svindal crashed badly during the first training run for the Birds of Prey downhill race in Beaver Creek. He suffered broken bones in his face and a six-inch laceration to his groin and abdominal area. He missed the rest of the 2008 World Cup season and came back in October 2008. His first two wins in his comeback were on the same course where he had his big crash and injuries, at Beaver Creek.

This is in itself makes a great story, but what really is cool for me is that in the video he discusses his fear of coming back to that course. Yes, a world-class athlete admits to having fear. Wow. Not just any world-class athlete, but a downhill skier, competing in a sport in which speeds of over 140 km/h are experienced almost every weekend. Sliding over ice at those speeds in in spandex with almost no protection if you fall.

These are the guys with no fear, the guys with the big balls. And here is one of the best, admitting to being scared.

Yes, fear is part of sport. It is normal.

There is no courage when there is no fear.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Do not lie to yourself and say that you have no fear.

Just compete like you have no fear.

I believe that you can learn to overcome fear in the weight room. I have not coached weightlifters or power lifters; so our “big” squats are relative. But squatting heavy weight can be scary.

We have a breakthrough machine in our weight room, the Intelligent Motion Lifter© which allows you to safely lower a heavy weight eccentrically, and do reps with this weight without eccentric hooks or two helpers to lift the weight back up. It can be frightening to have a bar on your back with more weight than you can normally squat and then to lower the bar with control.

I love watching an athlete get used to this device, and the effect that overcoming this fear can have on their lifting and even their sport performance.

But this post is not about the Lifter; I will post about it at a later date.

I simply want to say that fear is real and normal. I am not going to try to tell you how to deal with it, that can be a long difficult road for some. I am not going to presume that you can conquer your fear by following some magic strategy that I will give you in my blog.

All I want to say is that fear is part of sport - as you move out of your comfort zone, it can be frightening.

There may be as many different fears as there are athletes and coaches. But most if not all have them.

What is yours?

Don’t tell me, tell yourself.

And then deal with it.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Spilt milk - we are headed in the right direction!

An athlete I work with had a great result on the weekend (podium); unfortunately due to an equipment rule this athlete was disqualified. 

The infraction was a fraction of a millimeter (0.14 mm), but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Outside the rules is outside the rules.

So what to do? The performance was great, so be happy for that and see that this mistake never happens again. 

My last blog was about the support team, focusing on physio assistance. This blog is not about the technical support. 

This post is about accepting mistakes, being happy that the performance was great and moving on. 

This is an Olympic season; there are big goals in our sights. This was a small step in a long journey.

This past weekend showed us that things are coming together, that the podium is realistic. Perfect. 

Shake it off, focus on a great performance, be grateful for a fantastic service team that has got you on the podium in the past, and will get you there again! 

Now let’s do it again!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Help! I need a physio!

I am fortunate to be part of the OLYMPIAZENTRUM Campus Sport - Tirol – Innsbruck. We have a working relationship with Sporttherapie Huber. Philipp Gebhart, a great physiotherapist from Huber, looks after the day-to-day things in house, and we can send athletes to the clinic if necessary. We also have group sessions with our coaches and the physios so we understand how we all work, and how we can serve our athletes better.

An athlete I just started working with has a chronic problem that we hope to resolve soon. This athlete went to Philipp last week and I sat in on the session. I tried to learn as much as possible: what is the problem, how he assessed the problem and how he treated the problem.

We discussed how WE will deal with this. The athlete, the physio and the coach were all together in one room, discussing and working on the same problem.

He did some soft tissue work, and also manipulated joints. I asked him what I could do with the athlete, what I couldn’t do. I respected his competence and tried to learn. He respects me and talks to me about my athletes.

We have a relationship. We don’t see each other enough; he has 12 sessions per week at our center. I make a point of visiting him in his office (in our center) just to check in. He drops in on me. We train together once a week so that gives us some time as well. Neither of us wants to talk shop when we are trying to get a little training in for ourselves, but if it is necessary we can do it.

Too often coaches, doctors and physiotherapists (and other health professionals) work in isolation.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a doctor told me to stop training for 2 weeks during my athletic career, or heard this from another athlete. Sometimes rest is the answer, but often it isn’t. But some doctors are only looking at the symptoms, not the cause and definitely not how to get the athlete back competing in a healthy body as soon as possible. 

If you want to create an ideal situation for your athlete(s), you need to have a great support team. And unfortunately injuries occur more often than we would like, so you need great medical and physio support.

Find a physiotherapist or physiotherapy group who understands high performance sport, and is willing to take time and TALK to you about the athletes you work with. They are out there.

The athlete should not have to continually be a go-between with physio and the coach. Too often coaches bad mouth physios, and vice versa. This helps no one, and often confuses the athlete. Who should they confide in? An athlete should be able trust his or her coach, and the other people working with or on him or her. Athletes are reassured and confident when they see that the people they work with communicate and are pulling in the same direction.

Not all physios understand sport. But there are good ones out there who do. Philipp is not the only good one I work with, or have worked with.

Find good people and develop a relationship with them. This takes time. Time you think you don’t have. But believe me, when you need a great physio, and don’t have one, you will have to invest time to find one. 

And heaven help you in your search if you need to get an athlete back in action as soon as possible - because this may be a long process.