Evolution of an athlete

To quote that eighties teen hero Ferris Bueller: “life passes by so quick, if you dont take a second to look around you might miss it!”

So it is with athletes,they can be so caught up in their present and their future, they lose perspective on where they have come from, what they have achieved, and where they are going. The bystander looks on and can not understand how little the athlete appreciates where they are up to. The athlete needs to have an in depth audit of exactly where they are within their plan, rather than only ever focussing on the horizon, their eventual goal. The pressures on any performer are huge, “giving 100%, and keeping their eye on the ball” can lead to an unnescearily poor quality of life in the moment.

You may be wondering why this is important?

 

We learn by our experiences and can not proceed functionally without taking stock of our surroundings; perspective is everything. If an individual does not see their position then the journey to their final target is both lonely and daunting, made all the more difficult because their perception may be wrong. It is vital for any athlete to have long and short term goals and this is taught by coaches and support staff, but often those goals are forced upon them. I do not mean that the rules of the “game” are wrong, but the performer must believe in them whole-heartedly, they must be more than acceptable and to a large degree they are not negotiable. The path or program that they have embarked upon must be a “religion not a supermarket!” this means that the individual buys into the whole program and does not pick and choose the parts that they want to do. A path that is not bought into wholeheartedly will be derailed early on by difficulties or worse still will be a cross that the athlete punishes themselves with, making completion impossible.

There must be a personalised plan that is clear and well understood by the athlete/performer, it can not be somebody else’s (coaches/parents) plan. It is impossible to achieve something that one does not believe in or worse still does not really want. Similarly a dream with no plan is nothing more than a dream.

I would advise any performer to be able to discuss, step by step, how they are going to achieve their eventual goal. They must also understand the victories on the way as they are achieved and change and grow the individual and allow them to evolve into that which they wish to be.

Evolution is the key.

An individual must understand that the journey will change them and, that by definition, they can not achieve that which they desire as the person they are at the beginning. This evolution is the real journey, and evolution is a painful and sometimes uncontrollable process. It is not a straight line but a route that will have unforeseen difficulties and outcomes as well as some dead ends. The truly successful performer must be truly adaptive and flexible, which is contradictory perhaps to the idea of a “single minded approach”.

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Naomi Jones. Photo courtesy of Dean Layton-James, ArcheryFoto.com

I hope that I am not being seen as painting a dark and unacceptable picture, I do not mean to. So the idea of an audit becomes tremendously important. The idea is not a new one, businesses and performance programs have aspects of evaluation, be they annual or more regular. However they are often misunderstood and paid little more than lip service to. A personal audit is exactly that: PERSONAL. It does not have to be anything other than an individual, although it can be a group, experience (but only if all the individuals are invested in the pathway and understand it intimately). It must however follow a structure: an accurate and in depth assessment of what has happened (notice I do not say achieved) since the last audit, this is purely factual with no conclusions drawn, a comparison with what was expected to have happened since the last audit and then finally reflection upon the findings and a plan for what is to be done before the next audit. This may seem a little tortuous as a process but it is necessary to follow this structure in order to get an accurate appraisal and plan for the next stage.
So what does an individual do with this information? It will give perspective and allow the performer to assess the good and the bad (and there must never be a negative equity in this balance), furthermore it allows the performer to do that thing which they find most difficult: Pat themselves on the back in recognition of where they are up to. It allows them to see if they are still asking the right questions and answering them correctly, never forget sometimes the questions that we thought were so important at the beginning are not actually all that important (remember what I said about the journey having some dead ends). Dead ends and the changes that these lead to in the journey process, due to the audit, should not be viewed as failures or wastes of time; this journey is complex and all aspects of it are rich in experience and will lead the performer to grow as a wiser and more diverse person. The fundamental reason for identifying mistakes in the process is not to make them again, but the analysis will allow future plans to be more effective, this is the basis of evolution: a honing of the process, making it cleaner and more effective.

Along with analysis and self awareness the performer must also remain aware of their evolving personna and the pride they rightfully feel, in this, must always be balanced with humility. They must be aware of what they have achieved through hard work and dedication but also how different the situation could be with the slightest twist of fate, every performer must thank the stars for that little bit of luck that through their hard work they deserve.

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