Lessons from working with a National Ski Steam
So it's been a busy year so far, and a little while since my last blog - I apologise for the inconsistency, but my aim moving forward from now is to release a post once a week. So I figured i'd start back my sharing one of my favourite experiences from this year...
Those of you that follow me more closely on Instagram, may have seen that a couple months ago - I was fortunate enough to be invited to work alongside Rob Davies coaching the Andorran national ski teams for a week - including Olympic & World Cup athletes.
Rob is Head Strength and conditioning coach for the Ski teams out in Andorra, and he also happens to be one of my life long friends / Brothers.
He brought me on board for a week to work with the athletes on their well-being, mobility, and general movement variability - not so much to analyse and work directly with their ability to ski, as of course they are top performers in what they do, and have a team behind them in support of their specific training requirements. My role was more to help them move more freely when they were done with their training days (restoring more functional movement when not skiing), to work with them on reducing stress & anxiety levels for pre / during / post competition, and to educate them on balancing their Autonomic nervous system - all with the intention of creating better individual wellbeing, mobility, rest and recovery - collectively leading to better performance when on the mountain.
It was my first time working with a national sport team, and so of course I took the opportunity with open arms - and prepared very well for the week that was to come.
Little did I know, that as well as learning to work with professional athletes, that I would learn a whole other host of lessons along the way - I learned a lot during my time in Andorra / Spain / France about myself, life, friendships, opportunity etc - and I wanted to share a number of (what I considered to be) key lessons from my time there.
So here goes, first the quick run down of the ten lessons for those of you with less time...
Don’t let the Fear of Failure limit your own Growth and Potential
If you are expectant of other people to step out of their comfort zone, then be willing to step out of your own.
Find the common ground from which to initially work from.
Be willing to put your ego aside, and then be ready to listen and adapt.
Adapt the work for the individual, not the individual to the work.
Be patient - with yourself, and with others.
Communication is Key
Team work, makes the dream work (as long as you’ve got the communication down).
We Don’t know what we Don’t know.
The importance of Intention.
and then the more expansive version just below:
Don’t let the Fear of Failure limit your own Growth and Potential - When rob asked me to come out and work with the teams, obviously my immediate response was excitement! What an opportunity?! So of course, I said yes without much further thought - “Count me in!” It wasn’t until a couple months out, that the fear began to set in. “Who am I to offer advice to these professional athletes?” “You’re going to let down one of your best friends, and embarrass yourself!” “ What if you’re responsible for one of them getting injured!?” In all honesty my mind was going a million miles an hour, and a lot of it was negative self talk. I continued to put in the work - and it ended up being a successful week with the teams. If you say Yes to an opportunity, and negative self talk ends up making you feel like you are not ready, or not worthy - use it as the motivator to be ready.
If you are expectant of other people to step out of their comfort zone, then be willing to step out of your own - I guess a more classic way of saying this would be, “Lead by Example.” As well as working with the teams on a professional level, I also went hiking with them etc - something I love, but that I don’t regularly do. By willingly stepping into the shoes of those you’re working with, in an effort to better understand them, their outlook on the world - you instil a little more confidence in them to do the same for you.
Find the common ground from which to initially work from - Stepping into a competitive sport environment is worlds apart from some of the more ‘Yogic Arenas’ that I would normally work in. Everything is a lot more performance driven, there is constant pressure to perform, you are working with specialised athletes that know their sport and want to be the best. You need sound reasoning for every single thing you do. They expect to know how, what and why they are doing every thing that you ask of them. And you know what? Fair enough! They lead very hectic lives - where pretty much every minute needs to count. So any time they feel is wasted, is time they would rather not give. The way I did this, was to get in the gym and train with the lads. Having somewhat of an athletic / strength based aspect of training in my regular schedule, allowed me to step into train with the athletes daily (as well as the Sessions that I lead for them). This lead to an understanding that I wasn’t just a ‘hippy yoga guy’ that was going to ask them to bend themselves like a pretzel- but that I shared the similar opinion and outlook of these athletes. That I knew the importance of building a body that could perform at the highest possible level. Also instilling the confidence in them that I would have the ability to offer something useful for them to add to their already packed weekly schedules - something that would assist them in their journey as Olympic / World Cup / Professional Athletes. Building Trust has massive impact.
Be willing to put your ego aside, and then be ready to listen and adapt - I went in with an idea of what I would be working with based on the conversations I had with Rob before travelling out to meet the teams. However, as we began to get to work - it was obvious that some things would not work in the environment, or with some of the athletes due to various injuries etc. This required being able to adapt on the move, and to re-think the sessions that had been planned for the following day. It took regular checking in with each of them daily to get constant feedback - what they felt benefit from, what they didn’t, and what they liked / disliked. It was then a discussion to make sure that they were gaining insight, awareness and improvements from the things we worked on - even if they disliked it. Sometimes we had to do the things that they disliked - but eventually, this was met by willingness because I took the time to listen to what they had to say first. As I once learnt from one of my teachers - Meet People where they need to be met, not where you expect them to be.
Adapt the work for the individual, not the individual to the work. This was something I have been practicing for a good while in my teaching, but something that was very apparent when working with athletes that had numerous injuries & restrictions. We had to work together to find a way for the athlete to participate and benefit from the various things that we worked on. This meant taking the time to modify and make the work accessible + relevant for the individual. Find a way to make it possible, easier to understand, relevant and accessible - and this can take a few goes. So be patient with your audience, and yourself. Which leads me to my next lesson...
Be patient - with yourself, and with others - Sometimes things weren’t received as well as I had hoped the first time around. It took practicing patience and acceptance from me. Understanding that this was a completely new subject area for many of the athletes, and that it would take some time for them to understand the Whats, the hows and the whys of what we were working on. It took patience and acceptance from them - people that were the best in their field at something, to be beginners again, to take the beginners mindset and be willing to learn. However I must say, pretty much all of them were so switched on from day one. Showing up willing and ready to learn - despite being tired. This was a great reminded to me daily.
Communication is Key - In order to build a solid working relationship (or any relationship for that matter), there needs to be a constant open dialogue, and a willingness from both parties to listen, adapt, modify and work together to figure out any issues that may arise. Working with a long term friend made this easier, as it was easy to say it as it was - to be blunt and get to the point. However, when working with the athletes, it required a little more diplomacy. Recognising who I was talking to - and making sure that what I had to say came across well, encouraged the athletes and instilled confidence in them that I was there for their benefit and not my own.
Team work, makes the dream work (as long as you’ve got the communication down) - Working alongside rob, made the whole thing easier. Rob had already been working with the teams for a good while before my arrival, and so had established a really solid working relationship. This allowed me prior insight into how the teams like to work, what they were challenged by etc and then having rob their during the sessions really allowed us to bounce off each other - to boost each others strengths, and fill in the gaps where each of our weaknesses lay. Obviously we don’t always have the luxury of working with others for our work - but if you do have the opportunity and you can make it work, it can lead to a really positive working experience for all involved.
We Don’t know what we Don’t know - It’s pretty much as it says. Be prepared as much as possible for any opportunity you have, but accept that you can’t prepare for the unknown. It is inevitable that sooner or later you will be faced with a question you don’t know the answer to, or a situation that is beyond your control. It isn’t your job to know everything - it is your job to be willing to eat humble pie and be honest about what you do and do not know. To willingly and openly say that you do not know, and that you will willingly research and find out. This will gain much more respect, than you lying and making up something - that will sooner or later be disproved. This is sometimes a tough pill to swallow - but if you wish to constantly grow and step out of your comfort zone. You need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and always be willing to learn and grow.
The importance of Intention - Why are you doing what you are doing? Having a clear understanding of what your role and preferred outcome of any given situation really allows you the scope to see how you can best utilise the time you have to make the most of the situation. It also enables you to explain why you’re choosing to do what you’re doing, and what the outcome is that you expect. This allows the rest of the people you are working with a clearer understanding of where they are headed, and why. This is like sharing the road map with everyone - so that you can all walk in the same direction with a shared goal and awareness of potential obstacles. Of course - we don’t know what we don’t know, and modifications may need to be put in place, but at least we begin with the best shared intentions.