So far these articles have focussed on highlighting the common problems senior performance staff are facing with regards to high performance sport and the inner conflict deep within themselves.
Sharing these common problems has been received by many as a relief to hear that others within the world of performance sport are feeling very similar emotions. One piece of feedback has even been to say:
"These articles are giving me words to what I couldn't describe before."
I feel it's just as important to highlight what men in sport are asking for with regards to support and the practical tools to help them liberate themselves from the situations that are guiding their unhappiness.
"I want to learn about reflection and how to do it properly, and having a peer network to talk to confidentially to reflect and share the struggles and experience."
"How to take steps to acknowledge and respond to my feelings rather than react and control me."
"I want a clearer understanding...
Many men I have spoken with have suffered at some point with getting lost in the demands of their career, which has resulted in them losing sight of what's truly important to them.
Certainly in my own life the reason I lost sight of what was important to me was because I got caught up in the drama of life. Maybe you resonate with this - the drama is when we fall into the trap of having a problem orientation mindset and react to the anxiety that arises when we focus on what we don’t want or don’t like.
"I limit my own opportunity of enjoying other aspects of my life away from work because I'm always focused at the things that frustrate me."
We often revert to some common assumptions that perpetuate our situation:
Every man I have spoken with in this journey so far is considered highly successful in the world of high performance sport and academia. With that level of achievement comes a perceived expectation to keep delivering in their career and to be happy doing it. And if they don't deliver it's their own fault:
"I perceived not achieving as a failure which falls all on me because I have the prerequisite tools to achieve those things. I've felt pressure to achieve the markers of what people perceive as me being really good at... so I was inevitably going to fail which drove me into a hole."
There is an assumption that happiness comes with success. Personally I fell head first into that trap within my career and was baffled at why the shine of each position I had began to wear off after a while. This plagued me for much of my life, up until I was 36 years old. I'd assume blame on the people, the environments and the organisations for being the cause of my frustrations.
I recall the time...
One of the areas I have found profoundly moving in this research journey so far, has been the honesty of the men I have spoken with. I am grateful to have heard the deeper layers of what's really going on. And this is from men who in the past I would have been intimidated by because of their outwardly vast knowledge, experience and success. But as you'll see in this weeks newsletter reflections, many of these men have limited space or feel isolated to really open up and talk about how they feel or what's truly going on for them in their life.
I resonate with this immensely and recall the time I was at my first team meeting when I worked at the English Institute of Sport. I was asked to introduce myself and back then I was paralysed by anxiety in situations like that. For some reason I began describing the loss of my father at 16yrs and then made a quick segue into my academic "achievements" and my previous role at Fulham F.C.
I remember cringing at myself for exposing that...
I have been humbled by the confidential conversations and connections I've gained so far from over 40 men working in high performance sports. This has included performance practitioners, coaches, performance directors, head of science and Olympic medal winning athletes.
On paper all are considered highly successful and are in experienced and senior positions many people are chasing - they've made it! Yet when they are allowed to open up in a safe and private space, a different story shines through. There are many consistent themes of a deeper unhappiness and I aim to share a few of them in this article. There is also a starting action step at the end for you to take, if any of this resonates with you.
The most common feeling these men have expressed is one of being unfulfilled. It's not because they don't enjoy their role. Many I've spoken to do enjoy their work and have "achieved" success with their athletes. But that success has just highlighted a...