#coachlearninginsport: everyone hurts sometimes

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I have had a day in my garden in Braidwood.

It is a thinking space as well as a place of horticultural adventure.

Today I have been thinking more than usual about the twenty-one coaches in my critical friend group.

One of the coaches in the group came under immense public scrutiny yesterday and I have been wondering what to say about his experience.

REM

For some reason, I could not get an R.E.M. song out of my head in the garden. I do not know the lyrics but these lines stuck …

everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

In my two and half years with my coaches, two national coaches have lost their jobs. Both are flourishing in new roles. They are remarkable people who use their humanity to inform their coaching.

Back in 2011, I wrote about Dark Woods and Crumple Zones. I mentioned Jonathan Franzen:

You know, you enter a dark wood at a certain point in your life and things start falling apart; your life is not what you expected it to be.

I mention Ben Pobjie too:

I know now the desperate flailing, the horrific suffocation that comes when those black waves come crashing over and you find yourself just about incapable of keeping your head up in the face of the merciless tides. But we’re all capable. We may have to lean on others from time to time, but we don’t have to fall. Tomorrow I may feel them crashing again, and become convinced that none of this is true, but now I have to affirm that it IS.

So, in my garden today, I have been thinking about my coaching friends on the other side of the world. The sun is setting in rural New South Wales and is rising over the British Isles.

I am hopeful that the R.E.M video is one way of starting the conversation that will emerge from the dark woods prompted by public scrutiny.

I will be adding Bill Withers to my song list too as another way of sharing Ben’s realisation that leaning is what friends do … and what they are there for. It is a reciprocal act.

We all need to lean at some point. How we prepare for this leaning is very important. The more public the profile of the coach, the more I think we do need to discuss dark woods and crumple zones.

I wonder how you have dealt with similar experiences and what songs play in your head as you prepare to address them.

Dark Woods and Crumple Zones

A line in a Radio National interview (March 2011) with Jonathan Franzen made me catch my breath.

You know, you enter a dark wood at a certain point in your life and things start falling apart; your life is not what you expected it to be.

The line took me back to a post I wrote last October to coincide with R U OK? Day.

I had been thinking about both these posts and the emotions they stirred after learning about a paper by Jan-Emmanuel De Neve titled Functional Polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in the Serotonin Transporter Gene is Associated with Subjective Well-Being: Evidence from a U.S. Nationally Representative Sample in the Journal of Human Genetics.

A press release from the London School of Economics about Jan-Emmanuel’s work notes:

A related paper prepared by Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and co-authors Nicholas Christakis (Harvard Medical School), James H. Fowler (University of California, San Diego), and Bruno Frey (University of Zurich) further develops this research and looks at the evidence produced from a study of twin pairs. This work shows that genetics explain about one-third of the variation in human happiness. This paper is currently available as a SSRN working paper at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1553633. A TED talk on the link between genetics and happiness delivered by Jan-Emmanuel De Neve on March 18th, 2011 is now available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po_YJZW7VJs

A retweet from our son, Sam, refocussed my attention too. Sam pointed to:

Ben Pobjie’s post is titled Crumple Zone. I read this paragraph and had to wait to read the rest of the post. It was too difficult to go into a dark wood on first reading:

To say depression has only just wrapped me in its loving embrace would be wrong. I’ve been falling into that pit off and on for most of the last 20 years. But it was this year that everything came to a head. It was this year that, as I spun my wheels frantically trying to deal with the release of two books, the writing of two regular columns, my first-ever comedy festival show, a full-time night job and the accompanying sleep deprivation, and providing for a wife and three children, I finally cracked open, and lost my ability to keep it together. Thankfully, this also meant I stopped pretending everything was OK. The meltdown came suddenly, frighteningly and with devastating force, but it was the meltdown I had to have.

and then get to this paragraph:

Because I know now the desperate flailing, the horrific suffocation that comes when those black waves come crashing over and you find yourself just about incapable of keeping your head up in the face of the merciless tides. But we’re all capable. We may have to lean on others from time to time, but we don’t have to fall. Tomorrow I may feel them crashing again, and become convinced that none of this is true, but now I have to affirm that it IS.

When I read Ben’s post on 12 May there were already 164 comments. Reading Ben’s post and the comments gave me the opportunity to realise how fortunate I am.

I do need to speak with Sam about this too. He is far away in Liptovsky in Slovakia ready to race in a canoe slalom event. I am very grateful that he drew my attention to Annabel and Ben.

I need to look at 5-HTTLPR too. The Telegraph quotes Jan-Emmanuel:

Of course, our well-being isn’t determined by this one gene – other genes and especially experience throughout the course of life will continue to explain the majority of variation in individual happiness.

But this finding helps to explain why we each have a unique baseline level of happiness and why some people tend to be naturally happier than others, and that’s in no small part due to our individual genetic make-up.

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Dark Woods

In a Dark Wood and Out Again: Freedom

I have missed listening to Radio National’s Book Show of late. I seem to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time for over a month.

If today’s program is a guide then I have missed an enormous amount of good stuff!

Jonathan Franzen was the guest and in a repeat of an interview from November 2010 he discussed his work, including his new novel Freedom, with Ramona Koval. My attention was grabbed in his first response when asked about his championing of Paula Fox‘s work:

You know, you enter a dark wood at a certain point in your life and things start falling apart; your life is not what you expected it to be. And if you encounter a book that really speaks to where you are at that moment, it’s a life-changing encounter, and that happened to me with Desperate Characters. I just thought, ‘Why have I not heard of this book?’ I have not read a better novel written by an American since 1945. It was an incredible book, and it was out of print, so I started vacuuming up all these sort of second-hand copies, and wrote about my experience. And people paid attention to that and now of course she’s back in print; she has a new book coming out this fall.

Amongst other gems in the interview was a passing mention to Jonathan’s Ten Rules for Writing shared with The Guardian:

  1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
  2. Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.
  3. Never use the word “then” as a ­conjunction – we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page.
  4. Write in the third person unless a ­really distinctive first-person voice ­offers itself irresistibly.
  5. When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
  6. The most purely autobiographical ­fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto­biographical story than “The Meta­morphosis”.
  7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.
  8. It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.
  9. Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
  10. You have to love before you can be relentless.

I was very interested in his discussion of observation too:

I’m not one of those writers who walks around with a little notebook and is kind of sitting in cafes studying people and taking detailed notes. I chastise myself for being too much of an amateur to do that, or not having the discipline. I did notice, I got a new glasses’ prescription a couple of weeks ago and I got these progressives, which are very good for reading and also seeing for distance, but one thing they don’t have—it’s a very narrow little part of the lens that you actually use, so much of the lens is just blurry. And I’ve noticed that I just, I can’t stand walking down a sidewalk anymore. Because I realise that all the time my eyes are kind of looking sideways at people, and I can’t do that because now they’re all blurry and you can’t… What the optician tells you is, ‘Oh you just have to turn your head and look at them,’ and I say, ‘Precisely not! I want to see them without their seeing that I’m looking at them and that requires these kind of sidelong glances.’ And I realised as soon as I put these glasses on, I must be doing that constantly when I’m walking down the sidewalk.

It was a wonderful way to spend thirty-five minutes on a road journey. Fortunately in the light of Number 8 on Jonathan’s ten writing tips I am writing a report of his interview rather than a fictional account.

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Visual Representation of a Reading List