Leveraging 'Agency' in Athlete Preparation

Leveraging 'Agency' in Athlete Preparation

Agency can be defined as the sense that we are in control of our own actions and the outcomes that follow. Agency is central to how we perceive our interactions with the outside world. For instance, sense of agency permits us to feel that through our actions we are able to influence external events. In this way, agency is integral to the notion that we have some degree of control over our situation, our standing in the world, and our future direction. In this latest offering we peel back the layers of agency in the context of athlete preparation, exploring what it means (and what it doesn’t mean) in relation to our work with athletes.

Tempering Athletes: Future Proofing Versus Acquired Fragility

Tempering Athletes: Future Proofing Versus Acquired Fragility

Tempering is a process used to impart strength and toughness, and essentially serves to bring out the intrinsic properties of the material under stress. Athletes forged in the crucible of severely testing conditions may be similarly rendered highly resilient to future challenges and stressors. Those who successfully come through such trial by fire paradoxically often prove stronger from the experience. The notion that stressors can not only make systems more resilient, but in fact stronger and better as a consequence, speaks to the concept of antifragility, a phenomenon observed in nature and highlighted by Nassim Taleb who famously coined the term. In this post, we will bring this antifragility lens, and a general reticence to accept that sports injuries ‘just happen’, to reframe how we think about preparing athletes to ‘future proof’ them to risks and scenarios that we cannot fully anticipate. In place of safeguarding measures and interventions that seek to protect, we will make the argument for tempering athletes to harness and develop their intrinsic reserves and coping abilities. Adopting this perspective and general strategy for managing injury risk, we will outline some tactics to help guide practitioners in their approach.

Emotional Aptitude in Athlete Preparation

Emotional Aptitude in Athlete Preparation

Emotion has traditionally been viewed as something to be suppressed. The logic goes that as leaders and people in positions of authority we should be detached and act ‘without emotion’. If somebody is described as ‘emotional’ generally this is construed as a bad thing; when we become ‘emotional’ the implication is that we are no longer being rational or we are not capable of reason. Conventional wisdom advocates we avoid an emotional response or making emotional decisions. In contrast to these established views, more recent study in this area demonstrates that emotion is in fact integral to reasoning, decision making, guiding our behaviour, and our ability to relate to others. Emotional intelligence is accordingly becoming recognised as being at least as important as more established forms of intelligence. Indeed we increasingly hear commentators proclaim that ‘EQ trumps IQ’. In this latest Informed Blog we delve into the role of emotion in coaching and our work with athletes, and explore what aptitudes we need to possess in this area as leaders, coaches, and practitioners.

Fostering Diversity of Thinking

Fostering Diversity of Thinking

Divergence of opinion has traditionally been viewed in less than positive terms: when x and y don’t see eye to eye on a particular subject, this is generally seen as problematic. By extension, we hear of the virtues of assembling a group of ‘like-minded’ individuals. Organisations typically promote compromise and conformity as virtues to foster harmony and unity within the group. Contrary to this, the wisdom of crowds illustrates the benefits of aggregating judgements from a broad and disparate group of individuals. To further strengthen the case for diversity of thought and experience, ‘cognitive diversity’ is in fact found to be the major factor that differentiates successful teams and organisations. In this Informed Blog, we explore the paradoxical ways diversity and divergence are conceptualised, and see what lessons we can take on a group and an individual level in the context of sport.

A Wake Up Call on Sleep

A Wake Up Call on Sleep

Sleep is essential to sustaining life. Yet the majority of us are casually dismissive when it comes to sleep. We routinely deny ourselves this most critical sustenance of our own volition. The attitudes towards sleep among high performing individuals in different realms and society in general are quite baffling. We also largely fail to make the connection between the reckless lack of care and attention we give to our sleep and the dizzying array of consequences that inevitably follow. Objectively this behaviour is bizarre, and our failure to prioritise sleep defies logic. With this latest Informed Blog we explore the myriad ways you lose when you don’t snooze sufficiently.

Guest Blog: Professional Guidelines for Coaches with Today’s Digital Influence

Editors note:

The following content was shared by a colleague and friend in the field to help disseminate the message to its intended audience of coaches and practitioners. The topic is an important one: how do we navigate the current digital era whilst upholding our own integrity and the integrity of the profession? Regular readers will know I return to these themes often. It is appropriate that those who would defend the integrity of the profession should take a stand to avoid the types of behaviour that we see with alarming regularity among high profile individuals within the ‘industry’ becoming normalised. In this pivotal moment, there is a pressing need for a code of conduct that we should all subscribe to, and collectively work to regulate and enforce. This offering is an important step in that direction. Given the themes within the article, the authors felt it appropriate to leave the author credits blank, as anything else would seem to contradict the message conveyed. In essence the message was deemed to be more important that the messenger. In taking this step the authors exemplify the type of humility and selflessness that we so direly need to return to.

Traits of Elite Coaches and High Performing Practitioners

Traits of Elite Coaches and High Performing Practitioners

In this latest offering we explore some of the traits that differentiate the best coaches and practitioners in their fields. One disclaimer before we start is that this post is based on observational study. To some degree the themes we explore reflect wisdom shared by prominent individuals via different forums and media. However, I unapologetically give more weight to traits and behaviours that I have directly observed. I have been fortunate to interact with a representative sample of these exceptional individuals across multiple sports in various contexts; this has provided the opportunity to see how they approach their work with ‘live’ athletes in different scenarios, as opposed to how individuals claim they act and operate in practice. The themes we explore are therefore more a product of this direct observation, rather than simply distilling what has been presented elsewhere.

Informed Shorts: Making New and Better Mistakes

Informed Shorts: Making New and Better Mistakes

As the saying goes, there is no success without struggle. The fear of making mistakes can become disabling, particularly if our aim is to try something new or different. So perhaps we need to to reframe how we think about making errors to avoid being too constrained by the desire to not get it wrong. The quest to be creative and innovative in our problem solving necessitates having the freedom to try new and different things. This principle applies whether we are seeking to explore new questions, or find different solutions to existing questions.

Informed Shorts: 'Meta Abilities' for Coaches, Practitioners and Athletes

Informed Shorts: 'Meta Abilities' for Coaches, Practitioners and Athletes

In this second ‘Informed Short’ we explore the concept of meta-abilities, and unpack the superpowers that we can harness to enhance our practice in a variety of realms as coaches and practitioners in sport, and educate our athletes to make use to these tools for themselves. We can define meta-abilities as ‘higher order’ skills. A defining characteristic of meta-abilities is that they effectively determine how well we are able to make use of our other capabilities.

Informed Shorts: Is 'Hip Hinge' Really a Fundamental Movement?

Informed Shorts: Is 'Hip Hinge' Really a Fundamental Movement?

In recent years ‘hinge’ has found its way into the list of fundamental athletic movements among coaches, practitioners, and authors. With this first offering to introduce the new ‘informed short’ feature we cast a critical eye on the topic.