Do female athletes have to choose either the Olympics or having balance?
My dissertation was on transitions women triathletes go through to train and compete for their sport. One of the main themes of my dissertation is that women struggle to balance training, competing, working, being a mom, a girlfriend, a friend and a wife. This frequently made it challenging for women to make the decision to stay involved in the sport. Is this the case for all women in sports? No but athletes don’t always realize it and they still fall under the premise: the harder I work, the better I’ll be. In working with one of my Olympic swimmers we realized that time off, getting more sleep and having fun actually helped her swimming; she was more relaxed, more confident and gave more at practice.
I’ve also worked with many professional/Olympic athletes who’ve struggled to retire from their sport because they they put so much time and energy into their sport they didn’t know what else there was. This happens when an athlete puts everything they have into the sport, they have no balance, everything else becomes secondary and they didn’t know who they are outside of sport. Had they had even a little more balance, the outcome would have been different.
There’s two (of many) good examples for why balance is important. Do Olympians have to choose to be an Olympian against having balance in their lives? I don’t think so but I do think it’s the mindset shift for them and for their coaches.
Is it the coaches responsibility to help clients maintain balance?
Part of your duty as a coach is to understand that: total focus on training and competing is contrary to a well-rounded athlete/person and counter intuitive to what people need to feel truly perform at their best. When an athlete loses their identity in sports what happens when that goes away? How helpful is it to their physical, mental and emotional well-being to be solely enmeshed in one thing? Although an athlete loves the sport, when training and competing takes everything and the athlete is consistently questioning participation, does a coach step in and support the athlete? I’ve had several clients who quit the sport because they were burnt out. Do athletes have to either be burnt out, not have any balance or not be involved at all? What do athletes do once they retire from a sport that they’ve put all their time into? There are some of the many reasons coaches should want to help athletes find and maintain some balance in their lives.
So, when & how does a coach step in and support the athlete? Talk to your athletes about finding balance in their lives. Come up with ways to provide and reinforce balance. When athletes don’t have balance help them find it. If you start to see signs of burnout, don’t ignore it, deal with it. Like it or not, part of the job as a coach is to help athletes develop a plan of/for balance in their lives so they can reach their potential during their athletic career and afterwards.
I can help you find ways to add this to your coaching practice. Sign up for a free 30 minute strategy session now by sending me an email: drmichelle@drmichellecleere,com
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