Man Up


So, it appears everywhere I turn lately, men are getting a hard time, or, more specifically, masculinity is getting a hard time.

Masculinity is a set of attributes, behaviours and roles, generally associated with boys and men. It is both socially defined and biologically created.

The attributes we generally associate with masculinity generally fall into 2 groups

  1. The stuff we wrongly think is exclusive to men
  2. The stuff that really is exclusive to men (but which doesn’t do us any good)

In this first category we put things like courage, stoicism and a competence in traditionally manly tasks. The only problem here is that, having seen my wife give birth, this category is nonsense. In the second we put what we can probably best refer to as ‘emotional reserve’ but is really ‘emotional incompetence.

I believe that, inherent in the way a great many of us have been raised, a key feature of masculinity is an inability to answer the simple question – “what’s the matter”

As a man it feels somehow less masculine to be able to say, “actually yeah there is something I need to talk about”

Masculinity has somehow been turned into a negative thing.

Who says that men can’t cry?

Who says men can’t open up and talk about their feelings?

Who says that doing either of these things make anyone less masculine?

Surely being able to openly discuss your feelings takes a great deal of courage!

lets talk

I’m not suggesting that men should cry at the drop of a hat, that would annoy everyone, but being able to talk honestly about things that are affecting you is something that everyone should feel they can do.

Everyone has problems at some point in their life – its normal

Everyone goes through things that they find tough – its normal

In a world where the largest killer of men under 40 is suicide it is high time we reclaimed the word masculinity, embraced our differences, opened up about our problems and talk to each other.

I have been through some pretty dark times and, in my experience, your friends don’t judge you the way you fear they will. The hardest thing to do is take that 1st step and start the conversation but once you do you realise that you are not alone, that people do care.

#worldmentalhealthday

#itsoktonotbeok

#itsgoodtotalk

There are people out there who care and can help, if you want someone to talk to check out CALM

World-Mental-Health-Day-10th-October

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Parents in Sport Week


Date :- 2nd – 8th October 2017

 

This is week is parents in sport week

The primary focus of parent in sport week is to highlight the valuable role parents play (and the positive influence they have) in ensuring that young people develop to their full potential and enjoy their time playing sport. Parents play a pivotal role in sport and young people depend on their support and encouragement.

I have, in the past, possibly been a little tough on parents (see my last post maybe). If this is the case then it is only because, as a coach of a youth team, I know 1st hand how important parents are in the development of their children. I witness the positive influence many, many, great parents have on their young aspiring athletes.

I understand the power a negative word or a negative outlook by parents has on the dreams and ambitions of many children.

Larne Swimming Club is an athlete centred, coach driven program designed to help every child reach their full potential in a safe and encouraging environment.

This would not be at all possible if it wasn’t for the tireless work that goes on behind the scenes by a small number of parents who sit on the committee and run the administrative and financial sides of the club. These parents set aside the personal ambitions they have for their own children to help the club develop every child within it. The coaching team is very ably augmented by a team of parents who come on poolside to help deliver the best program possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every volunteer parent who assists with the smooth running of the club, without you youth sport in general, and Larne SC specifically, would cease to exist.

 

I would also like to thank my own mum an dad for everything

The Coach is always right…….


I originally posted this in 2015 but a few things have been playing on my mind in recent weeks and I thought I should maybe revisit it.

Obviously I can really only speak about my experiences in my sport but, the vast majority of swim coaches in Ulster are largely volunteers, parents who started coaching because there was a need, ex swimmers who love the sport and wish to put something back. People who put aside their personal ambition to help fulfill the dreams of the athletes under their guidance.

When I started swimming in a club at the age of 10 my mum took me and my sister to every practice, she sat and watched and listened to every word the Coach said (probably to make sure that I didnt misbehave)

One of the greatest lessons that she taught me, was that my teachers and coaches are always right…even when they are wrong

I know for sure there were times that I felt that I was hard done by by decisions made by coaches.

I know also that there were times that she felt like I was not being treated fairly, and I suspect that that hurt her.

The thing is i never once heard my mum talk negatively about any of my coaches or teachers. She kept up to speed on what was going on and what was being said, but never voiced her negative thoughts, that would have certainly influenced how I viewed my swimming and my role in the team. 

She was teaching me a respect for authority that I have never forgotten.


Now I did witness some parents who took a different route and looked for any and every opportunity to jump down a coaches throat, when something didn’t go perfectly for their child. 

It seemed like those kids just went from team to team every year in search of the “perfect” coach. 

There is only one problem with this approach, there is no such thing.

I believe that today, there is very little respect given to the coaches and teachers of youth sport. Parents are quick to defend their kds and voice their disapproval during the car ride home after training or meets or at the dinner table. 

How can we expect our young athletes to return to training and not mirror the attitudes their parents have taught them?

If parents show disrespect to the decisions that are being made in their kids sporting careers by people with more knowledge and who have the long term best interests of their development at heart, why should they then respect any authority figure?

The long term problem is that these young athletes may not learn to cope with setbacks and the truth is, life at times will have setbacks! 

How parents  handle those disappointments can set their kids up for success if the teaching opportunity is recognised.

The last point is this…

Coaches and teachers have studied and spent time gaining experience in their chosen field and parnets (myself included now 😊) must learn to trust that what the coach does is for the best of each and every young athlete under their tutilage. 

Coaches will largely have a better understanding of the long term development of athletes then parents. We (parents) may not understand why certain decisions are made but do we need to understand? Surely the need is to trust that the coach knows best.

Youth sports clubs must always be coach driven, athlete centred and supported by parents/friends/family etc when parents start to dictate and thinking it is about them then we have a problem…

The flip side of this is obviously that as coaches the onus is on us to always act in a way that builds trust, we will undoubtedly make decisions that upset people and we should always be willing to discuss, in the appropriate setting, the rational behind these decisions.

We are very good at policies and practices that protect the children and young people in our programs (and rightly so) but this at times throws into stark contrast another question…….who protects the coaches?

Now ……….. that’s a question for another day

P
till next time

Change the world


A retiring navy seal gives one of the most inspiring speeches I have heard.

If you want to achieve your goals…….start by making your bed in the morning.

Its only a little thing but if you cant do the little things right you will never be able to do the big things.

This is great advice for life and sport.

All those little things coaches push over and over are important – essential – if you are to achieve your goals.

If you can look back on each training session and know that you did the small things right, if you can face challenges and learn from mistakes, if you can set your sight on that one goal and never ever give up, then you will be successful.

I love this video, hope you do too.

Have a great sunday

(Go make that bed)

TRUE GRIT


What separates athletes who achieve their full potential from athletes who struggle to achieve all their ‘talent’ suggests they should?

Is it an athletes ability to learn new skills quickly? their IQ? that pushes athletes to excel in their  sport or is it something else?

How often do  we see more ‘talented’ athletes fair worse than those with arguably less technical  ability?

So what is it that makes the difference? Angela Duckworth suggests the difference is GRIT

true grit

She defines grit as

Passion and perseverance for very long term goals

Grit could have more of an impact on success that other things like family income, social status etc. do

Gritty athletes work every day in pursuit of their goals, they work not just for the session, not just for the week, or the month but month  in month  out year after year to  achieve their goals.

As coaches what can  we do to develop  gritty athletes? simple…..we need  to be gritty as well. Our grit must be in  the pursuit of  developing grit in the athletes in our charge. Every day we must be demanding of excellence, not just in the set or session but day after day, week in  week out.

The good news is that if  you haven’t been gritty up to now, you can start ….. a study by Dr. Carol Dwerk in Stanford says that the concept of a growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed and it can change with you  effort. Simply put, if you have failed to show grit in the past, you still have time to  develop it


Measure EVERYTHING 


As Galileo said ‘measure the measureable, and make measureable what is not so’

This current season I have made a concerted effort to measure as accurately as possible how much work we do and at what intensity. Now obviously I have always recorded this, but this season I took it to the next level (for us) and tracted intensity, volume and rest for every individual athlete. 

We got nice wee graphs like this

For the overall cycle.

And this for each individual

Which is kinda cool. It showed very clearly where people where getting sick for example. 

So having this information is great and it got me thinking, what else can I record that will provide me usefull information about the state of the athletes in my program.

A few day thinking and I came up with a list of things that, if I could record and track them,  could potentially provide useful insight.

(I am 100% sure that there are better coaches than me out there already recording this stuff and much more)

  1. Hours sleep
  2. Sleep quality
  3. Mood
  4. Resting Heart Rate
  5. Hours of training
  6. PRE
  7. Weight

Hours sleep is easy, every morning they tell me how many hours they had.

Sleep quality is rated out of 5, with 5 being excellent and 1 being insomnia. Right now we are going with them rating it but I think that some sort of sleep tracker and a raio of restlessness to sleep would be better. To give me a figure I can track I simply multiply the hours by the quality

Mood is done a day behind so they give me a rating on how they felt yesterday.

I plot a graph of Mood and Sleep quality to see if there is any correlation

(Blue is mood

Orange is sleep)

Resting HR they take in the morning before training on an app on their phone.

PRE and Hours of work I collect after each session. Hours of work is not how long the session lasted but rather how  much time was spent working (session length – rest intervals)

After a quick google search I found that I could use this information to measure Acute (ATL) and Cronic (CTL) training load or Fatigue and Fitness. Lots of formulas later and these combine to give a Training Stress Score (TSS) or ‘form’ so in theory I can see at a glance when they are getting more fatigued and I need to back off a little or when I can push them. 

The blue bars are fatigue and  the orange line is fitness. When the orange line goes above the blue bars this represents a more rested state (very basically) 

Anyway…..it takes weeks of collecting this stuff for it to be at all representative of whats happening so I have started now hoping that it proves usefull next season.

As yet I havent started recording weight as I cant beside if using base metabolic rate and body composition is providing me useful enough information for the time spent collecting it

Adventures in Swimming

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