The best archers each country of the world could muster all gathered at the Lord’s Cricket Grounds for a rainy and sunny 5 days in order to see who was the best at the end of competitions. And at the end, there was only one male archery and one female archer holding gold medals. All other archers, every single one, met defeat at least once, though for each gender one poor bronze-match player lost once to get to that event, then lost again to be denied. Double pain!
The importance of this blog post begins with the fact that the stories of their triumphs are what keep us all glued to the computer screen, to the TV, sharing their ecstasies of success and their agonies of defeat. If we didn’t care about the also-rans, we would well, just treat all competitions short of the medal matches just like the way we (well, NBC TV to be more precise) treat the qualifying round (which is never televised – as if it doesn’t happen).
Change direction a little: As a coach, it is critical to make sure that when YOUR athlete is presented with such an opportunity she (or he, I won’t bother with such a distinction here again) realizes that when she only has 9 or so arrows to win through, she must be prepared to accept the whims of fate as well as the consequences of her own actions. Every round HALF of the athletes will lose. Fact. Lose. Half.
Change direction again: It is an accepted fact by the mature, seasoned archers at the world-class level that “you may beat me today, but I can beat you tomorrow”. This knowledge becomes one of the most effective coping mechanisms for a defeat – knowing that quirks, fates, whims, breaths of wind, all play with the archer. Some days, an archer just plain shoots out of her class, in the zone, totally inside the bow and can do no wrong. Other days the archer’s bow develops a mind of its own and cannot be commanded, so how will the athlete deal with such a betrayal in a healthy and educational way? Especially during the Olympics, when it is the end of a 4 or 8 year odyssey of training and selfless dedication, endless USADA aderence, and “got no life” sacrifice?
Like in real estate where it is all “Location, Location, Location”, in coaching it is all “Preparation, Preparation, Preparation”. A coach prepares his athlete for every contingency. Winning. Losing. AND everything in-between that determines both of these and how each will be handled.
Add all of this together with the slogan from the movie Highlander and you may understand what needs to be done, and that is why you must teach your athletes to prepare for how they will deal with failure. You lie to yourself and worse, to your athlete if you doubt for even the slightest moment that an athlete’s career will have MORE losses than wins. The slogan? In case you don’t know it already, “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE”. In any archery tournament only one archer can be on the highest step.
HINT: coaches co-relate (yes, correlate) things that happen while practicing archery events with life skills the athlete will use throughout their future on and off the field. One of the wonders of being in archery is that it is a wonder prep school for life, if you coach it right.
How good you teach your athlete to deal with the reality of losing defines how good of a coach you are. Ideally every time your athletes loses it is a learning opportunity, a tempering of steely resolve in the fire of competition, it is an opportunity!
So, coach, how good ARE you at preparing your athlete for life, for losing, and from that, ultimately for winning both on the field and in life itself?