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Most all of us are driven to win in one context or another.

We like winning. That’s normal.
I envision this is akin in modern times to that of being the mighty hunter that came home from a very successful Wooly Mammoth hunt. We come home with “hardware”, get the heroes welcome, some celebration and our sense of self satisfaction goes up.

Sometimes that satisfaction stays. Other times it begins to wain just in time for the next competition to come around. And more often, there are many of us that fight and fight and fight to win, work so hard, do everything right and yet seem to feel like we always fall short.

Let’s first mention that from a healthy coaches perspective, if an athlete puts themselves in the ring and challenges their ability in a structure that creates a natural stress like competitions do, then you are already a success. Oftentimes, the greatest frustration is seeing an athlete shy away from competing because they are afraid of failing.
The only failure in life is not trying.

That said, there are sadly times when one must not compete. Hard choices are made, it can kill the athlete ego but a choice for longterm health and success must be made, especially when injury rears it’s ugly head.

Granted there are some injuries you can play through but many, especially as we begin to exceed our 30s, need to be addressed and better understood before making a choice to push ourselves to the max at risk of making things worse. Such as exasperating the injury and then forcing ourselves to have to quit completely, rather than step back.

If you’re a coach or an athlete below are some suggestions to help with the process of “to compete or not to compete”:

  1. Have you had to see a doctor, or physiotherapist, or chiropractor, or movement specialist about this injury? These people have spent many years understanding injury and illness, allow their professional opinion to be of great weight to your decision making process.
  2. Can the injury be named? Some injuries are mysteries, no real connection, no cause, no understood treatment – yet. What’s yours?
  3. The movement you are required to do the most, under the most stress and tension in competition; Can you do that? Without pain? Without discomfort? Without the brain wanting to scream “NOOOO”?
  4. What is at risk if you do not compete this time?
  5. Do you have time to allow for recovery, to come back stronger, healthier and a better mindset for success in the future?
  6. What is at greater risk, your athlete ego or your longterm “I wanna do this when I’m 80” health?

In the end, coaches, family members, teammates, friends and even opponents… we all want to see you succeed and do well at the thing you love to do BUT we don’t want to see you in pain. Nor do we want to see you push through an injury and then go hurt yourself so that we never see you on the playing field again.

So make smart decisions. Coaches, you need to help in this process too and really work on compassionately helping your athlete see the forest for the trees. Athletes, you’re already a hero every day you walk through those doors, ready to train, to work hard and to challenge yourself just that little bit more. So know that you are safe in whatever choice you make.

Make the best call you can.
~ Coach Szabon-Smith