When no one’s watching

These days much of what we do is “for the ‘gram”. 

Seems there is always a camera rolling; an athlete filming their movements, a snapshot posted somewhere on social media, and a coach constantly sharing a “new” movement video. That feedback loop is great; not only do we build our personal brand and retention, we also have another way for the world to see us, to access us. 

But ask yourself this, “What if no one was watching?”

Would you still do it for “the gram”?

I get it, social media is fun and it feels good to show off a little, especially these days with no crowds and in many cases right now no coaches present to give us the token head pat* for a job well done or feedback on how you can improve. 

As humans we are naturally drawn to communal acceptance and our community is growing by the minute.

I can chat with a former teammate in another country and comment on her training. I am able to reach out to coaches across the ocean and make sure they are ok with the pandemic and all that it is impacting. We are able to connect with people to ask for help, for coaching support and insight in how we do things so that we can build the best athletes and programs out there. Heck, I have even taken to filming my own training to send to another coach via WhatsApp to get feedback from him as of late, and it has helped.

Don’t get me wrong, the filming, posting and constant sharing is now ingrained in us. It’s becoming who we are, akin to the stories that were told from generation to generation around campfires centuries ago. Our technology has opened up many doors to connection and reach.

But what happens when it becomes unhealthy?

Athletes, do you stress about the right angle, the light and your appearance before you train? Coaches, do you worry that you need to keep posting information, videos, blogs, etc just to stay relevant and continue to build or maintain your business?

Might this unnecessary “extra” take away from what you are really here to do? 

So how do we combat this?

Recently, I have told my athletes to not post or tag workouts that are done when I am coaching them. There are many reasons why I have made this rule but one is because I found they spent more time on their phones, setting up for the shot, asking the other to film, etc and less time really internalizing what they are present to do, train and improve.
Call it a Media Free Monday if you will.

As a retired athlete, I am so thankful that over 10 years ago social media really only equated to YouTube videos and Facebook asking us “How are you feeling?” so we posted stupid comments on how we actually felt, not videos of training. No phone had that power then. Imagine that, Facebook had to prompt us on how to interact with its technology just to get it functioning as designed. Now it has to limit our interaction so it can manage the design.

Now let’s take this question of “when no one is watching would you still do it?” beyond our technology and social media days.

Would you still lift weights, train hard and sweat until your shirt is soaked if no one is watching? Would you continue to challenge yourself, to grow, to improve if you had no global outlet to brag a little? Would you, as an athlete or a coach, do a better job without these social demands?

Perhaps it’s time to reflect on this, leave the phone behind and truly train. No distractions and only your personal head pats and support from the people that matter most – yourself, your coach and your family. Likely in that order too.

*head pat – I had a coach who, on my first day with him, said “If I don’t say anything to you, you’re doing good, change nothing.” I later learned that if he patted my head, I was doing great. The highest honor was a head pat.

Coach Perspective: When not to compete

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