|Spray On Motivation|
|Written by Bridie O'Donnell|
|Sunday, 07 August 2011 22:53|
If I were to list my all-time top 5 favourite sporting questions, one that has flown to #1 with a bullet this year is, "WHY ARE YOU SO SHIT?"
For full effect, it needs to be demanded loudly, by a man not seeking an answer, preferably in another language, and in front of a lot of people.
Only a fool would bother trying to respond.
And, idiot that I am, I responded with all manner of defensive explanations & scientific justifications. Like we were adults, having a conversation.
Mama mia, talk about red rag to a bull!
I was worried I might have to explain to the Caribinieri why I'd murdered a citizen with dialogue, such was the visible rising of his blood pressure.
The 2nd and 3rd times it was asked, I didn't bother thinking of answers. I thought of a few rhetorical questions of my own, some involving sharp instruments & voodoo dolls, but needless to say, it prompted in my mind a very important question:
Does the coaching 'spray' of abuse actually lead to enhanced performance?
Let's, for novelty's sake, assume that the Man in Charge is actually trying to extract a great performance from the athlete.
This is a BIG assumption here, given that frequently, the coach's fury/rage/insecurity/lack of control has led to the outburst, and the athlete is merely a receptacle for a whole lot of issues I don't have time to expand upon here, (see chapter on impulse control disorders in the DSM IV)
And sure, elite sport is aggressive. There is a lot at stake - jobs, salaries, pride, position on a ladder or a GC - and right or wrong, were not doing it just for fun...
Combine that with a high pressure, time-poor environment, where decisions need to be made quickly, and plans changed, and even Ghandi would get a bit tetchy were he in charge of a team 150 points down at three quarter time.
As we have all seen & many experienced, the 'spray' can work, in certain circumstances.
Just this week, I had a lovely evening out with the AUS rowers in Varese, and was told by the women's coach that he observed his squad to be training a bit half-arsed during a session.
So, for the first time ever, he gave them a blasting. No humiliation, mind. No unnecessary vitriol, just a very loud, moderately offensive, reality check.
Their GPS data showed they rowed significantly faster in the next effort.
But Men in Charge, take note: choose your audience wisely. Some athletes respond to threats, to the fear of failure or to implied humiliation should they continue to 'fail' in their tasks.
I'd hazard a guess that plenty of young males in team sports like football might be sensitive to this method.
Others athletes, though, might just think you're a tool. They may have had a 'spray' from you every other day, and it has ceased to be anything other than tiresome.
Or, heaven forbid, they may already be playing their heart out, and be justifiably insulted that you've failed to discern who is doing their job & who aint.
As my Grandfather would say, "it's a tricky game, this coaching caper."
In my column about leadership, I acknowledged that not everyone can be inspiring, generous and intelligent in the field of battle. Even more so if they are the 'talent' or the coach.
We are often quick to criticise the failings of our best athletes & leaders, but the pressure of being el guapo does not always bring out the best qualities in a person.
Still, if you are the MIC and could see past your tried & true method of hurling saliva and abuse in the athlete's direction, who knows what could happen!
If you contemplated using different strategies for different athletes, in order for them to perform better, a crazy thing might happen .... THE TEAM MIGHT LIFT!
We know that positive feedback in the workplace leads to greater motivation, pride in one's position & overall higher functioning of the group as a whole.
And we see what people are willing to do for each other in sport (and war) when they know they are trusted, appreciated, and cultivated.
I overheard a DS from another team at the Giro (ok, I was eavesdropping) speaking to a very tired domestique on stage 8: he congratulated her hard work from the stage before, he gave her his faith, his encouragement then asked her if she could just do it again today, for one more stage?
The commitment and pride was written all over her face.
Admiral Chester A. Nimitz was famous for his role as Commander in Chief of the US Navy, immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbour.
Those who heard his speech at his command ceremony in 1941 were amazed that he entrusted in his troops a great deal of confidence and pride, that no man would be here in this fleet were he not fit for the role of defence of their great country. These magnanimous words to men who had been universally deemed as failures in their jobs.
Despite the losses from the attack on Pearl Habour, and the shortage of ships, planes and supplies, he successfully organized his forces to halt the Japanese advance. It was leadership & management of men that had seen no equal.
When I told my Da I was ruminating on verbal abuse in sport, he was reminded of a time nearly 50y ago when he played for Brothers Rugby Union.
The halfback had been injured early on in the game, and for some ill-fated reason, the rambunctious coach, Kevin Macaroni, moved my dad from breakaway to HB.
He would be playing opposite his mate, Laurie Lawrence, from West Toowong RC.
Before Da had been 2min in the new gig, Lawrence stole the ball from between his legs and went on to score a try.
A 'spray' ensued from the sideline, like something from the southern stands of a Collingwood/Carlton match at the MCG:
"O'DONNELL! WHAT THE F*CK WERE YOU THINKING?!
I THOUGHT YOU SAID YOU COULD PLAY HALFBACK?!
ARE YOU BLIND? ARE YOU A POOFTER? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
Da said he thought of plenty of sensible answers to these questions (now I know where I got it from), but was smart enough to say nothing.
Unsurprisingly, a young man who had never before played in a position that is integral to the success of a team, a role that needs experience, skill, confidence & great attention to detail, had made a mistake in his first ever time in the job.
Even les surprisingly, he went on to make more mistakes as the game wore on.
Macaroni, before bursting a coronary artery, did the only sensible thing he'd ever do, and left the sidelines, never to return.
Lawrie Lawrence went on to play Rugby for AUS in 1964 and then became a swimming coach, famous for his enthusiasm, his memorable rants & leaping into the pool at the 1988 Olympics when his athlete, Duncan Armstrong, won Gold in the 200m freestyle.
My Da, on the other hand, became a school teacher, and recently retired after 50y of service to Education QLD. He coached the Mooloolaba U11's to some very strong victories in their home & away season of rugby in 2010.And the only spray they got was off the surf at Alexandra Headlands.