Confessions of a Special O Coach

by | November 6, 2018 | Sport performance

I’ve been a coach with Special Olympics Manitoba since 2007. 
 
In that time, I have worked with both multi-sport programs and powerlifting. 
 
I learned a ton about coaching, 
 
Communication
 
And leadership. 
 
But, I think the best lessons are the ones that our athletes have given to me. 
 
These lessons have taught me what it takes to be an effective human being,
 
How to love and be loved,
 
And how to make a difference in the lives of those around you. 
 
Check out these life lessons from our athletes: 
 
 

1. Surround yourself with your tribe

To be an effective athlete, 
 
to be an effective human being,
 
and to have fun, 
 
surround yourself with a community of people that want what you want. 
 
It’s the classic Jim Rohn saying that you’re a composite of the five people you spend the most time with, 
 
So choose those people wisely. 
 
If you want to get fit, hang out with fit people, 
 
if you want to gain muscle, hang out with meatheads, 
 
if you want to lose fat, hang out with people who are losing fat. 
 
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to give those people a ton of high fives 
 
 

2. Keep it real

One of my favourite things about our athletes is how authentic they are. 
 
They never try to be something that they’re not. 
 
They fully embrace the concept that no one is as good at being you as you are. 
 
There are so many different types of athletes in the world, 
 
some like to lift,
 
some life to run,
 
some like to do yoga,
 
some like to eat broccoli,
 
some like to eat spinach.
 
Just do what you do.
 
Do what makes you feel healthy,
 
and do things that you enjoy. 
 
I think we get caught up thinking that we need to follow “X” diet and do “Y” workout,
 
but that’s just not the case. 
 
When it comes down to it, consistency is key. 
 
So, find something that you love, 
 
something that you want to do, 
 
and something you’re likely to do when times get tough. 
 
 

3. Help people out

We have one athlete who is a rowdy dude. 
 
He gives HARD high fives, 
 
he makes hilarious jokes, 
 
and he is the centre of attention. 
 
We have another athlete who is also hilarious, 
 
but a little less “alpha”, 
 
and he is also blind. 
 
And guess who’s the first guy to quietly help him out when he needs a hand? 
 
The rowdy dude. 
 
It never ceases to amaze me how awesome our athletes are when it comes to helping each other out. 
 
Lending a helping hand when someone really needs you is an amazing gift that our athletes fully embrace. 
 
It warms my soul every time. 
 
 

4. Try your best, no matter what

We value effort over talent any day. 
 
These are the athletes that maybe don’t have the greatest natural ability, but give it all they’ve got.  
 
In Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, individuals with a growth mindset value effort over talent. 
 
and guess what? 
 
They have more success in life when it comes to leading a company, 
 
winning a championship, 
 
raising a family, 
 
and even getting in shape. 
 
People with a growth mindset see personal qualities as malleable and able to improve. 
 
This is in contrast to a fixed mindset.
 
A fixed mindset values talent over effort and will find any way to protect that talent by…
 
not stretching their abilities, 
 
not putting themselves into opportunities for growth and advancement, 
 
and not getting comfortable with discomfort. 
 
And as you know, the best things in life often come on the other side of discomfort. 
 
These people see qualities as fixed and unable to improve, so making those improvements if a useless endeavour. 
 
Cultivate a growth-mindset…
 
Focus on effort over talent,
 
focus on putting yourself outside your comfort zone,
 
and get comfortable being uncomfortable. 
 
The best athletes in the world know that their skills can improve, 
 
their game can always get better, 
 
and that they can always take themselves to another level. 
 
 

5. Have an attitude of gratitude

We have an athlete that texts me after every practice to thank me for coaching her. 
 
It’s so cute! 
 
And it goes to show how grateful she is. 
 
And this is not uncommon among our athletes. 
 
Another athlete announced in front of the team how grateful she was to get the chance to be on the powerlifting team.
 
So awesome! 
 
We often times get caught up looking for problems, 
 
looking for what’s wrong, 
 
and looking for things that aren’t on track. 
 
But, to shift to an attitude where you look for the good in situations, 
 
or to out-right look for opportunities to be grateful
 
not only puts you into a positive frame, 
 
it helps you find more positive things to be grateful for. 
 
It’s that old reticular activating system getting tuned to finding the good. 
 
If you remember, the reticular activating system is the system in your brain that notices red cars on the road after you get a red car. 
 
The same works for being grateful. 
 
When you start being grateful for things in your life, 
 
you get more awesome at finding more things to be grateful for. 
 
It’s like a positive gratitude loop. 
 
What can you be grateful for today? 
 
 

6. Dance like no one’s watching

It’s Friday night at practice. 
 
It’s been a long week for Ryan and Shirley. 
 
They get a little snippy with each other. 
 
Are the gloves coming off? 
 
Are we about to see a battle? 
 
You bet…
 
a dance battle. 
 
Ryan throws down some spin moves and an attempt at a drop-split
 
 
Shirley drops the gauntlet with some breakdance prep and side-to-side kicks. 
 
Who won? 
 
Who cares? 
 
It was so fun. 
 
And the issue was completely resolved. 
 
What this story told me is that 
 
#1. most issues can be resolved with a dance-off
 
#2. You need to dance like no one is watching you
 
There are going to be times when you get around others that are eating mounds of Doritos and stacks of Oreos. 
 
That’s fine. 
 
Just do you. 
 
If you want to eat one or two, that’s cool. 
 
Just don’t feel the need to succumb to the pressure of others. 
 
There’s going to be booze at parties.
 
That’s fine, have 1-2 drinks…
 
or have 0. 
 
But, don’t feel the need to drink a forty because others are doing it. 
 
Dance to the beat of your own drum. 
 
Don’t worry about what other people are saying. 
 
You know when others start talking about you, 
 
and giving you a hard time, 
 
that you are breaking away from the average and becoming something above-average. 
 
So when others want you to be like them, understand that over 60% of the population is overweight. 
 
It’s a matter of probability that these people are in that segment of the population and they want you to be there too. 
 
 

7. Show me 

We have one athlete who I would try to talk through exercises,
 
but until I actually showed her how to do it, 
 
she didn’t get it.
 
This lesson speaks to two aspects of life
 
#1. What you do matters more than what you say. 
 
We talked about this extensively here. 
 
The jist of it is that you can talk about being fit until your blue in the face,
 
but until you actually start taking action and living like a fit person,
 
nothing will change. 
 
#2. Everyone learns differently and that’s cool
 
Some people learn through visual means.
 
They like to see things demonstrated.
 
If this is you, some videos on youtube on how to cook a healthy meal might be useful. 
 
Others learn through hearing and listening.
 
They like to hear and listen to what they are learning about.
 
The Model Health Show podcast is a great way for these type of learners.
 
Others need to do the thing they are learning.
 
They need to feel it.
 
They need to be immersed in it
 
These people are called kinaesthetic learners. 
 
For these folks, pairing up with a master meal prepper and doing it alongside them is how they really start to grasp the concept they are trying to learn. 
 
What is your learning style and how can you apply it to your journey of getting back into shape? 
 
 

Wrap-up

These last 11 years have been an amazing journey for me, 
 
I’ve been able to travel with Special Olympics Manitoba, 
 
I have met some amazing people that I would have never met, 
 
and I have learned some incredible life lessons I would have never learned. 
 
I hope you can use some of these lessons in your quest to getting back the athletic body you once had 🙂
 

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