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In the midst of sadness ...

WINNING THE DOWNTIME - Confessions from a coach March 2020

I don’t enjoy holidays. Lack of ‘progress’ in this period usually results in a sense of stagnation and anxiety about what lies ahead. The conflict is, as a confessed good-time guy who loves nothing more than a fun party with buddies, beer and banter – holidays should be just up my street. But right now – not only do I need to get used to downtime, but find a way to maximise it.

Rick Charlesworth – famous Australian hockey coach, spoke about the need for sportspeople, if they are to be truly successful, to ‘win the downtime’. Essentially downtime is when the ball is not in play. Take Rugby – an 80min game during which the ball is in play for approximately 35mins. So ‘downtime’ is the 45 minutes where your teammates are planning what to do in the 35. Charlesworth wants you to win that time.

By extension if you take the 35 minutes of ball-in-play time as a fraction of the 10,080 mins that make up a week, it means ball-in-play is 0.35% of your week. So for a professional sportsperson, that’s a shit-load of downtime to ‘win’ if you are to make a success of that small percentage of your week – the time that brings in the money for you. So how do you ‘win’ the downtime?

Personally I’ve not reached the point of finding opportunities or staring at silver linings in this tragic time. Like many, I’m between shock, sadness and sense-making, even knowing things will eventually change. Tough call to ‘win’ this particular bit of global downtime.

Heading up a campaign for a rugby team these last 6 months has given my work-life a previously unexperienced intensity. So to have slowed down to a halved load and drastically reduced ‘purpose’ has been a wake-up. For sure I’m not alone – how many of us are wondering what the future looks like?

So, is this downtime winnable? And can it be maximised?

Usual questions around 3-year vision, goal-setting and what might be holding you back from success feel a bit hollow right now. And we have no idea of what the new ‘Post-Corona’ normal will look like. So my suggestion is to approach this downtime, and how best to win it, knowing that you want to emerge from it in the best possible way, but not aiming to find perfect.

Here are some action options:

- Feedback: Tear apart your personal hypothesis on how to coach and ask for feedback – tough when you’re usually focused on the next task in the malaise of competition

- Right reading list: it is tempting to read a whole bunch of titles in the name of ‘learning’ but without right intention, chances are you’ll retain little. Rather read deeply into one area. Ask yourself ‘what for me is the question I need this book to answer?’ before you even start.

- Re-connect: In the past week I’ve phoned more friends than I have in months. Use this time to reach out to people that matter, people who may help you become a better coach/professional. Have a specific question for them that allows you to learn something you need to learn. Talk about KPR’s (Key Performance Relationships). Equally listen and see how you may be able to help them. Learning is a two-way business.

- Get fit: As I transitioned from flipchart to field (mental coach to coach) I realised the need to get sufficiently fit myself to experience some of the physical toil my players go through – and thus be more empathetic. I cannot recommend it enough.

- Become a self-specialist: Write, journal, record voice notes, do whatever it takes to understand your own feelings, thoughts and belief systems. This can positively impact your effectiveness as a coach and as a person.

Finally in this uncertain, unsettling time, no one knows what’s best to do. And I’m no expert either. Just going through some tricky times and wanting to share thoughts on ways of ‘winning this enforced downtime’. Let me know yours? Look forward to hearing from you.

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