Further to our series of blogs published as part of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sport’Aide wants to share with you a recent incident on the field experienced by a partner– Plongeon Québec – which wants to support its coaches in this unique context. So, let’s make room for the third blog in an interesting series which summarizes this great initiative which deserves to be known – indeed – repeated elsewhere.
In this National Coaches Week, Plongeon Québec would like to highlight the exceptional work of its coaches.
Creating a healthy and welcoming environment
The approach initiated in the first few months of confinement in collaboration with Jean-Paul Richard, former coach of the Canadian freestyle ski team and co-founder of reROOT collective, turned out to be a rich experience in terms of awareness and sharing for diving coaches. As you will recall, Plongeon Québec’s intention with this group approach was to support coaches in order to help them enhance their well-being and their confidence so that they can in turn support their athletes in the coming months. Concretely, these virtual meetings with the coaches favoured a reflection process with the help of tools and actions, including a coaching circles approach, leading to the creation of an emotionally safe environment for coaches.
In the third article of this triad, we are proposing testimonials by coaches who dared question themselves during this experience and made themselves vulnerable by sharing their worries. By choosing to be true and authentic, they have been able to open up to others and find new solutions. Plongeon Québec is proud to be witness to the active participation of those who act as mentors for young divers in order that these new principles of leadership, which aim to prioritize well-being for performance, have an impact on the diving community in Québec, and even on the sports community in general.
A breath of fresh air
For some time now, a new awareness appears to have taken shape in the sporting community to redefine and give a new direction to performance. A happy orientation that goes beyond success, renames it and the surpassing of one’s own limits: Achieving one’s own goals still being just as important, but not in any way or at any price. Let’s delve back to the beginning of the pandemic where everything happened fast and chaos took over by destabilizing everything in its path. The world of sport was particularly shaken and club coaches didn’t know what to think of this sudden break in their daily routine. “When the pandemic materialized, there were a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of misunderstanding, but mostly a lot of uncertainty. I was wondering if I was still going to have a job or how my athletes were going to react to this situation,” said Olivier Duchesneau, diving coach for ARO, a Quebec diving club. “What I found most difficult was knowing what we were going to do for the rest of the season if this confinement continued. My brain was working hard to find ways to keep my athletes motivated during this period of confinement,” he added. The questions that arose most often from the community focused on the long term: what would happen to athletes’ motivation? Will the clubs stay open? Will coaches keep their jobs? It was this feeling of fear which, with reason, overtook many coaches.
Fighting solitude by sharing
The workshops set up by Jean-Paul Richard turned out to be a method to discuss all of these abrupt changes and to reflect to find daily solutions. “Sharing felt good, even at a distance, with people experiencing similar situations and emotions and hearing different points of view about similar situations. These coaching circles allowed us to open up to questions that we still had not yet necessarily asked ourselves. That allowed us to continue our reflections, but out loud,” commented the head coach of the Gatineau diving club, Mélanie Duff, who participated in the workshops. The coaching circles offered an opportunity to open the discussions so that coaches feel comfortable bringing up situations that worried them and to discuss with their peers very openly and without judgement.
According to Jean-Paul Richard, this technique used and the creation of this psychologically safe space for workshops created an opening among individuals, which produced a proximity effect between the participants and reinforced sharing since they felt supported in their concerns. Coach Olivier Duchesneau, of ARO, explains that “the workshops allowed me to put into perspective what was going on around me in the present and to think of myself first. I was used to putting my athletes first and planning everything for the long term. However, in a situation like this, I had to think of my well-being and the present moment in order to subsequently focus 100% on my athletes during online practices, among other things.”
Essential vulnerability to progress better
Several self-awareness, self-compassion and self-regulation exercises were organized. But how did the coaches concretely develop their tools? Étienne Le Blanc-Brillion, coach at the CAMO diving club recounts: “During the first workshop, we covered self-awareness by having the opportunity to hear other coaches. It made me realize that other people were experiencing problems similar to my own. The interactions allowed me to recognize that these problems existed and to accept that it was perfectly normal for me to experience them. For self-compassion, it was a question of emotions in management and how they are often perceived as being detrimental to good decision-making. However, we realize that it is impossible for a human to completely detach themselves from their emotions. On the contrary, you have to learn to know yourself and most of all recognize that we can experience certain emotions according to different scenarios to lead us to make better decisions.” The self-regulation exercises in the program allowed coaches to question their values and their goals. According to several comments by coaches, these three tools allowed them to stay on course towards the final destination and to know how to navigate, regardless of the storm that was shaking them.
According to scientific studies, a coach’s well-being has a direct positive impact on the relationship with their athletes, but why is that? The importance of the coach’s well-being is a concept that is not found often enough at the heart of topics of discussion and many people may not give it enough importance. These same people have the habit of putting their athletes first and themselves last. Yet, long-term success with athletes is interrelated with the coach’s personal balance and that of his athlete. A happy coach will generally have happier and more motivated athletes, since this will create a healthier and more balanced relationship. “The well-being of the coach, but especially the fact that they have the necessary tools to help themselves, will have a major impact on their performance. After all, can a coach who is demotivated, psychologically drained or frustrated by a situation help an athlete experiencing the same problems,” questions Étienne Le Blanc-Brillion, of CAMO.
With hindsight and by observing that athletes made it through confinement thanks to the colossal work of coaches, we can say: mission accomplished! It is also thanks to the incredible field work of Jean-Paul Richard, former coach of the Canadian free style ski team and who is now a consultant and performance coach, as well as the active participation of diving coaches, that these coaching workshops and circles could be developed. Thanks to Mr. Richard for his empathy, his collaboration and his commitment. A special thanks to Johanne Boivin who oversaw the project from A to Z.
These articles are a great collaboration signed Plongeon Québec and Sport’Aide.
The Sport Journal, “The Role of Emotion in Sport Coaching: A Review of the Literature”, <https://thesportjournal.org/article/the-role-of-emotion-in-sport-coaching-a-review-of-the-literature/>, May 12, 2020.
Fowler. Susan (2019). Master your motivation: Three Scientific Truths for Achieving Your Goals. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 192 p.
“The well-being of the coach, but especially the fact that they have the necessary tools to help themselves, will have a major impact on their performance. After all, can a coach who is demotivated, psychologically drained or frustrated by a situation help an athlete experiencing the same problems,”