To the introvert athlete, surrounded by a supposed sea of extroverts, self-advocacy is the key to improvement
Daddy-Ball is the common phenomenon of when the coach — or the perception of when the coach — favors his kid over others at the detriment of the team. His kid always needs to be the star. His kid pitches the big game when there are better options.
Athletes – youth AND adult, need advocacy that ensures they are consistently challenged
On that first day of peewee football I found a love for sport. Given the chance, if you put me up against a teammate in an all-out balls-to-the-walls challenge, I was going to win or die trying. I don’t think this trait is a sign of over-competitiveness in my younger self, more an exercise in mental preparation to deliver my very best. Beside me was my team mate, my brother in arms, perhaps even my best friend. However in that moment, in my mind, we were at war. Whatever he did – I would have to go one harder. THAT – is how we made each other better. Perhaps he was unbeatable. Perhaps we had ran the same race 100 times before with him beating me in each instance. Regardless I would try to approach each contest as though it was our first and all I needed was that one opportunity to beat him. It’s amazing to me how we can have two simultaneous relationships, two completely different existences. Friends and competitors. He never stopped being my brother and I never stopped regarding him as such, even when I was trying to drive his shoulder pads inches into the turf. Moments later the battle was over and we would help each other up and congratulate our successes.
I yearned for these sort of contests. Not just for the love of the game – but the love of the 1-on-1 race, the Oklahoma drill, the me-vs-anyone contest. It taught me drive, self-esteem, humility, and empathy and it continues to do so even as an over-the-hill CrossFit athlete. Despite all of that passion for contest, there was an underlying lesson that I was slow to pick up on. Politics and disproportionate favoritism was this lesson. Kids were given more opportunities to be tested, more reps to improve, and thrust into prime position because of an outside influence independent of their ability or earned stature.
Prime example- Daddy-Ball: Remember how the coach’s kid always seemed to have a lock on that prized position of quarterback or running back?
As a youth coach, I even sometimes catch myself handing out more coaching ques and opportunities to re-run the drills to my child over anyone else’s. It is an unintentional – naturally occurring tendency to some extent. In my time coaching youth football this year, our coaching staff had several discussions about it, trying to prevent it from being an unfair dynamic on our team. However, there is a part of me that believes this is just and fair. After all, isn’t that why any parent would coach a youth team with their child on it?
- To have a first-hand influence over their child’s experiences with sport.
- To nourish their development and ensure their safety.
- To posture yourself to be the best front-line advocate for your child.
While I try to be cognizant of this when I coach and make sure that every kid gets their shot, I also feel that I am paying (through volunteering) for a position of front-line advocacy for my child. As a result, I will know the plays and development schemes first. I will have an instant opportunity to adjust the plan according to my own parental feedback and observations. While any team’s success requires that every member develops the ability to perform and any good coach wants all their athletes to flourish, there will always be the subtle (or not so subtle) advantage to the kid who’s parent is their front-line advocate. I am driven to give my children memories and good experiences from which to foster their own healthy love for sport. I believe it to be one of the best lifelong gifts I can give them as a parent. I am their foremost advocate.
How does this apply to the adult CrossFit athlete?
Although a child is naturally unaware and in need of an advocating voice, we are ALL quiet introverts at times. Even the biggest social butterflies have grumpy days on the floor, under the bar, in the box. We chose the class times that suit us – not only because of schedule, but also because of the compatibility of a typical peer makeup of a that class time. I would say that some even unknowingly discover an affinity for a class time because they know what their social-opacity would be in that setting. They have figured out a formula to workout while remaining somewhat hidden. Some may shy away from too many coaching cues, or chose spots in the back hoping for privacy and escape from scrutiny. “NO”-you may say, “not in our community”, but no matter how many welcoming people and how friendly the gestures – the introvert feels the need to be anywhere but the front and anyone but the coach’s demonstrator. MAKE NO MISTAKE that introverts can still be hell bent on gains and frustrated by stagnation in their progress! The problem is that there is no-daddy coach, or team mom to advocate for their playing time. They have to speak up for themselves – but seldom do.
We are adults and need to be our own advocates!
When a coach’s time is being monopolized by the social butterflies we need to explicitly seek the much needed corrections and technique ques. Speak up! Take responsibility for your progress and needs. While we may have our spot in the back, out of sight, permanently reserved – we need to march our ass up to the front or be heard over anyone else in relentless pursuit of improvement. Training your muscles is only part of a well-rounded regiment. We hear our coaches preach of mobility – smashing, rolling, stretching on the regular and we frequently take this for granted while we continuously scale to compensate. Focus on the ancillary aspects to round out your regiment. Similarly, we need to get out of our comfort zone and put ourselves in the limelight when self-advocacy is the only thing standing between a much needed coaching cue and stagnation.