2020 started off well with some great Race Results from the Sunshine Coast Triathlon Academy / Protector Aluminium Athletes and Coach Toby Coote. Heading into the Australian Olympic Distance Champs at Mooloolaba on 15th March, I was sitting with fellow Commentators Peter Murray and Tammy Barker along with Ironman Staff and the announcement about COVID 19 and the restrictions to be put in place. A lot of uncertainty around that weekend and racing and then into restrictions that ultimately shut down Coaching in general with restrictions of 10 and then to groups of 2, self isolation.
My thoughts turned straight around to "I'm Screwed" Coaching is a tough business at the best of time, but when its taken out from under you from no fault of your own, it was pretty scary to be honest. 18 Years of Coaching (September 2002) where I have been able to control what I do, being Self Employed for that time, went to how am i going to survive this?
But thoughts then turned to..... hang on what do I say to my athletes day in day out. Be adaptable, be flexible and learn from your experiences to be a better athlete. I needed to lead by example and show a pathway moving forward, show that I wasn't beaten, show that I can survive during these tough times. I wasn't the only one dealing with it, plenty of other Coaches, Race Directors, Commentators, Workers, Businesses were struggling to. I had to clarify my vision
"Dark Days and Broken"
It wasn't easy and there were some deep dark days. There was a lot of soul searching, lots of tears and unhappiness, but there were moments of clarity and cleansing as well. I had a lot going on during this period and I could of chosen a few different paths. I was still working with online programs and 1:1 with some of the athletes but could sense a lot being unmotivated, there were no races to focus on, no clear set path for them or for us Coaches. I looked at my bank balance trying to work out how I was going to pay the bills, survive to be honest. I remember just staring at my computer and I just broke down. The raw emotions of it all took its toll. I remember another instance where a friend needed a lift, I said how you going and she just broke down. I said I understand and broke down with her. Didn't have to say anything, just knew what we were going thru. Its not easy
Isolation is the worse when you live alone. I found the only sense I had and escape was doing some training, Getting out of the house as it was the only way to escape the 4 walls. I was depressed I was broken at this point. My only social interaction was morning and afternoon with some 1:1 sessions, but that wasn't everyday. You go from 3 sessions a day and social interaction to being isolated. The highlight to break the day up was going to my Local Coffee Shop, Pallet Espresso (Thanks Johnny) to get a takeaway during the day to break it up and then back to the 4 walls of isolation. But it was something that I looked forward to each day.
I normally sleep very well, but for 6 weeks, I had the worse period of sleep i have ever had, its was interrupted, too many thoughts in my head, I just couldn't settle the voices, the demons, the uncertainty that I was surrounded by. There was plenty going on that I was trying to control, but they were uncontrollables. What do I say to my athletes "You can only Control what you can control" Gave myself a kick up the arse. But my real sanity came from training, surfing and sharing time with family in current restrictions.
Adversity has a place in what we do and it is a great learning tool to define Who you are, Your Self Confidence, Self Worth, Self Belief and what Legacy you want to leave. Its 10 years to this date that my life was turned around with adversity that affected Myself and My Business by no fault of my own.
I found myself 10 years later in the same place dealing with a different adversity of no fault of my own. I had 2 choices. Do what I did last time and bury myself in alcohol or regain my health and become fit. I took the second option and so glad I did
This time I have learnt so much from this experience and include
"FAMILY and FRIENDS"
Family - No matter what has gone before. There are always arguments and disagreements, that's family, but when shit hits the fan and you need help, they are there no matter what. If it wasn't for them, I don't know what position I would be sitting in right now. Not only have you supported me thru this, lent a shoulder, invited me in and fed me, but also help financially that I will be eternally grateful for. It has allowed me to survive thru this. It has reinforce the strength and bond and this period has allowed me to spend more time and surfing with the nieces.
My other non blood family (they know who they are) they noted I wasn't right and lent an ear, support and plenty of laughs. they are there no matter what
Friends - when you are in trouble you do really find out who your "REAL" Friends are. They are there no matter what to support, to lend a shoulder, an ear, a smile, a hug. All the little simple things that mean so much when the chips are down. Even a carton of Beer (Thanks Noely)
Athletes - to the ones that have stood by me in the last 8 weeks, you know who you are, your support will never go unnoticed. Thanks
We are suffering as a whole, and we aren't out of this by no measure, and it will take time to rebuild to get this sport back to where it was, but during this time there has been a sense of reaching out by fellow Coaches, Commentators, Race Directors and Race Workers. The phone calls, the checking in on each other the value that we put on what we do and why we are successful has been shown throughout this period. I made a point of calling 2 people a day to check in on them to see how they were going. We were all in the same fight, and funny how when we talked, we talked about the same feelings, emotions, the uncertainty of what surrounded us all. We are all riding the same wave
The weekly coaching connect group thru Craig Johns, has given us a platform to still be engaged and deal with some of the scenarios that are in place. The last few episodes that you have done have been very informative and has given myself a lot to think about how I will move on from here and what I do. It has raised some series questions about what we all do as Coaches.
"Health Awareness and Time"
I regained my health and life throughout this period. Normally at this time I am on a break after the season. I would have been 8 weeks back to back with races, commentary, coaching, end of season reviews etc etc. But with some much time on my hands I began productive by silencing the demons with training, cleaning the house, the car, all the things I would never get a chance to do. I surfed more as that is my sanity release and did it with Family (by the way my nieces shred love it).
I have lost 12 kgs in this 8 week period. From training, a bit of stress. I have gone from 90kg to 78kg. THe last time I was under 80kg was at the AIS at an NTID camp and remember the conversation with Craig Redman about hitting 80kg for the first time in my life (think it was 2008/2009) I have never been back under there since then. So if there is a positive out of all this negativity is that I have regained my health. Which is vital for me
"Legacy and Leadership"
I have always led from the front. I have said what I have as I am passionate about what I do. It can get me in trouble from time to time, but that is me. Its how I do what I do and get the best out of myself and my athletes. But I saw an opportunity to lead from the front by saying, I'm training, I'm getting fit, there are no excuses if I can do then you can do. I didn't have to, but I did as I wanted to be that Role Model leading from the front. Will I race probably not, as I see myself as a Coach, not an athlete (and I know what I am like as an a Athlete). The Legacy I wanted to leave here is, I can control what I can do during this period and that was to get fit and keep them motivated by do a 1:1 session here and there to keep the athletes ticking along. It also got me motivated and Healthier. If I didn't have this time, I would still be 90kg unfit.
I've had a chance to sit down and reflect on myself during this period. Never easy looking back at what you have down both Business and Personal. Am I happy, NO, there are a lot of things in hindsight that I would go back and change if I could, do differently, but I know I can't, but what I can do is use that experience to move forward and be a better Person, A better Coach, A better Uncle / Son / Brother, A better Friend. Surround myself with good people that will test me with multiple view points, that will enable me to be better.
This was a tough one. I went thru a lot of emotions during this time. I rode a roller coaster with lots of lows and highs mostly lows. I tried to push away people trying to help me as that is what I have done in the past. For the first time in a long time I let some walls down, and trusted again. Its been a long time since I have been able to trust people or allow myself to trust. It is never easy. As a Coach and former Athlete you hide your emotions a lot of the time and deal with a lot that people / athletes don't see on a regular basis. I can seem very happy and outgoing on the outside, but what is going on the inside can be a totally different story. I was only able to trust and let those walls down with a lot of reflection as stated above.
I was very fortunate to have a network of people around that understood I wasn't right and pressed me to make sure I was OK. It took a little time as I didn't want them to know I was struggling, but when I did open up it was a massive relief of my shoulders. Like a weight had lifted from me. Remember it ain't weak to speak or ask for help
So during a very negative period, I have come away with a lot of positives that I will use moving forward from this point. By no means are we out of trouble yet, but there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel that will keep the fuse going.
As a good friend say to me once "Success is Nothing if You Have No One Left to Share it With" So very true Indeed!!
Life is short, so make the most out of everyday. Take Care and look after yourself.