Back in 1992 my only goal was to make the Olympic Team. When that dream happened my next goal was to hit all my routines during the competition. I didn’t think about medals, or making finals, or even being put on the front of the next Wheaties box. I was intensely focused on my skills and what it took to make them.
My goal did come true and when my competition was over, my routines along with our team’s performance earned us a Bronze Medal. I was elated. First I made the team, then I hit all my routines, and to top it all off I was bringing home a medal. For a minute or even an hour I had accomplished everything I had set out in my career.
Then little by little and day by day my fantastic accomplishment seemed to not be good enough. When I got back home of course my immediate family and friends were ecstatic with my medal. Our local community was loving and supportive because they knew that Bronze was a huge accomplishment for our city. Yet, everyone outside our little town wasn’t so satisfied with third place.
Third place in the eyes of society is pretty much a loss. I would get comments from people saying, “Oh, you got third, better luck next time.” Or “Are you going to go back and try for gold?”.
No agent was interested in third place. Marketing agencies are really good coming up with slogans like “Be like Mike.” They wanted people to look at Michael Jordan and buy Gatorade so they too could be the next member of the Gold Medal Winning Dream Team. They weren’t really interested in promoting hey “Be like Wendy. You too can lose first and have to settle for third in the Olympics.”
Our society makes it clear that the only thing we care about is first place. When someone trains their entire life and becomes the second best athlete on the Earth, the TV commentators, newspaper reporters, and even those in our own sport tear them down and moan and groan about how they just lost it all. If someone is the second best runner on Earth, I am pretty sure they kicked butt and won second. Yet, second and third just aren’t marketable. Not many strive to advertise people who have lost.
After a couple of years of trying to hang on to the last shred of dignity, I finally realized that I had to put my third place medal away for a while. And so I locked it up in my safety deposit box and there it sat.
Winning a bronze came with no fame and fortune. It came with nothing. What I once thought would be the answer to all my dreams really was just a meaningless piece of tin on a ribbon. Somehow the zest of winning a bronze medal had not lasted very long.
It wasn’t until I was in my middle 30’s that I started to “Get it.” I had a few of my friends over my house and after about an hour one of my friends embarrassedly asked if she could see my medal. I laughed and said of course. I took it out, put it around my neck, danced around the house, and had an odd sense of happiness. Something had changed inside me. I felt a sense of pride. I hadn’t felt pride since the first time it was placed around my neck.
My friend asked if she could touch it and then she said, “Do you know how freakin’ cool this is? I have been alive for 40 years and I have never seen or touched a real Olympic Medal before. Do you understand what you did in your life? Do you know how cool this is?” And for the first time in a long time it finally started to sink in.
For many years I was embarrassed about my loss. I had spent my entire life training, hoping, praying for all the stars to align and for me to make it to the Olympics. And then when everything worked out…it wasn’t enough.
I felt guilty that I didn’t do more. I thought that maybe I should have trained harder and won an individual medal. Maybe I should have kept training and tried to make the 1996 team. Maybe I could have been rich and famous and my life could have been full of fame and fortune. My life would have been complete if I could have just won a Gold.
But sitting next to my friends that only knew me as a mother, wife, and coach now wanted to know me as an Olympian. They wanted to hear all about the competition. They wanted me to tell them all my stories. So for hours and hours everything came out. All the memories poured out of me and it felt so good to let them out. For the first time I was happy to tell them and after the night was over I kept my medal out of hiding.
Sometimes we get so caught up in an idea that we need to take a step back and look at the big picture. We can forget to see the truth. Winning doesn’t always mean that we are in first place. Winning for me meant that I overcame injuries, doubt, and a really shaky competition season to make it to the one competition in which I dreamed about my entire life. Winning to me was being the first in my family to be an Olympian. Winning to me was hitting ALL my routines. Winning to me was being a part of something with only 100 other women gymnasts. Winning to me was my Bronze Medal.
So today my medal hangs proudly on my wall. It isn’t a gold, but now I realize that it didn’t have to be. My medal represents all the other athletes out there that think that if only they had won…then their life would be complete. Sometimes we get so caught up with what we could have done or should have done that we forget to appreciate what we did do. We forget to look at our accomplishments whether big or small and feel pride for what we achieved. I had been so caught up with embarrassment of not winning a gold that I forgot to realize that my bronze was more than enough.
My life has been filled with a successful gymnastics career, an amazing family, and wonderful friends. I was already living the life that fame or fortune couldn’t and wouldn’t change. My past had created my future and I wouldn’t have it any other way. For those who don’t win first place at your next competition…that doesn’t mean that you lost. Your success comes from what you did achieve and the wonderful person you are becoming. You and your own personal achievement are and will always be good enough.
Wendy Bruce Martin was a member of the 1992 Olympic team and 5x national team member. She has been involved in gymnastics for 36 years and coaching for 22. She received a degree in psychology and is a certified mental toughness coach. She is married and mother of 2 and enjoying writing about her experiences.
You can visit Wendy at psyched4sports.com or email at gymnasticsmentalcoach.com
Placing the athlete in the correct class seems obvious. Many kids are placed beginner classes if they are a beginner, intermediate when they improve, and advance when they become masters of the sport. But sometimes kids are placed in classes for other reasons.
Some kids can only do certain times or days and so they may be put in a class that is too easy or too hard for their level. Others may want to be with a certain age group even through they are at a different level. And then there was that one time when I put a kid on team because her carpool moved up to team and the only way for her to continue to do gymnastics was to move into the same class.
I had been coaching this child in classes and she was a hard worker and a wonderful kid. I didn’t want her to leave gymnastics so I decided to let her move to level 2 team. I knew it was a big decision, but I thought we both worked a little harder we could make it work.
But placing an athlete in a level higher than they should be in created way more tension and chaos then good.
My little gymnast didn’t know anything about team. She had a lot to learn. She didn’t know how to do a lot of the details. In classes we trained on basic skills, but didn’t focus on head position, body shape, or feet position. All the other kids had spent at least one year on pre-team, a year on level 1, and a year in level 2 before moving to team. They knew all the details and were very good at performing them with precision. But I wasn’t worried. I knew that I could teach her those details.
The problems set in when she felt inferior to all the other athletes. She felt embarrassed when I had to pull her to the side to teach her a lever or a hurdle with the proper arm circle.
She also became embarrassed when she constantly had to do easier skills than her teammates. When they worked on harder skills such as, back walkovers or round off back handsprings, she had to work on back bends and bridge kick overs. I had to set up different stations and always gave her a different workout plan. She become resentful towards me because I couldn’t let her do the same skills as her friends.
I soon became frustrated with having to constantly remind her the names of skills, to put her head in, or to point her toes. After three months I had hoped for her to catch up to the level of the other girls. But after three months it was obvious to me that I had put her in the wrong class.
She didn’t like conditioning and it was hard for her. She didn’t like the constant corrections. She wanted to learn gymnastics but she didn’t care if her legs were straight, toes were pointed, or they were done without deduction.
She eventually didn’t want to do gymnastics anymore and I could see that as well. I knew she needed to be put back in a recreational class, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, embarrass her even more, and worse of have have her quit. It was my idea to put her on team and now I had to break the news to her that I had made a mistake. I felt terrible.
In the beginning I didn’t want to see my little gymnast sad. I knew that if she wasn’t able to car pool with her friend who was on team, then she would have to stop doing gymnastics. She loved gymnastics and I loved teaching her. But instead of seeing the lher sad to have to leave the sport, I tried to make everyone happy and move her to a level she simply was not ready to train.
I knew I had to come to terms with the situation. It was bad and I was to blame.
It was no different than putting a fifth grader in high school classes and then expecting them to live up to the same standards.
The reason we have levels in sports is to ensure proper progress both mentally and physically. When placed in the correct level each student can build a solid foundation of basics and confidence.
When the athlete is placed in the correct level, they can try new skills without feeling embarrassed because everyone is trying the same things. They can build strength by starting with conditioning that they can master. Then after they master that conditioning, they can feel proud and exciting to try to do more. They learn the terminology of the skills and they understand the progression of the sport. They move up when they are “ready”, not because it was convenient.
The bottom line is that I should have done that right thing in the first place. I should have told the gymnast that I would miss her and to let her know that anytime she wanted to come back, I would be here for her. That way we could have avoided the pain, embarrassment, and frustration that she had to endure. Our relationship was strained but luckily not destroyed and I am happy that it wasn’t ruined.
In the future I will make sure to do the right thing and place the athlete in the right class even if it causes a little bit of sadness for the athlete. Nothing can replace the proper path of training. And even with the best intentions proper class placement is not only recommended, it is mandatory.
Our performance indicator changed, so did our idea of what makes a good Tweet. Here’s what we learned from 15 of our best-performing Tweets.
Source: Lessons From 15 of Our Best-Performing Tweets
Lessons From 15 of Our Best-Performing Tweets
BY OLSY SOROKINA | 3 WEEKS AGO | 1 COMMENT
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A few months ago, we started using a different metric to measure the performance of Tweets from the @Hootsuite handle: engagement rate. In Twitter Analytics, this represents the number of engagements divided by the total number of impressions. For example, if you had 5 people engage with your Tweet by either clicking the link or expanding the media contained within it, and 500 people in total noticing your Tweet on their feeds, your engagement rate will be 1 percent. Since the total reach of the @Hootsuite Twitter account is quite wide, our best-performing Tweets usually get over 2 percent engagement.
Once our key performance indicator changed, so did our idea of what makes a good Tweet. So this time, instead of drawing lessons from best Tweets as determined by a third-party app, we’ve decided to share what we learned from Tweets with the highest engagement rate. If some Tweets look familiar, we have indeed discussed a few of them in another post; but as we looked at the engagement rates more and more often, we started noticing trends for composing Tweets that we thought were worth revisiting.
Here’s what we learned from 15 of our best-performing Tweets
1. Be relatable and show character
We wrote about the launch of the video live-streaming app Meerkat after its glorious reception at SXSWi. Since the app was fairly new, the only photos in circulation—aside from the dreaded vertical-video screenshots—were Meerkat’s white-and-yellow logo. But it can be difficult for a Tweet to stand out among the rest when it uses the same image as all the other media outlets. Instead, we illustrated the Tweet promoting the blog post with a popular meme of Timon from The Lion King. (Get it? Because he’s a meerkat.)
We did it mostly for the sake of our own entertainment, so when we saw the engagement rates on the first few Tweets, our jaws dropped. Over the next few months, whenever we sent out Tweets that contained memes, they all performed fantastically. The example above has received over 5 percent engagement rate, and it has been consistently high for Tweets promoting Meerkat-related content.
Intrigued by our initial success, we decided to see if the meme trend would generalize to Tweets promoting other kinds of content. After all, memes are public domain content that’s easy to generate. We’ve used both Success Kid and First World Problems memes to tweet about available job openings at Hootsuite. Similar to Meerkat Tweets, the engagement rate on those Tweets skyrocketed.
We even used a One Does Not Simply Walk into Mordor to illustrate a fairly technical blog post about landing pages, which accounted for many pageviews on the blog.
You might wonder why my advice in this section isn’t just to use more memes. When it comes to Internet culture and social media trend-jacking, brands have to tread carefully; a failed attempt to use an inside joke can result in some pretty awkward interactions. However, when you find something genuinely funny—like using a character from a Disney favourite to talk about a hot new app—chances are, someone in your audience will have a laugh, too. We were careful to use memes selectively, and only for Tweets and blog content with the right topics and tone. Make sure that whatever terms or pop culture references you use, you do so tastefully.
2. Don’t be afraid to experiment
One of our best-performing Tweets is a screenshot from a video that explains the reasoning behind the new UI design for the Hootsuite dashboard. And, well, it’s a bit… cheeky.
This particular Tweet scored 3.4 percent engagement rate, but social messaging related to this video has consistently performed well. Now, we wouldn’t gratuitously include explicit content in our Tweets, and we don’t recommend you do it, either—if you want your social media channels to sound professional. In this case, the curse words emphasized the message we were trying to convey: there was a clear need for change, and while it was communicated quite strongly, we thought it presented a good opportunity to talk about the importance of negative feedback. So don’t be afraid to break the rules every once in a while, as long as you understand why those rules exist in the first place.
3. Be upfront with what your content has to offer
Most of the social media content on our @Hootsuite account points to this blog. So it makes sense that we measure the success of some of those Tweets based on clickthrough rates. Sometimes, though, it pays off to showcase the biggest asset of the blog post directly in the Tweet, like so:
Social media posts containing this infographic never fail to receive an engagement rate higher than 2.5 percent. One reason why it works is that the infographic doesn’t show up in its entirety on the users’ feeds—that would be quite inconvenient—so intrigued users have to click on the image to expand it. This increases the engagement rate. It also provides value as a standalone piece of content: users can share the infographic on its own without reading the blog post, and it still provides some valuable information about hashtags. But you don’t have to give away all the juicy parts of your blog post in a Tweet. Instead, give a sneak peek of the blog’s main focus by illustrating it with a graph:
This flowchart illustrates the process of finding the content best suited for your audience. It summarizes the content of the post in an accessible way, and makes the focal point of the blog clear before the user begins reading the advice contained within it. Similarly, both Tweets below showed off the main media asset in the blog post—which earned both of them engagement rates over 2.5 percent.
These examples support the idea that you don’t need click-bait headlines to encourage people to read and share your content. Being upfront with your brand’s value add can be equally effective—if not more so. If you can include a brief summary of your advice, whether this is done in written or pictorial form, you will provide more reasons for your audience to share the content. Finally, your followers will probably appreciate your efforts to save them some time.
4. Keep up with the trends
Our best-performing Tweets, as well as our most-read blog posts, often have one thing in common: they talk about Instagram.
I published a version of this at my other website, Vacilando.
I Do Not Give Relationship Advice, But….
While recently speaking at Region 2 Congress I was having a conversation with a newly married acquaintance. After the obligatory congratulations and wishing him luck I shared that my 25th anniversary was coming up. He asked- with all the traveling I do, What is the secret for a lasting relationship? He was worried that as a gymnastics coach his relationship may be doomed before it started. (I wonder what the divorce rate is for coaches? )
I was honored that he asked me and I really gave thought to my answer before I shared.
What came to me first is that no relationship is “perfect” there will always be some ups and downs. Consistent communication between you and your partner will help you navigate the bumps in the road. If something REALLY bothers you – you need to be able to tell them. AND you need to listen to the grievances of your partner as well with out getting offended.
When I was first married I had a habit of just kicking off my shoes when I came in from outside. It drove my wife crazy when she would trip on my shoes when she came in. She got so angry that she picked up my shoe and was about to throw it outside when she slowed down and thought, “Why don’t I tell him first?” . She told me and I said, “Oh, sorry about that. I’ll take care of that.” I never left my shoes in front of the door again. She told me- I fixed it. No big deal.
A good relationship is NOT a partnership. Most partnerships are viewed as a 50/50 agreement. In a marriage you have to always be willing to give more than you receive. It is more a 60/60 or 70/70 deal with each giving more so that the relationship grows. This is important to remember as time goes on. A flower planted in the richest soil will need some added nutrients after a few years. Otherwise the flower loses its brilliance.
When you return home from a trip whether it was for a conference or competition remember that your spouse has been home, taking care of things, their life went on. BEFORE you unload about what a great (or horrible) competition you had, what you learned at a conference or how well your lectures went. STOP, slow down, take a minute and listen to what has been going on in their life. What has been going on is important to them and you need to listen.
Gymnastics coaches are passionate about what they do. Most LOVE their job and the ability to interact with children and really make a difference in the lives of so many. As much as you are passionate about your profession, your spouse is equally passionate about something they do. It may be their job, it make be cooking, writing, or gardening. FEED their passion. Do not expect your spouse to fully understand gymnastics, but don’t be condescending. Explain things, share your passion but also share in their passion.
Never underestimate the value of kissing someone good morning and good night. Yes, I know — it’s so traditional. This simple loving gestures speaks volumes. I want to kiss you when I open my eyes. I want to hold you for a minute before we sleep. No matter what happens between you during the day, there will always be this.
Understand that relationships come with expectations and commitments. There are things that you will HAVE to do that you might not want to. Whether it’s a dinner party or a concert. Get over it. Put on a smile and go. (and while you are there- no whining). Relationships come with obligations. Your spouse probably doesn’t want to sit through a Level 3 meet. But does.
Give presents. Do the unexpected. Surprise each other. Is it the loving sexy text during the day? Or maybe buying his favorite cookies at the store? Surprises do not have to be big to be fabulous. It’s amazing how offering up a bit of a loving surprise can keep the heat burning.
Don’t pick on each other in public. Don’t make each other the butt of a joke in front of people. When we use the phrase “at each other’s expense” that is real. Every time you turn someone into your punch line, you are paying out of their self-esteem. Don’t do it. Along that same line, don’t correct your spouse in public. There is just no point to it. It is petty. If they are telling a story, “It was just before our son was born and…” and you remember that it was clearly AFTER he was born. So what? Was that important to the story? Let it go.
Help each other. Whether it is taking on some work, or simply cheerleading. How can you help each other when one of you gets overwhelmed? Don’t just ask, “What can I do?” do something.
Have each other’s backs. I do not tolerate people talking badly about their partner — ever. I don’t care how small it is. This is a zero tolerance zone. If your partner can’t count on you to defend them — who can they trust? and NEVER fight in public.
Lastly- It is very easy to list the faults of your partner or spouse.
She drives me crazy when she does________.
I really hate it when he ____________.
I wish they would just ____________.
We even find it easy to criticize ourselves.
I really need to be a better job at ________________.
But when was the last time you listed the things you love about your partner?
I love how she can make me smile even when I have a bad day.
I love the way he interacts with the kids.
I love how hard she works at her job.
I love the pride he has in his appearance.
Now go, make your list, and go tell them every once and a while!
How did I know it was the right one? Even after 25 years? When I pull into the drive and see her car there, I just smile.
Great Article from Wendy Bruce Martin at GET PSYCHED! Wendy will be coaching at Gym Momentum Training Camp This Summer!
My daughter was a competitive cheerleader from the age of 5. She took to the sport very quickly and her talent was undeniable. She started to excel in tumbling and it was obvious to me that she needed to hone in on this talent and see where it would take her.
When she turned 9, she had learned a double full on her own. It was amazingly technically correct and I had not taught her it, she learned it solely by playing around in the gym. And because I could see her talent, I quickly called around to gymnastics gyms and enrolled her in the amazing sport of Tumbling and Trampoline.
From the moment she walked into the gym we all could see her future. She was talented and boy was she good, so good that in her first two months she made the developmental team at the gym, the USAG Jumpstart team, and started her career in level 7.
She was a fast learner and it was clear that Tumbling and Trampoline was going to be “her” sport. She made flipping look easy. She was beautiful in the air and made the hard skills look effortless. She was way more talented than I was as a gymnast and I made the Olympics. I couldn’t help but to see into her future and revel in her own fame and fortune.
First I could see her making it to World Championships, hopefully by then Tumbling would have been an Olympic sport and she would be one of the first team members. Then I saw her getting a job with Cirque du Soleil when she was older, where I would go visit her with all my friends and family and we would watch her as the featured act. They could have t-shirts and merchandise made of her. I was so proud of a future that she hadn’t even had yet and didn’t even know that I was planning for her.
At the end of the year she was a State Champion and I was ecstatic that my dream for her was coming true.
Until, one day on the car ride to practice she told me that she didn’t want to go. When I asked her why she calmly said, “I don’t want to do it anymore.”
These words hit me like a slap in the face.
I tried to hide my shock and calmly said back, “Don’t you like to tumble?”
She replied, “Oh my goodness, I love it.”
She loved it? That didn’t make sense. She loved to tumble, she was amazingly talented, she had amazing coaches, and her future…didn’t she don’t have the same dream for her future that I had?
So I asked, “Why?”
She had no problem coming up very strong reasons, she said, “I don’t like it. I don’t like the pressure, being judged, being corrected on everything, the conditioning, climbing the rope, going to competitions, and (what she considered the final straw) wearing a leotard.”
Knowing that I should not try to convince her to stay and that I really could never try to convince her to stay, I pulled the car over, gave her a kiss, lovingly and unconditionally accepted her decision, and turned the car around to go home. That night when we got home, I called her coach. He was as shocked as I was, but completely understood her decision.
The next day I had an uncontrollable urge to cry (although I never did). I felt sad and depressed. When it was the time when I usually took her to practice, I felt empty. I thought about not seeing my gym mom friends that I had made. I thought about the class practicing and improving without my daughter, and not getting free tickets to Cirque. I thought about the talent that she wasn’t going to use and how my dream for her that wasn’t going to come true. I wasn’t ready for her to stop.
I seemed to be taking the loss of her sport worse than my daughter. She had known for weeks that she didn’t want to do it anymore. She had already come up with a plan on what new sport she wanted to try. She wasn’t worried about ending her journey in a sport she want to do, in fact the only reason she tried this sport was because she knew she was a great tumbler and thought this was the next step. But after a few months she knew that this sport wasn’t for her. She stayed in the sport because she decided to finish out the year. But after the year was over, she was sure she wanted to stop.
She was relieved with her decision. I was the one who was having a hard time. On the outside I was her accepting, nonjudgmental mom whom was proud of my daughter for having the confidence to tell me her desires. And I was honestly proud of her. She knew how talented she was. She knew that she was on track for greatness. She knew that everyone was shocked by her talent and yet she still had the guts to tell everyone that SHE didn’t want to do it anymore.
My emotions were all over the place. In one moment I was mad, mad that she wasn’t going to use her talent. In another moment I was in shock, because I thought she loved this sport and I didn’t see it coming. In the next moment I was in denial, I was convinced that in a week or two she would go back to the sport. In the next moment I was sad, at the loss of the (my) dream.
I had to come to terms with this loss and with any loss comes grief. There are many stages of grief, one of the being guilt. Oh and boy did I have guilt. What mom would let a 9 year old make a life changing decision about her future? This was hitting me hard. Maybe I should have stepped in and made her stay. Maybe I knew better than she and maybe she was too young to understand what this sport could bring to her future. What if my mom would have let me stop doing gymnastics at 9? I would have never made the Olympics. But then it occurred to me that I didn’t want to stop doing gymnastics when I was 9. In fact, I wanted to be in the gym every minute of every day. I loved it and if I didn’t like it, my mom would have let me stop.
My reality was that my daughter was the one who had to commit to practice every week, work through fears, push through painful conditioning, and (the worse part) wear a leotard. If she was the one who was going to have to put in the work, then she was the one who should decide it she wanted to or not.
She was happy with her decision and walked around the house like a weight had been lifted off her chest. Later that evening she asked to go bounce on our trampoline and at that moment I realized that she (nor I) had lost anything. We both gained many lessons; we realized that Tumbling and Trampoline, as amazing and incomparable of a sport that it may be, wasn’t HER passion. She still loved to tumble and flip, and she needed to find HER passion.
There were parts of Tumbling and Trampoline that she did love. She loved to flip, learn new skills, and she loved to perform in front of large crowds. But she wanted more.
She wanted a sport that had teammates, dancing, flipping, tumbling, excitement, music, and stunts. She wanted to cheer. It was very clear to me that she has found her passion. Her passion, her future, all of her dreams and goals was in cheer. She spends hours and hours outside of practice listening to cheer music, choreographing routines, practicing skills on her tramp, stretching and conditioning in her bed room, and watching videos. Her love for cheer in undeniable. And I do truly love that she loves her sport.
At times I look back on her Tumbling and Trampoline journey and I smile. It was a great experience for us all, but mostly for me. I grieved for the loss of a sport instead of realizing that it was an amazing chapter to her story; The story of my daughter’s childhood. And as with every experience, she is a stronger and has a better understanding of what she wants out of life. As a mom, I can’t really be upset at all. She knows what she has planned for her future, she knows her hopes and dreams, and I know as long as she is happy, so am I.
Although not necessarily gymnastics related. It is a good piece of information on how we treat our clients.
New research finds that one-in-three Australians are avoiding exercise because they’re embarrassed to be seen or scared of being hurt in the gym. So is it time for a new approach to fitness?
“You’ll never have sex again if you look like that!” screamed the personal trainer. His abuse was targeted at a woman who had made the mistake of entrusting him to help her exercise.
This story came from a client of clinical psychologist Louise Adams. “She was in pieces after that comment. It took her weeks to recover,” Adams says.
This anecdote is just one of many examples that confirmed what Adams, who runs a weight management clinic, has long suspected. People don’t avoid exercise because they don’t like exercising. They avoid it because they don’t like their bodies – and they fear the way other people will judge their bodies.
And now there’s research to back this up. A survey of 1400 people conducted by Nine Rewards for Curves has found that one-in-three Australians are avoiding exercise altogether because they’re embarrassed to be seen exercising. Forty-six per cent of respondents said they have had feelings of anxiety at the thought of attending a gym.
Adams blames what she calls the “pornification of exercise” for contributing to people’s avoidance of physical activity.
“Part of why people are anxious about exercising is because we are supposed to be sexy and physically perfect when we do it. We see images of women in tiny shorts and crop tops and this makes people feel inadequate,” Adams says. “Research shows that the more we are exposed to images of physical perfection, the more depressed and angry we get. This doesn’t motivate; it makes us feel worse and we want to hide.”
At the other end of the spectrum, we’re bombarded with unflattering pictures of fat people and ‘public health’ messages about how they’re going to die untimely deaths. And as numerous failed anti-obesity advertising campaigns highlight, fear and shame don’t help people make healthy decisions in the long term.
Former trainer for The Biggest Loser and director and trainer at Melbourne’s Urban Workout, Andrew Meade says that the exercise industry is often a terrible ambassador for health and wellness.
“It perpetuates the stereotype of ego-maniac meatheads who are unbalanced and totally obsessed with their bodies,” says Meade. “There needs to be more places for people to work-out in a comfortable environment where they won’t feel judged all the time.”
One-third of survey respondents also said that they feared getting hurt at the gym, which is not surprising given the mythology that exercise has to be painful to be beneficial.
Far from being motivational, ‘fitspiration’ and ‘thinspiration’ quotes like “Go hard or go home” and images of people who have been sedentary for 20 years crying and vomiting from the exhaustion of pulling trucks on shows like The Biggest Loser are turning people off exercise.
“People should be pushed to a level that is adequate for them, rather than smashing a person so hard that they leave by crawling down the stairs. They’re not going to enjoy it or want to come back if they can’t walk the next day,” Meade says. “But there is a belief in the industry that we need to punish people during a workout. It’s totally unnecessary and it’s something that the industry needs to address.”
People’s fear of being hurt during exercise is not unfounded.
Physiotherapist and author of Fit Not Healthy, Vanessa Alford questions the education of some personal trainers, saying that many lack the knowledge to keep their clients safe.
“It scares me how little knowledge some personal trainers have in the areas of anatomy, physiology, musculoskeletal conditions and rehabilitation,” says Alford, who has taught the Diploma of Fitness. “Extensive knowledge in these areas is essential to ensure exercises prescribed to clients are appropriate, safe and effective.”
Based on the research, it would appear that the fitness industry is the worst bunch of people to promote exercise to the general population. The toxic exercise culture that it perpetuates – abusive personal trainers, intimidating gym environments, ‘no pain no gain’ attitudes, and the obsession with aesthetics – is a major reason why people don’t want to exercise.
“People need to motivate themselves from kindness rather than fear and shame,” says psychologist Louise Adams. “The literature shows that lasting health behaviours come from self-care, from being your own best friend. That’s what is missing in the exercise industry.”
Still, Adams is optimistic that things are changing. She is running workshops to help people reframe exercise from a punishment to an ongoing process of self-care. She says there has been a lot of interest in the workshops from the fitness industry, which suggests that some people are beginning to realise that the current approach of being mean to people to get results is not only bad for clients, it’s also bad for business.
As a teenager, I remember my parents and coaches, on several occasions, telling me how important sportsmanship was. I recall hearing them paraphrase the old Grantland Rice quote, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”
I would nod, give a cursory “Yeah, it’s important” and quickly get back to the business of being a self-absorbed teenager. It’s not that I disagreed with them about the importance of sportsmanship, it’s just that I couldn’t really grasp how it could be the most important thing. There were games to win, championships to seek, points to score and All-Star teams to try and make.
Today, I get it. I’m convinced that how you play the game is the most important thing in sports — above and beyond all team and individual accomplishments and awards.
I believe that no matter how long your sports career lasts, whether it ends after Little League, or after winning the Super Bowl, what you will most be remembered for is what kind of competitor you were, what kind of teammate you were, and whether or not you respected the game. In short, whether you were a good sport or a bad sport.
Consider the cases of two baseball Hall of Famers, Ty Cobb and Harmon Killebrew. Both were great players but both probably are better known for how they played the game and carried themselves on and off the field.
Cobb played with anger on the field, regularly sliding into opponents with his spikes up. He was a well-known racist who was disliked by opponents and teammates alike.
“I think if I had my life to live over again, I’d do things a little different,” said Cobb, near the end of his life. “I was aggressive, perhaps too aggressive. Maybe I went too far. I always had to be right in any argument I was in, I always had to be first in everything. I do indeed think I would have done some things different. And if I had I believe I would have had more friends.”
Killebrew, on the other hand, was respected and liked by virtually everyone who came into contact with him, including opponents.
“We all loved Harmon so much,” said fellow Hall-of-Famer Bert Blyleven, a teammate of Killebrew’s with the Minnesota Twins. “Harmon was a great man, on and off the field. He was a bigger Hall of Famer off the field. Everyone that Harmon ever came into contact with has a story about what a class man he was.”
Another Hall of Famer, George Brett, had this to say about Killebrew: “He was just a fierce competitor and a perfect gentleman at the same time. You don’t see that a lot. Sometimes you get fierce competitors who are bad people. You see guys that are not fierce competitors but not nice guys. You don’t see the two of them together very much.”
Steve Nash wants to be remembered in a similar way as Killebrew is.
“I simply want people to remember me as a competitor and a great teammate,” said Nash, a two-time NBA MVP who’s likely headed to the Hall of Fame. “That’s it. Those are the two most important things.”
Legendary Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” I couldn’t disagree with that sentiment more.
Let’s take a step back and consider what sports competition really is.
Are one’s opponents the enemy? Do they have evil intent? Do they need to be vanquished? Is a sports contest a zero sum game in which only one team, or one individual, can gain anything positive?
Or, are your competitors people who are a lot like you? Do they love sports? Do they desire to become the best they can be? Do they play hard, strive to win, and do it by the rules?
I think in the vast majority of cases, the answer to the first set of questions is “No,” and the answer to the second set of questions is “Yes.”
Sport at its best is a cooperative activity in which competitors on both sides play with honor in a mutual quest for excellence. As such, our opponents are also our colleagues. We compete with our opponents, not against them.
Unfortunately, I think we’re seeing a slow but steady decline in sportsmanship today, from the youth level to the pro level. And that leads to more cases of ugly and unethical competition.
David Light Shields and Brenda Light Bredemeier wrote a thought-provoking book called True Competition: A Guide to Pursuing Excellence in Sport and Society. In this book, they make an important distinction between “true competition” and “decompetition.”
True competition is in essence a partnership in which opponents play ethically against each other to optimize performance, develop life skills, and have fun. Decompetition is based on a metaphor of war, in which antagonistic conflict reigns and the goal is simply to come out on top — at whatever cost.
I love true competition and hate decompetition.
Today, my competitive sports activities begin and end with the tennis league I play in. Interestingly, I see the same types of opponents in this league that I saw as a nine-year old Little League baseball player.
Some weeks you run into the tennis guy who swears, pouts and pounds his racquet into the ground on missed shots. If he loses, he may or may not shake your hand before marching off.
Other weeks you run into the classy competitor who plays his heart out, complements your good shots, takes his bad shots in stride and wins or loses with grace and dignity. After the match, he’ll have a snack and drink with you and talk about a variety of things — some sports-related some not. There’s a sense of mutual appreciation, and an unspoken acknowledgement that you came together to not only test each other’s abilities, but just as importantly, for exercise, camaraderie and fun.
Regrettably, I’ve been a decompetitor during my sports career more times than I’d like to admit. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve increasingly made being a true competitor my number one priority. I now value sportsmanship tremendously.
I love reading or hearing about instances of great sportsmanship. There have been plenty of examples through the years, many of them taking place in the Olympic Games. However, my favorite involves two college softball teams, Western Oregon and Central Washington.
Sara Tucholsky, a light-hitting senior for Western Oregon, hit a three-run homer in a game against Central Washington. She had never hit a home run before so she understandably was still looking at her accomplishment as she got to first base. As a result, she missed the bag. When she turned to go back to touch first base she twisted and her knee gave out. Tucholsky crumpled to the ground in pain. She was crying as she crawled back to first base.
The umpires ruled that Tucholsky’s teammates couldn’t help her around the bases, and that if she couldn’t make it around the bases, she’d only be credited with a single, not the first and only home run of her career.
Then Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman entered the discussion and said, “Excuse me, would it be okay if we carried her around and she touched each bag?”
The umpires conferred and then said that idea would be permissible. And so Holtman and Central Washington shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Tucholsky up and carried her to second base, gently lowering her so she could touch the bag with her foot. They did the same thing at third base and home plate.
By the time the three of them reached home, the fans were standing and applauding, many of them with tears in their eyes.
Western Oregon ended up winning the game 4-2 on the strength of Tucholsky’s three-run blast. But win or lose the score seems so trivial in that game.
Something more important took place.
What made Holtman do it?
Holtman said her coach, Gary Frederick taught her that “winning is not everything.”
Western Oregon coach Pam Knox said Holtman’s act “came from character.”
“They’re playing for a coach (Frederick) that instills it,” said Knox.
To me, sports don’t get any better than what happened that day. Everyone on both teams and in the stands won that afternoon.
Sportsmanship is a concept that helps remind us that there are things more important than winning and our own desires. It’s about respect, honor and relationships.
Sportsmanship is soul-based. It’s bigger than the game. It’s the spiritual aspect of sports. And it’s the polar opposite of the ego-based win-at-all-costs mentality that’s becoming too prevalent in sports today.
After all these years, perhaps nobody has put it as aptly and succinctly as Rice did in his famous poem:
“For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes — not that you won or lost —
But how you played the Game.”
Those four simple but powerful lines should be posted on signs at the entrance of every sports venue across the globe.