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Be thick skinned or get skinned

So it’s now been over two months since I last had time to sit down and write a blog post and it’s safe to say that a lot has happened since then! Winter training is in full swing for my athletes which is keeping me very busy as UTS continues to grow, I started a new role for England Athletics which is very exciting & I was also shortlisted as a finalist for the UK Coaching awards which was warmly received by the entire throwing community…..I joke.

I’ll give a very brief summary of what happened for those of you who aren’t aware as it sets the scene for the point of this blog. Essentially my shortlisting for the awards was questioned by some individuals in the UK Throwing community on an online forum. Some of these individuals even slid into the DM’s of my athletes to voice their opinion which is something I’ll probably touch on in a later blog. The comments may well have been made without malicious intent but the reaction from other members that jumped to my defence indicated that I was not the only one who felt the comments were a bit unnecessary.

I did not ask to be nominated and I was genuinely shocked when I heard I had been shortlisted as a finalist. I’ll also say that other coaches may be right in feeling that they deserved to be in my place. In my opinion though, the fact a throws coach was shortlisted should only have been received positively as it’s an opportunity to raise awareness of the event group and the work that we ALL do to try and improve the sport we love. So why wasn’t it? Because coaching, just like every other competitive field is brutal.

So here’s the point of this blog: If you want to make it to the top in whatever you do then you better be thick skinned or you’re going to find life very difficult.

As an athlete I’d like to think I developed my thick skin pretty early on. I was skinny once, I even had abs, and I was participating in events where my talent wasn’t that obvious at a young age. I recall a time where a well respected senior coach in the UK Throwing community told me to quit when I was in my early teens and find another sport because I was too weak and wasn’t aggressive enough (this individual may or may not have been one of those questioning my coaching credentials in the recent forum debate). However, I disagreed with his judgement and continued on my journey. I could bore you with countless other stories of people doubting me as an athlete and how I proved them wrong to get to the top but firstly, I haven’t made it to the top and secondly that’s not what this blog is about so just take the point about me having thick skin and lets move on……

I started coaching because I enjoy helping people. Period. I’m extremely lucky that through my experiences as an athlete and the fortuitous life I’ve lived, I’ve picked up knowledge that makes coaching the natural avenue for me to help people while also giving back to the sport. Little did I know that not everyone in the coaching community had the same motives and appear to be in this game for very different reasons. In an event group where coaching numbers are severely low and even more so when it comes to young coaches, you’d think senior members would try to help out a young developing coach and get him or her kick started on their journey but this wasn’t always the case. I’m extremely grateful to those coaches who went out of their way to help me and continue to do so today and a few of them will no doubt be reading this (you know who you are!), but unfortunately it seems that a number of other coaches were actively trying to sabotage my reputation before I even got started and this is what I find crazy.

Fast forward a few years and here I am working away day in day out to create something positive for UK Throwing in Loughborough. Are the rest of the world quaking in their boots at what’s going on here? No of course they aren’t but I’d like to think that we’re developing something positive here with the group of athletes we currently have both at the University and on the UTS roster and I’m extremely excited to see how things move on in the coming years. I’m working with athletes as young as 12 all the way through to those coming to the end of their careers with some degree of success and it baffles me that being recognised for this should bring such a negative response and lead people to question whether my nomination was justified but that’s just the way it is. I constantly hear criticisms of coaches that have done phenomenal jobs with athletes so it’s clear to me that no matter what I go on to do as a coach, it will always be met with negativity from some corners. I think it’s a shame but I’ve accepted that this is the world we live in and I will continue to do my thing regardless all thanks to my thick skin.

This is not a cry for pity and it’s certainly not supposed to come across as me blowing my own trumpet. Anyone who knows me will be aware that I set extremely high standards for myself and I’m not even close to achieving what I want to as a coach so this is just me voicing my opinion on the reality of working your way to the top in whichever field you choose to do so. You will have doubters and you will have those who actively go out of their way to try and disrupt your journey but the quicker you accept that and the quicker you learn to channel your energy and focus on making positive moves the better! Don’t let the opinions of ill informed individuals hold you back…..

It’s 2.12am so I should probably finish the training programme I put to one side to write this blog and then get some sleep. Tomorrow is another day of striving to be better than we were yesterday!

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing” – Aristotle

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