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You Cheated Me!

By Colin Bennett, sports coack UK Coaching Network Manager

This blog was going to be something totally different, but as I wrote it the original subject got bigger, wider and deeper – boy it got so deep you could hear my cries for help echoing off the walls!

So, with a blog to write instead of the research project I had somehow unleashed I was sat looking at a blank screen when the wife informed me that I had filled up our TV recording device and unless I did something about it she would just delete everything.

Yes, the short clips of cats chasing torch beams, yes, the whole of a game of football (as I’m convinced you can see my sleeve in the crowd on the 48thminute), yes the whole series of Doctor Who (as I haven’t seen episode three yet and can’t watch them out of order) and yes definitely the whole series of M.I. High because it is just kids TV....

So I sat in the chair and one of the first programmes I found was about the Tour de France. I have no idea of when I taped (yes I know it’s not taping as it is digital but I’m old) this programme or indeed why, but as I pressed play and whizzed through it to see what it was....there he was, leading the field, being interviewed, smiling, waving and winning was one Lance Edward Armstrong. A CHEAT.

It got me thinking about that September night in 1988 when I sat up through the night to watch the Men’s 100m final from the Seoul Olympics. We didn’t have a video recorder so had to watch it live and there wasn’t an internet, personal computer or smart phone option in those days. The greatest race I had ever seen and I went to bed buzzing of what I had witnessed. Two days later it came out that the winner was a cheat...drugs.....I was shattered. Just 48 hours before I had been thrilled by something special, something so good that it was going to take something brilliant to beat it. And now that was gone, stripped away, ripped from me whilst a blade was plunged through my heart. (Sorry, been reading way too much fiction recently).

So why the blog? People say you’re only cheating yourself if you cheat. Well you’re not. You’re cheating every single person who is out there supporting you, believing in you, staying up late, feeling some form of pressure and anxiety that isn’t logical but it’s there nevertheless. That athlete, that team, is carrying the hopes and dreams of people, of nations, of you and me. We spend our money, our time, our emotions on that race, that game, that moment in time where heroes are made. The build up of a major sporting event isn’t about the participants, it’s there for the fans, to feel involved, to immerse themselves in the event, to create fever pitch. To find out later it is all a lie, a cheat, a sham is to leave you, me, us, hollow, empty, numb. How could they?

A lot is spoken about small margins in sport. Using the best equipment, the lightest material, the newest techniques and even “pushing the boundary of the laws of the game” to win. The rewards are massive and you can see why some people would be willing to push those boundaries just a bit further.

We, as coaches, have an enormous part to play in getting our athletes to be the best they can, at the right time. Our job as their coach is to stay at the forefront of all the good things that come into sport – whether that is sport’s science, data analysis, techniques, tactics, social, athlete welfare, training methods etc. It is our job to prepare our athlete or athletes using the good stuff that is out there and if our athlete or athletes come up short is to learn why and how and next time make it a different ending. It is our job to help make our athletes realise their potential and to be the most competitive they can be. The experienced coach knows when to push and cajole, when to put an arm around them and knows when they are beaten by a better person or team on the day. It is not about looking for ways to shortcut the hard work. It is not about cheating.

Sir Clive Woodward prepared the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning team for every eventuality. They were similar to the football 1966 World Cup winning team - probably not the best individuals but definitely the best team. The players were prepared by Sir Clive and his fellow coaches to use T-CUP, “Thinking Calmly Under Pressure” and in that final minute of the final game he was confident. He had the right scrum half on the ball, the right pack pushing forward, the right kicker waiting....just waiting.....for the right moment. Go too early and the kick could be too far out. Go too late and it could be charged down. It had to be just right. The rest as they say is history, the players had been prepared perfectly, the team were winners.

It’s not all doom and gloom. My sporting memories include Denis Taylor’s black ball win over Steve Davis; Sir Steve Redgrave winning gold in Sydney; recent British Winter Olympic success; Ellie Simmonds winning gold; David Beckham’s free kick against Greece; England winning that Rugby World Cup; Andy Murray winning Wimbledon; Roger Black’s Olympic silver in 1996; Alan Sunderland’s winning goal in that classic FA Cup Final; Coe and Ovett.....the list goes on and on.

As a coach you don’t need to cheat. You just need to be the best you can be each and every time you work with your athletes. #excellentcoaching