The performance and nerve of the nation’s aspiring Olympic coaches was put to the test when they were challenged to land an aeroplane in a unique training environment as part of the Australian Institute of Sport’s Gen32 Coach Program.
“Coaching is about being in a relationship with your athletes in the moment under pressure,” NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) Coach Development Lead Alan McConnell said. “In a high pressure situation, it’s the internal voice . . . your internal narrative . . . that drives your response, not necessarily your behaviour.”
NSWIS coaches Jackson Holtham (snowboard cross), Kate Jenner (hockey) and James Greathead (triathlon) were among 11 high performance coaches who had 30 minutes to land an aeroplane in a flight simulator after receiving just a five minute briefing, a handbook and access to the control tower, as part of a three day camp for high performance sport coaches.
“It was challenging activity with a very clear purpose,” McConnell said. “It led the coaches to live with real clarity from a fun activity about how they truly are under pressure.”
The coaches, who have spent the past 12 months developing their emotional intelligence profile – which quantifies who they are under pressure – have worked hard to understand their strengths and their defaults.
“The defaults that you have that might catch you out. The clearer you are about that, the more likely you are to catch yourself in that moment and maybe behave in a slightly different way.
“First of all, it is understanding your default. So if I lack empathy and I’ve got an athlete who’s injured it’s probably not the best time to deliver some feedback.
“If the internal narrative is, ‘I don’t like to upset people’, and it’s time for me to deliver a hard message; do I deliver it in an honest way or am I so worried about upsetting the athlete that I don’t really tell them the whole story.”
In the unique training environment of a flight simulator, two coaches were paired as pilot and co-pilot based on their profiles. They could hear everything between themselves and the control tower. The remaining coaches observed and listened to the collaboration between the coaches.
Within a matter of moments, each coach reverted to their profile – they went into their strengths and defaults.
“We had two coaches whose default is to collect more and more information, you might call them ‘procrastinators’, but they won’t make any decisions and they crashed the plane.
“However, one of the coaches caught himself acutely aware of the anxiety of the other coach and rather than dismissing him, he actually embraced him. Their collaboration to land the plane was exceptional.”
The activity provided a platform for a lot of fun, but also exposed their vulnerability among peers who are one year into a two year program.
“It was a really powerful experience and there are some really clear goals off the back of it.”
Frances Cordaro, NSWIS