Coaches are now being told that they should praise players who have good technique instead of pointing out poor technique in others. This method encourages players who are struggling to observe and mimic good technique thus improving their own performance without receiving negative feedback.
This method of positive reinforcement can be applied in any area of sport and it often occurs on a subconscious level. For example; we were never taught how to run, once a baby crawls and stumbles through its first steps, it is usually assumed that a toddler will figure out how to move faster and faster.
If the child does not enter into athletics or cross country during their school years, they miss the opportunity to develop and refine their walking or running gate.
However, events like the Olympics captivates millions of viewers from around the globe displaying the world’s best at their peak. Usually you would not think twice if you saw someone out running. Why would you stop and examine their stride or what they are wearing?
But during the Olympics, the focus is on technique, technology and performance. Seeing performance getting celebrated resonates with us on a primal level and we desire to emulate the experience for ourselves.
This desire can form a double-edged sword. On one hand, you are shown the current best technique to achieve golden results so it sets the bar for which we aim. That is not actually a bad thing however, it becomes bad when we fail to recognise the athlete never started in the sport that proficiently.
Take Usain Bolt for example. Ask almost anyone who is the fastest runner in the world and Usain Bolt's name will usually be quoted.
Companies and media feed off this athlete endorsement and capitalise on profits that can be gained from selling what appears to help a novice athlete become elite. This generation is saturated in an overwhelming amount of data and suggestions on how to improve their performance.
Fitbits, Apple watches and heart rate monitors have exploded globally because we now have such a strong desire to know how we compare to others and whether or not we are deemed healthy.
But whilst this comparison may have been supported by some health companies to encourage an overall rise in physical fitness, it has like a double-edged sword started to strip away the joy that comes with playing sports.
It is harder than ever to just enjoy the present moment whilst going for a walk or run and taking in God’s masterpieces. Instead, we are distracted by the desire to know our current heart rate, how many steps we have done and still need to do, have we taken enough fluids today etc., etc., etc..
One size fits all
One of the biggest downsides of this comparative data is that there isn’t a one size fits all system. Every person has been created uniquely (Psalm chapter 139, verse 14).
What helps one person to thrive could be extremely detrimental to someone else. Of course there is a healthy balance base for everyone but beyond that it really is individual. Taking on a specific amount of fluid is one of the universal pieces of advice that has actually resulted in people experiencing a fluid imbalance.
Elite and novice athletes want to prepare their bodies to perform at their best. However, comparison-based data blocks an athlete from being in tune with what their body is actually asking for.
As Christians, we can often get caught up in comparing ourselves to the world and trying to gauge how we are doing. The world is full of distractions and advice but like athletes who start to rely too much on data and not on their body we too can start to lose touch with our spirit and need for daily salvation.
Our relationship with God is unique, it can’t be a one size fits all list of things to balance. God wants us to rest in him (Psalm chapter 62, verse 1) and trust in his provision (2 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 8).
Mhairi-Bronté Duncan plays Curling for New Zealand and uses her experiences as an athlete to inspire her writing.