Video Presentation by Bo Hanson, 4x Olympian, Coaching Consultant and Director of Athlete Assessments
In this 14 Part Video Presentation Bo Hanson, 4x Olympian and Coaching Consultant from Athlete Assessments, discusses the critical topic of Resiliency in Sport. Following this presentation we have a written summary for your convenience.
In Part 1 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses Hope, Resilience and living with Expectations.
In Part 2 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses the meaning of Hope and Expectations.
In Part 3 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses about Certainty and the Control you have over situations.
In Part 4 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses strategies to build resilience and succeed.
In Part 5 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses Resiliency in Leaders and the importance of the Coach and Athlete Relationship.
In Part 6 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses the truths about Change and Reaction to Change.
In Part 7 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses Stress in relation to Resiliency as well as the Resiliency in People.
In Part 8 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses Attitudes in relation to Resilience.
In Part 9 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses the Resiliency Bell Curve and the 5 Stages of Change.
In Part 10 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses the importance of bouncing back and being Resilient.
In Part 11 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses the Perspective of Resiliency and the importance of good Relationships.
In Part 12 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses Reframing problems and issues, as well as knowing your Beliefs.
In Part 13 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses Setting New Goals for Success and Resilience.
In Part 14 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo Hanson from Athlete Assessments discusses Strategies for Resilience including Mental Toughness and Short-Term Goals.
Part 1: Living with Hope and being Resilient
A Personal Strategy for Engaging and Building Your Resilience.
How do we deal with difficult events that change our lives such as the loss of a job, serious illness, loss of a loved one, and other challenging life experiences? Many people react with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. Yet, people generally adapt well over time to life—changing situations and stressful conditions. What enables them to do so? It involves “resilience,” an ongoing process that requires time and effort, and engages people in taking a number of steps.
The American Psychological Association reports that “resilience” is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. Resilience is “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. Research has shown that resilience is ordinary not extraordinary and that people commonly demonstrate resilience.
When I look back on my career, I just don’t have the hard life story. I don’t have the hardships. You know people have said “you must have sacrificed an awful amount to go to the Olympics”. I just don’t think I did. Bus someone else might look at my story, and they might see hard work and sacrifice, they might see everything that I gave up to achieve what I wanted to achieve, but I just don’t see it that way. So what does that say about being resilient? Because I’m not saying that the training sessions weren’t hard. I mean, you train 16 times a week. I vividly remember rowing every day in Penrith, and I would look at my hands and they would literally be blisters covering my hands. Trying to put your hands on the paddle really hurts. And you have to row for the next 30 km (2 ½ hours). Luckily your hands only hurt for the first five minutes. After that you get distracted by trying to be your best, and you press on. I guess that is “being resilient” thinking about what else are you going to do? You can say to your crew, “oh my back is a bit sore today, my hands are a bit sore, but everyone else is in the same position.
I put this up here, it is living with hope and expectation. There is an artist on the Sunshine Coast, and their work is called Froyle art. This painting is a painting of hope, and she has done a whole series of artworks on what hope means. And I chose that one because to me that is hope. And how you want to live your life with a sense of hope vs this feeling of expectation. Things will happen that you absolutely definitely want them to. But when you hope that things will happen, you are at least open to the possibility of them actually emerging. And if they don’t. Well you kind of do something about it rather than being in a state of disappointment because the thing about performing well. Emotionally you have to be in the right space. You’re in charge of that no one else just you. So what is your color of hope?
Part 2: Hope and Expectation
I have a mentor who I work with and talk to about some of my challenges. I was talking to him about hope and expectation, and there is a way to set yourself up for disappointment in your life. If you live with certain expectations. Now this is just my philosophy, it doesn’t have to be yours, but I just want you to consider this. Because I was talking deeply with him about it. And we were talking about this concept of having hope and having expectation. What is the difference? If you look it up online you will see all sorts of different things. And so what really matters is what it matters to you. What would you say hope is what is it all about? Wishing having a belief? Then what’s expectation? Its more certainty so what can you be absolutely certain about today.
Part 3: Certainty and Control
I was talking to Michael and his team in preparation for today and I told this story about a good friend of mine. And he is fit, like really fit. I live on the Sunshine Coast in QLD, Australia there is a swim that goes out around Mudjimba Island and it is about 9 km. He raises a lot of money for one of the local charities up there doing this swim with a lot of other people. So he is fit. I wouldn’t contemplate doing that swim myself (sharks). He does that swim and when you talk about expectations and certainty absolutely knowing that something is going to happen. He paddled and skied 10 km, and then turned up to a meeting. Went to that meeting and was fine, went to the next meeting and collapsed. He was rushed to Nambour hospital, and had his first cardiac arrest as he was being wheeled into the hospital. They got the crash cart out and they started him again. He had three more that night. Completely left field right? It came out of absolutely nowhere. You just cannot live with an expectation that you can control everything can you? So there is only one thing that we can control. Ourselves. And our response to everything that goes on around us. This is one of those lessons which is drilled into us as athletes from almost day one.
Part 4: Resiliency and Success Strategies
When I look back on my athletic career, and still today no one is successfully packaging up this thing called resilience and teaching people how to be resilient. It’s just not happening but you can do it. So here is an interesting concept. Do you have resilience or do you be resilient? Which one is it? My philosophy is that you have to be resilient. Resiliency isn’t something that you have. You can’t buy it off a shelf. You can’t say well today is going to be a tough day I better have some resilience. That’s what sport is all about. Preparing for this one single day. Like the Olympic final hopefully. All of the hard work from the last four years culminates in that day. I was quite lucky that my first Olympics came around very early. I had just turned 18. But the reality is that many athletes train their entire lives, miss out on numerous teams, and then finally crack it. And they hope that on that one day everything will be ok. As an athlete not everything goes to plan and actually most times it doesn’t.
So Greg Louganis is a phenomenal example of someone who was an incredibly resilient athlete. If you go all the way back to that Soul Olympics. And the disappointment of the poor dive where he hit his head. But coming back to win a gold medal still. So we challenge this concept of having resilience and instead trying to be resilient, and literally having that sense of resilience as something that is inherent to you. The most successful people in the world, and I’m not talking about who has made the most money. We all measure success by different things. The most successful people in a sporting perspective are the ones who are successful (win) more often. It is not that things don’t go wrong for these people. It is just that they are better at recovering (they have better recovery strategies. It’s like if you watch a great golfer who hits a poor shot. In a normal round of golf Jack Nichols was once quoted as saying that 10% of his shots would go in absolutely the wrong place. They were terrible. But he has a phenomenal recovery strategy to get back on track.
Part 5: Resiliency in Leaders
Everyone is a leader of others. My coach was a beacon of hope. And with the work that we do in sport today, it is apparent that not every athlete who has transitioned out of being an athlete into the workforce had a coach who was a beacon of hope for them. When we are talking about leadership if you really want to boil down what that is all about, it is about being a beacon of hope for others. Structurally in their lives, resilient people have very good relationships. Very productive and effective relationships. Wonderful relationships, people who they care about, people who care about them.
We talk about the coach-athlete relationship, when an athlete looks at you what do they see? A beacon of hope? If you turn up to work every day. I had a coach Tim McLaren and he was a coach that was the inspiration for our business because I wanted to teach other coaches to be the type of coach that he was. That was the influence that he had on me. I can count on one hand the times that he turned up at the rowing club despite everything else that was going on, I can count on one hand the number of times he wasn’t our beacon of hope. That we were going to improve things today. That’s pretty remarkable for a coach I was with for 12 years, training up to 16 times per week, and I really thank him for that.
Because if the leader is not optimistic what hope does everyone else have? Is that a burden? Is that something that is too hard to do? It is an obligation really, when we talk about you as a leader we can talk about your rights and privileges or we can talk to you about your obligations and responsibilities. If you are the type of leader that thinks because you are the leader it’s all about your rights and privileges, you are not going to be the type of leader that other people are going to want to follow. Now I stole that from Lou Holtz when I saw him speak at a conference that I also spoke at in America. He talked about being a leader driven by your obligations, responsibilities or accountabilities. I think if you stand in front of a group of people to provide leadership then you are obligated to be a beacon of hope. Regardless of what is going on around you. So you as a leader need to have additional resiliency skills.
Part 6: Change and Reactions to Change
Change is constant, that is something you can expect. Sport is all about being innovative. We raced at the 2004 Olympics, and we modelled the way we rowed off the Canadian team who won 17 races in a row. And that spanned 3 world championships. We modelled that way because we wanted to beat them. And we did, they came 5th in the Olympic Final and we came 3rd. Unless you are innovating things and unless you are moving forward other people are going to pass you. That is absolutely certain.
Some change is wonderful, true. Some change is terrible. It is what it is. Great things will happen sad things will happen. Coping will take time. How long is just how long. But ultimately how you feel is normal. How do you feel? It is normal to feel apprehensive, it is normal to feel uncertain. We talk a lot about this in the concept of sport. How would you feel turning up to the Olympic Games, racing in the Olympic final? How are you going to feel? Anxious? Nervous? Apprehensive? Confident? However you feel is normal. Hopefully you work out how you need to feel to get the most out of yourself. And hopefully as a leader you understand that how you feel is absolutely going to impact those around you. That’s one of the interesting things about leaders. That the emotions that you’re feeling absolutely feed into the others around you. People want to catch positive emotions. They’re more contagious (although misery loves company). It is more contagious to be positive.
This is really important. You need to be human as well as a beacon of hope. We talk a lot about emotional intelligence from a leadership perspective. And that’s about how do you need to show those emotions in a really productive positive way at the appropriate time. Hopefully that is something we develop and learn as a leader.
Part 7: Stress and Resiliency in People
Because one of the big issues that they’re confronted with now is soldiers returning from a state of war. We’re taking the trauma to the highest level you can pretty much experience in a line of work. Some of them are coming back and experiencing PTSD. So at Penn State they did a survey with the drill sergeants. At the start of the resilience training they said “who has heard of PTSD?” Pretty much everyone here would have heard of PTSD, 100 % of the drill sergeants had. But they then asked the drill sergeants if they had heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Growth. Because if all you’re aware of is that when confronted with a highly stressful situation with massive amounts of change going on, if all you’re aware of is ‘oh man I’m going to get PTSD.’ If that’s all you’re aware of, it enhances the possibility of that occurring.
So what they have done a lot of work and research on that. If you can make people aware, that people who have certain skills, abilities and strategies to cope (because you can teach that stuff that’s actually a skill that you can learn) you can learn to be resilient. If you can teach that, you’re going to get more people who don’t go down the PTSD road, but instead experience the path of Post-Traumatic Stress Growth. It’s not easy but it can be done. All of the drill sergeants are being taught to be teachers of resiliency. It is called the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program. Automatically I start thinking how do I apply that to sport. Because we see those issues in sport. We see those issues caused by a lack of resilience.
Part 8: Attitude for Resilience
Resilient people choose their own attitude. When something happens, what meaning do you attach to it? The event doesn’t give you the attitude. It’s why two different people can see the same event and see different truths or perspectives. We turned up to the start line of the Olympic Final in 2004. Now you have to be in your lane 10 minutes before the actual start time. Now that’s not a hard thing to do. But we didn’t manage to do that. And so what meaning do we attach to that? We’ve been given a false start. Now the meaning that you might attach is that we were slack, or lacking preparation. The meaning that came into my mind was excellent, now we’re keeping the others waiting. Now we didn’t try to do this, it was a genuine mistake. But the point is the meaning we attached to it was positive. If we had attached the meaning that we were slack or unprepared and let this meaning drift throughout the crew, we would have had a less positive result.
There were guys in the crew there for their first Olympics. But that was my fourth Olympics. I was rowing with Mike McKay he had already won two Olympic Gold Medals and a Silver, and was a member of the Oarsome Foursome. He said “Who cares, man let’s keep them waiting. We’re doing our thing, we’ve had a great warm up.” The both of us just reinforced that to everyone else. So we completely changed the meaning of that, we took control of that situation. We went out that row and broke the world record. So I think it was a pretty good outcome.
Part 9: Resiliency Bell Curve and 5 Phases of Change
The Resiliency bell curve shows that most people are resilient some more so than others and some are significantly more resilient than others. What this says is that most people have some resilience. But how long does it take to recover from something. Because in sport you don’t have that opportunity. With some of the athletes we work with we were looking at their behavioral profiles. And different people cope with things in different ways. One of the players we were talking to, when he makes a mistake on the field he finds it really difficult to get over that. So for the next few minutes he’s out of the game. We all make mistakes. That is a certainty, things will happen. But it is your recovery strategies to get back on track with really defines your resiliency.
With a tennis ball how many times can you bounce it before it starts losing its bounce? We aren’t like tennis balls. We have the ability to go to the beach, having a nice swim, enjoy the company of others, and go out for a walk. Tennis balls run out of energy because they have no way of replenishing their bounce. But we do. Our challenge is, that even though we can run out of energy, we must have strategies to put that energy back in. Understanding yourself well is a massive part of that.
When you are more introverted, and you have a critical position on your team, you need to realize that it is ok if you need to have your own space. It’s ok if you need to step outside of the team to help you recover. It’s ok if you need to have quiet time. That’s your managing or coping strategy to add to your emotional reserves.
Part 10: Bouncing Back
This is the Bronze medal from the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Now I have talked about how I lost the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics by 0.29%. In my life now one second doesn’t matter. If I turn up now one second late it doesn’t matter. But at that point in my life, my whole life was about the one seconds. On that day I raced Sir Steven Redgrave. The British team beat us that day by 1.37 seconds. Steven won his 5th Olympic Gold Medal that day, 5 in a row. He is diabetic, dyslexic but a phenomenal individual.
In preparation for this race we knew what we were up against. At the 1999 World Championships we actually came 2nd. Once again to Sir Steven and his crew including Matthew Pinsent (now 4x Olympic Gold Medalist). So we came second to those guys by 1.57 seconds at the World Championships. So we actually did improve that margin by 0.2 of a second by the Olympic Final. But what we did in the end to gain that 0.2 was just nothing short of staggering. We had two prototype boats made for us. We had hydro dynamically designed fins. We had rudders that were cast out of marine grade stainless steel in perfect foil shapes. We had changed the rig of the boat, which means we had changed the biomechanical set up. We innovated doing all sorts of things like measuring brain wave patterns. There was literally nothing, zero, nothing that we didn’t do. To try and go a little bit quicker.
However when you are playing with these innovations sometimes they don’t work. Sometimes the set up will bring you one step backwards or even 10 steps backwards. You can go from being a really high performing team to being pathetic. Getting into the boat and having it wobble from side to side. And then you start arguing right? Cause that’s what we did. Starting arguing and fighting, people started not doing their jobs properly. Problems with role differentiation and not being clear on what people were doing anymore. That was our life for six months. And we made a few turning points, a few choice points in there. Our coach would say to us, this is ridiculous, we are not making progress. I’m putting you guys back to the way you were. But by that point we had almost gone too far. And we were faced with the prospect that we would either have to make this happen, and get ourselves back on track, or it is literally going to be a disaster for our crew. People say it was “just sport” but for a period of time it was our life, and we put a lot of effort into it. Two weeks before the Olympics we were in a training camp in Bundaberg and we did a time a fraction of a second quicker than we had ever done before.
Now in the following years I would have repeated conversations with my coach. Now what should we have done. Now it was 13 years ago now, but it can take time to come to terms with things like that. Should we have kept things the way they were? Should we have tried to change things? Tried to innovate more? But striving for that extra fraction of a second is what sport is all about true.
People who are massively depressed often feel like they’re stuck, feel like they aren’t improving every day, like they’re stuck in a rut. So we have a basic human need to try to be a little bit better each and every single day. And the amazing thing is that when we work with sports teams which are successful. It all comes back to the standards that you are willing to accept and it can come back to things that are happening around the periphery. That they don’t derail you one year but they might the next.
I was at a choice point after being devastated about winning a bronze medal, now I’m not proud of that. I’m glad that all of the cameras weren’t on all of the athletes in Sydney like they were in London. Where every single action and expression is caught the moment you get out of the pool or off the track in that moment of vulnerability.
So I remember being devastated about that result and thinking well, why row anymore? And for two years I didn’t, I kept fit doing other things. But the one thing that brought me back was a conversation I had with Wayne Bennett. I was watching a lot of the Brisbane Broncos at the time. And he said “What are you doing with your rowing?” And I said “Well I’m sort of waiting for my motivation to come back”. Thinking that it was something I could pick up off the shelf and there it would be. And Wayne Bennett is succinct right, and he just said, “Don’t wait too long it might never show up”. And it dawned on me that I actually needed to create my motivation. That I needed to find it again in myself, nowhere else. So I stated turning up at the rowing shed again. And what got me back into it was being with an aspiring group of people trying to be the best they could be every single day. People who were chasing the 0.1% and I wanted to be in that crowd, so that’s what drew me back into rowing.
Part 11: Resiliency and Relationships
Recovery strategies. Relationships are one. Not only do resilient people keep things in perspective but they have great relationships with the people around them. There was an interesting Study which came out of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And the study was done by the Canadians and they looked at 27 successful performances, where athletes either won a medal or achieved their personal best at the Olympics, which is a big deal. And there were five critical factors for success, and the number one factor was the relationship the athlete had with their coach. They saw their coach as what we referred to before. A beacon of hope. And it’s not about liking and being best friends with everyone around you. That may happen, and great if it does as it makes things more enjoyable, but mostly it is about trust and respect. The athletes trusting and respecting their coach and vice versa.
The other really critical thing in an athlete’s success is having a very strong support group. Managers, family, friends, nutritionists, physiotherapists, trainers, the list goes on. So two of the five critical factors are relationship oriented. They are about connections. So not all coaches know this, so we spend our time making sure that coaches know this is fundamental. You may have seen that statistic that 75% of employees when leaving don’t leave their organization, they leave their boss or manager.
Part 12: Reframing and Beliefs
Reframing. This goes with what we were talking about, about the meaning you associate with things. When something happens what meaning do you attach to it? So when you first instinctually attach meaning to something, you should take a step back and think, well could this mean something else? Could failure be framed up as a learning experience or an opportunity to do it better next time? Here’s a good reframe for you, instead of asking why something didn’t work out, what could you ask instead. What lessons can we learn from this? And how can we do it better? A lot of therapy is based on asking yourself a better question. When you ask yourself “why” this often leads to excuses. If your car breaks down and you are stuck in the middle of the road. Instead of asking yourself “why did this happen?” you’re better off asking “how am I going to get out of this?” It creates a more positive mindset and sets forth actions and plans.
So what are your beliefs? You know how some people have an inherent belief that they can. It’s called positive self-efficacy. I use to do a lot of work with the AGSM School of Management in Sydney and Professor Bob Wood was a great role model and mentor there. I remember having this conversation with him about positive self-efficacy about having this inherent self-belief that you have capabilities and skills. And he said that one of the reasons it is so hard for some people to go back to their high school reunions. Because they are confronted by their hopes and dreams and expectations of who they thought they would become, and the reality of who they are today. And for some that is confronting but for others that is a really great thing.
So when you are talking about your beliefs. The most successful people have beliefs which are useful now these may not be necessarily true beliefs, but they are useful for them. I mean I could have a belief that you don’t really want to hear what I have to say. Now I don’t know whether that’s true or false. But what if I had that belief? Imagine turning up at the Olympics, thinking “oh man this is going to be a mess”. So you have to think about whether your beliefs are useful. If they aren’t then just change them. You beliefs should be helping rather than hindering you. Most of your beliefs will be false anyway. But you keep them as long as you like, it’s up to you. Every now and then you need to do an inventory. Your beliefs should be like a pair of shoes. You might wear them so much they become your favorite pair. After a period of time they will be comfortable, and they will serve you well. But they actually might become so comfortable because they have stretched a fair bit, and you may need to change them. Because your beliefs impact what you do, which impacts your results.
Part 13: Setting New Goals
Now this is the story of the bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics. Now when we were competing in that race, we lined up at the Olympic final and our goal was to come out of the blocks equal with the German team. Now the German team had never been beaten before. Two of the guys in the crew were the double scull world champions. Another guy was the single scull world champion and in 1992 they won the gold medal in Barcelona and they reformed for the 1996 Olympics. Now our goal was to come out of the blocks in line with them. Not to let them get a head start so we wouldn’t have to chase them down at the finish.
Now we had never beaten them before and never really come close. But it is the Olympic final and anything is possible. Unless you believe that you’re not going to win anyway so why even try. So we raced out of the start and they are right beside us. We came out as fast as we possibly could and I’ve looked across and they’re not there. They’re a whole length in front of us. And I had a negative belief, that “Oh man this isn’t working out the way we planned”. And so we continue racing, and there is a belief that if things aren’t going well just try harder. This is the cruel thing about water sports, the harder you try, the more you become inefficient. Because you tear the water instead of levering your body past it. So we’re thrashing around and we turn up at the 1000m mark and we had a Plan B just in case.
I took the guys aside earlier in the day and said if I look around at the 1000m mark and we are not in a medal winning position we are just going to sprint. Plan B’s always need to be simple. So the plan was to sprint like there was 500m to go in the race. The Germans were out in front, then the Americans, the Italians and the Swiss. So I yelled sprint. And we raced at a pace that you should only be able to maintain for about a minute, but this is the Olympics Final, it may never come around again. And as we progress to the finish line we were about 500m out and we were in fourth so we were making progress. So the plan was working and so the goal was to continue this until the finish line. And this is the only time in my career I have had complete tunnel vision. Like I had completely lost my peripheral vision which is not a bad thing in rowing. You’re just supposed to be looking in front and not at the other people anyway. And I was steering and we had got off track. Our oars were going perfectly between about three of four sets of buoys. When we reached the line we just beat the Italians. And that was a real test of resiliency for us. We didn’t know that we could do that. My coach said as we got off the water that day “well that was really poorly executed, but I love your resilience, and I love that you had the spirit to keep going.”
Part 14: Strategies for Resilience
Resilient people also do a lot of physical activity. So to summarize what I have talked about this morning, resiliency and living with hope is a choice, you need to keep things in perspective, and you need to have certain support structures around you. Hopefully through reframing, setting new goals etc. hopefully you will have better coping strategies. But just remember that however you feel, and how your people feel though all the amounts of change that will come in life, however you feel is normal. How long you will get between one stage and another is the same as saying “how long is a piece of string?” You should never feel bad that someone else has progressed through that change quicker than you. Go at your own pace. I was doing some work for the US Olympic team a couple of years ago, in the lead up to London. Their base was in San Diego, and the U.S. Navy Seals took the team training for a day, I was fortunate I just watched. And the first thing they start talking about is mental toughness which is really just resilience. Now they broke mental toughness into 4 simple things. Read the full article on Bo’s Unique Experience with the U.S. Navy Seals Training Day.
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