The Coach's Corner

Simone Biles’ choice to pause pays off

When Simone Biles chalked up a record 8th all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Sunday – after coming back to competitive gymnastics just 3 weeks ago – she reminded everyone why she is the greatest of all time.

As she clinched the title with a flawless floor routine, resulting in a standing ovation from the crowd, here’s the reaction from her coach, Laurent Landi,.

the best floor routine I’ve ever seen her do.

Today’s headline begins with Biles’ triumphant return, after her decision to step back and invest in her mental health following the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. That investment highlights today’s insight, where Biles’ path of practicing, choosing to keep things to herself and be at peace offer a fresh way to get through challenging moments. And today’s tool to breathe, ground yourself and pause before you respond, provides an immediate way to short-circuit a sense of dread. It can take you 30 seconds or two years. You decide.

The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #12

HEADLINE

Simone Biles’ choice to pause pays off

Over the weekend, Biles competed in her first meet since she pulled out of five of her six finals at the Tokyo Games in 2021.  She stepped away, as she describes, because of anxiety that led to her suffering from the ‘twisties,’ a mental block where gymnasts can lose their sense of space in the air.

Speaking to the press after her success on Sunday, she was clear:

It means the world because after everything that transpired in Tokyo, I worked on myself a lot. I still do therapy weekly and it has just been so exciting to come out here and have the confidence I had before.

And she’s handling what she does now and in the future, on her terms.

Will she compete in the Paris Oympics? She is choosing to keep that news to herself – and will only talk about what’s immediately next.

Here’s one of many fabulous accounts, from the BBC, on her return.

 

INSIGHT

A master lesson in mental health

Simone Biles’ willingness to focus beyond her physical abilities – and hone in on her mental health – offered many a window into her very public life. She says she used the space she gained through the COVID pandemic to focus on what she wanted most, to heal from traumas. And earlier this year, she married Jonathan Owens.

Now she’s taking what she’s learned and transforming her way of thinking into how she competes.

Alyssa Roenigk, a senior writer for ESPN, reported how Biles is creating a new normal in US gymnastics.

This past week, the country’s top gymnasts and their coaches — Biles and Landi included — have talked about hitting “eight for eight” or doing “normal” gymnastics, cliches that translate to performing every routine on all four apparatus over the two days of championships mistake-free and as they would on any normal day in the gym. Stay off social media. Stay present. Block out the pressure. And don’t give the meet too much importance.

In addition, Biles is not sharing what she’s doing every minute – or what she’s doing in the near future, telling reporters:

Personal goals and stuff, I think sometimes it’s OK to keep it to yourself, just so that nobody can throw it in your face — ‘Oh well, this was your goal and you didn’t hit it,’ I’m kind of at the age where it’s like, yo, just let me be at peace. So one thing at a time.

 

TOOL

Breathe – ground yourself – pause.

I use this tool every day – sometimes several times in a day: if I’m triggered in the grocery store line, encountering agitation on a coaching call, receiving an email from the IRS or when I sense that someone is really frustrated with me.

Here’s how it works:

The time it takes depends on the circumstance, ranging from 30 seconds to an hour to 2 days. Maybe even more. See what happens when you add this to your repertoire.


My takeaway

Watching Simone Biles perform with such precision and enthusiasm fills me with joy. I recall where I was in 2021 when she made the decision to withdraw from five of her six Olympic events – and then deciding she was taking a break.

I typically ask my coaching clients what they’ve learned from a setback or tough experience. Biles has revealed to the world what she’s learned and how she is creating a different path forward. Her path.

There was a time when the only thing I wanted was to be first. To do that I would react in split seconds because speed is what mattered.

Now I appreciate what it means to slow down and make the choice to ease up because I am responding in a way that aligns with my values. I still challenge, disagree and stand up for issues that are important. But when I breathe, ground myself and pause – my response is usually the one I really want to express.

What happens when you slow down enough to respond?

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