It’s seven in the morning. Toni is driving to Jess to get a lift to the airport. They are about to compete at Ratingen, Germany in only Jess’ third full Heptathlon since her son was born. The countdown to Rio may have started some time ago but the clock is definitely starting to tick much louder now.
Toni is remarkably relaxed. That said, over the last few months I’ve come to the conclusion that despite his occasional (ok, regular) outbursts against bureaucracy, drug cheats and shrinking chocolate bars he has the ability to practice what he preaches when it come to focusing on the job in hand,
“Control the controllables. If you can’t affect it don’t let it affect you.”
“Like I always say, ‘control the controllables’. If you can’t affect it don’t let it affect you.”
“But what about competiton? Don’t you get a little stressy?”
His response is typically sanguine, “Not really. It’s the job. Jess knows what she has to do. Concentrate on the process, all the things we’ve worked on for months and months together”.
“I know I’d still get butterflies. Maybe that’s why I’m not an elite coach.”
“Don’t get me wrong, the heart beats a bit faster when it gets to squeaky bum time.”
“Nice turn of phrase.”
“But for me there’s not that much to do.”
“Isn’t it the lack of control than can create anxiety? I hate that.”
“If you allow anxiety to takeover you become a terrible coach.”
“If you allow anxiety to takeover you become a terrible coach. The last thing Jess needs is me stressing out and making myself feel better by trying to give her loads of information. That jobs’ been done. My role is to try and keep all that away from her, be there if she needs me and occasionally make some fine adjustments in light of her performance.
Remember we’ve got the team there as well so she’s got all the support she needs as and when required. It’s about introducing normality to an abnormal situation”.
The Team, with Derry, top left and Dr Richard, top right.
“I guess you’ve been doing this a long time now”.
“Around eighteen years with Jess”.
“You should get Jess to ask you what it’s been like working with her all this time. It’s usually ‘what’s it like working with Toni’. And film it”.
‘I might just do that”.
And do that he did. Here’s the result:
I leave Toni and Jess to their journey and try to ignore the ticking of the countdown clock.