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Meeting with coaches (Episode 1) - overcoming anxiety

August 2020 - Athletes and coaches didn’t experience the lockdown period in the same way. Facing the crisis alone, the coaches tried to convey a positive message to their athletes: make the most of this ‘heaven-sent’ time to achieve their goals in Tokyo next year.

This August, Stéphanie Deanaz (triathlon) and Karim Souchu (3×3 basketball) should have been in Tokyo while Charles Delval (para-rowing) should have been getting ready for the summer Olympics. Instead of this, the 3 coaches that Votre Coach by Groupe BPCE has been following for the past several months, are at home and will be able (a rare occurrence!) to take a few days’ vacation in August, “the first in years” for the former triathlete.

But this additional leisure time hadn’t been scheduled and the change in organization due to the Covid-19 pandemic is also a source of anxiety for the coaches: “We often talk about the athletes, but the coaches have been even more disturbed, as if they were suffering from depression!” explains Stéphanie Deanaz.  “They had been ranking up the pressure with the Tokyo deadline on the horizon and then, suddenly, nothing!”

While the athletes were able to continue their training, even when obliged to stay at home, the coaches felt “completely useless…” “After the lockdown period ended, the athletes went back to their clubs but, personally, there was nothing I could do from a distance,” says Delval with considerable feeling. “For them, everything was starting up again but not for me!”
Karim Souchu admits that he was able to count on the support of his colleague Richard Billant to get through this difficult period. Charles Delval confided in the performance psychologist chosen to accompany the disabled athletes while Stéphanie Deanaz turned to her colleagues from other disciplines and to company director friends: “You have to surround yourself with other people and, above all, not isolate yourself at moments such as these.”

After this painful exit from the lockdown period, the coaches were finally able once again to meet their athletes and to send out a positive message: “I don't want us to restart preparing for 2021 with the same doubts as we had in 2020. We must take advantage of these months and treat this time as an opportunity...” In other words, the athletes must improve their weak points and work on points that couldn’t be worked on before. For the basketball players, the work of introspection required them to view the documentary series devoted to Michael Jordan. Karim Souchu organized ‘debriefing’ videoconferences to identify the efforts that still needed to be made: “The opportunity to witness the existence of players so demanding with themselves allowed them to appreciate what a ‘high level’ really meant!” The message delivered by the three national coaches to their athletes is basically the same: take a difficult time and turn it into an advantage… while hoping to reap the rewards in the forthcoming competitions!

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