Ducks Fly Together…

I dug out some old pieces that were written over the years and posted on various different forms of media for you guys and for us as well to ensure we are putting as much content up as possible for you guys to read, comment on or take the piss out of the team here at A Mind of Its Own. This just happens to be one of my favourite topics to talk about with people as I somewhat consider myself an expert on this theory having to practice it more than I’d like to admit.

To start out those that know me will have seen it somewhere if you hang around me long enough. I was explaining to a colleague the other day a theory that has helped me out through both my professional and amateur sporting careers. It’s something that has helped me on a day to day basis both on and off the sporting field and holds a lot of merit for those who like me can be short tempered at times.

Let’s not beat around the bush, we all have good days and bad days no matter where we are, on the sporting field, at home or at work. In the office though our patience is often tested sometimes it’s an hourly event. We all have those colleagues who try our patience without even realising it. To explain the theory right we need to go back to the beginning where I was introduced to it.

I got into coaching in my early 20’s and was fortunate enough to work quite closely with someone who has gone on to do bigger and better things than I ever dreamed of. He has done very well for himself on the world stage and can proudly say he’s coached at the top level of the sport Including Commonwealth and Olympic Games. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor to learn coaching philosophies and how to the get the most out of the athletes I was working with. He also taught me that everything in the sporting arena can translate across into the business world and help me in my professional life. I would often find myself frustrated and getting quite annoyed when results or decisions weren’t going our way or as a team we were performing well below our potential.

In my first year under his tutelage I remember the first lessons he taught me always take notes and observe as much as you can. The second lesson was that you will learn something from everyone you come across and you will mould your coaching style by adapting little bits and pieces from each and every one of them and finally using the biggest weapon you have and that is you. I’ve taken this approach across to the business world particularly when it comes to managing and mentoring staff who report into me.

I was helping out with some national league games doing filming and just getting a feel for what it was like to coach and be involved at the open age level. In the dugout before one game, I remember it like it was yesterday, I looked down at the bench to where his notepad lay open with his notes on the game, plans, plays etc. It was the first time I’d notice it but it wouldn’t be the last. At the top of the page in BIG capital letters was the word DUCK underlined twice. At the time I didn’t think much of it but over time as we progressed through practice matches and training sessions in the build up towards national’s curiosity started to get the better of me and I started to wonder why DUCK made it to the top of his page or the whiteboard before every game.

We were sitting in his office before training one day working on the training schedule for the weeks leading into the tournament whilst discussing formations, playing styles, tactics and all things hockey. Around the walls there were a couple of whiteboards that had drills and training schedules as well as individual athlete programs written up and once again there it was DUCK. It was at that point that I bit the bullet and decided I needed the answers to my questions.

Before answering my questions I was grilled on what I knew about Ducks before he would proceed in telling me anything about what is now known as the DUCK Theory and the premise behind it. So from me to you… Firstly ask yourself what you know about ducks and how you would describe them.

When you think of a duck swimming on the top of the water they are graceful, almost gliding majestically through the water but most of all they appear calm, yet under the water’s surface it’s a different story. Those little flippers are flapping away furiously to propel themselves along evenin the strongest of currents. No matter where you are, what you are doing or whether it be as a coach, player or in your everyday life no matter what is going on we need to remain professional and keep our calm. If we can’t do that then we think of the DUCK calm on the surface and furious below where no one can see.

It wasn’t until my second year coaching that I truly found the value in the duck theory in our first game at nationals there was a critical moment in the game where a decision was made that I feel changed the outcome and quite possibly our final standings in the tournament. I remember our manager at the time asking me to keep my cool which probably made things worse telling me to calm down is not the best way to make me calm or keep my cool. With 5 minutes left in the game down 3-2 with the ascendency we scored the equaliser only to have the umpire rule it to be dangerous and therefore a free hit to the opposition. I remember watching the game tape over and over that night as we planned for game two, thinking to myself that one little mistake made by the umpire had cost my team at minimum a point if not three. It was a goal clear as day any day of the week. I’d tried to speak with the umpire after the game to question the decision only to be told I wasn’t allowed to speak with the officials. That further infuriated me as a coach, I wanted answers, I wanted to understand the reasoning behind the decision most of all I wanted some accountability.

I woke the next day still infuriated over something that was well and truly out of my control and went for a run with the assistant coach in an attempt to clear my head. After doing our recovery session as a team and going through the brief for the day’s game we prepared to head off to the ground. I walked into my room to find a rubber duck, a roll of duct tape and bag of lollies shaped as ducks on my bed. Laughter came from the kitchen as our manager walked in clearly proud of her joking reminder to me that I need to convey calm on the outside even when my blood is boiling away on the inside. To me it was a reminder that I needed to convey professionalism and lead by an example.

How I react on the sidelines has a direct impact on what happens on the field. From that day on even before a game started whether it was a club match or at the representative level, if I was coaching or playing DUCK could always be found somewhere on me. It was always on the top of my notepad, written on a piece of tape stuck to my stick or plastered on the whiteboard in the change rooms.

As someone that quite often suffers from white line fever it has been a good practice in keeping my temper in check on the sporting field as well as keeping the hulk from making appearances in the office when dealing with frustrating, infuriating people who just don’t quite understand. What is it that they say? Shit flows down not up?

Using DUCK at work has saved me countless trips to the bosses office, a lot of time not having to waste energy on people who just don’t listen, understand or even want to understand what it is that you are trying to achieve. It’s also put a halt to endless arguments at home and most of all allowed me to take a breath, look, listen and weigh up the situation before responding allow me to de-escalate what could roll into a full blown Chernobyl. They didn’t nickname me Angry for no reason but since the DUCK i have managed to keep it calm, cool and collected. Well most of the time, sometimes I just get pushed off the edge and unlike the Duck I am somewhat a flightless bird in these rare instances.

I now pass the duck theory on to you all… In times of frustration think what would a DUCK do? and just be more like the DUCK on the water’s surface… Graceful and Elegant! Until next time, Duck, Duck, Goose!

2 thoughts on “Ducks Fly Together…

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