Sports docos – the big lesson for us all.


They say every cloud has a silver lining. The silver lining for me during this lockdown period has discovering the plethora of sports programs on pay television.

I have discovered a whole new world of choice and content that I never knew existed; and I love it.

From binge watching The Test, The Last Dance, Losers and staying up until 2am to see if Sunderland win promotion in Sunderland til I Die… I can’t get enough.

I am fascinated by how sport infiltrates the psyche of communities around the world. The fortunes of entire towns can ride on the backs of adolescents not old enough to shave. And stories of triumph are passed through generations, creating legends of long forgotten warriors.

Regardless of the sport, the rollercoaster of success and failure affects us all. Some thrive in it whilst others succumb in the most horrid of ways.

Call me perverse, but it is the athletes in their down moments that fascinate me most. What causes them to sink so low? What causes their life to spiral out of control? Why do they suffer so much when it is time to hang up the boots?

For me there is a common answer to all the aforementioned questions – they don’t know who they are.

The biggest problem with sports people is the inability to compartmentalize their sport from who they are as a person, the human being.

If all they see in themselves is a sportsperson, when they fail it is only natural to think that they are a failure as a person.

Too easily they find themselves in a vicious cycle of win = good person, lose = bad person.

In my career I maintained sanity by following a motto, ‘football is what I do, its not who I am’.

By understanding the roles you play in life besides being a sportsperson, it helps you maintain perspective (an enormously important yet underrated skill for any person).

Losing does not make me a bad son, brother, husband, father, friend, colleague, member of community etc etc. Just the same as winning does not make me better at these things either.

Losing simply means I am not as good as I want/need to be and I have to do something if I want to get better at my sport. It isn’t a reason to shy away from society or from being great at the other roles in your life. Roles like being a father or mother that are the most important roles you can play.

The biggest reason why ex athletes struggle upon retirement is not because they miss competing, it’s because for so long their whole identity has been ‘sportsperson’. Take away that tag and what do they have left? In their mind nothing, but in reality soooo much.

They search to fill the void, sometimes with inappropriate substitutions, when in reality there isn’t a void to begin with.

The athletes who continue to thrive upon retirement or through setbacks almost unanimously have a realistic and healthy self of self, of who they are besides an athlete. And most have good support networks around them too.

This issue is not confined to the fields and courts of our world but can be equally prevalent in the boardrooms and cubicles of the business world.

I see many business people follow the same path as the athlete. “I am a salesperson’ – good sales = good person, poor sales = bad person.

In 5 seconds can you list 5 other roles you play in life besides your job or sport?

Can you assign them an importance out of 10?

Now ask how much energy on a weekly basis you are putting into each role?

Is there a gap, anything make you feel uncomfortable?

Filmmakers may not make a documentary about your life, but the repercussions of not putting your energy where it should be and not understanding who you are besides your title can be catastrophic.


For help understanding who you are and putting your energy where it should be, book in an online coaching session today.

It’s easier to make changes when you are still in the game than when the final siren has sounded.

Nathan finished his career at St Kilda Fc on a then club record 323 games including 4 x All Aust, 3 Best and Fairest Awards and recently being elevated to Legend status in the clubs Hall of Fame. he is currently the Head Coach of the Western Bulldogs AFLW Team and runs his own consultancy firm specialising in high performance.