Trust in The Process? Only Sometimes

Process. It's a buzz word in athletics now. People talk about "the process" and being "process-oriented" and "process-praise". More than any of those, there is a lot of talk about "trusting the process". 

I remember my first foray into "big time" swimming. I was media at the 2008 Olympic Trials. By the end of eight days, I felt like I had been beaten over the head with variations of arguments that those who had succeeded had done so because they had placed their unconditional trust in their coach.

In 2018, from where I sit, that seems like a bad idea. So I disagree with all the well-intentioned think pieces out there urging athletes to "trust the process". We have too much "trust the process" and not enough talking to athletes, parents and yes even coaches, about under what conditions they should trust any process.

Here are a few suggestions (definitely not a comprehensive list). Trust in the process when:

1. Your leader acts like an adult you would meet in any other professional setting

You should expect that your leader is similar in their professional behavior to a doctor, or your math teacher. You should not feel scared of them, but you should expect that they will ask you to do things that you don't necessarily want to do (homework, get blood drawn, swim really fast) for the purpose of helping you get improve yourself.

They should be able to explain these concepts to you in a way that you understand and motivate you towards these actions without using fear or intimidation.

You should be able to talk to any adult about what goes on in your interactions with your leader without any shame or secrecy.

2. You feel you have autonomy and input over the process

No matter what age you are, you deserve some autonomy over the process that you are engaging in. You should never feel like the entirety of the "process' that you trust is someone else telling you to do something and you doing it.

This may mean in many cases you are presented with different options to choose from, not an entirely free "do whatever you want" sort of input. There may even be times when you get to give your input and the leader of whatever you are doing still chooses the option you don't like. But you should feel that they have heard you, and that they do often use your input to form their decisions.

3 . You feel a virtuous circle in the process

What is a virtuous cycle? Well, most of us are familiar with a vicious circle.  A virtuous circle is the mirror image.

You should feel that your process involves you putting something good into it, and drawing positivity from it. You should feel that in the relationship with whoever you are working, whoever is helping you develop your "process" that you should trust.

As I said, these are just a few suggestions. What we should absolutely not do is communicate that blind trust in authority figures is the path to success. That has done irreparable harm in the world of sports, and it's time for us to establish more and more discussion about what conditions people participating in it should give that trust.

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