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The Price of Gold

‘Every day, athletic stars are honored for their success. TV monitors broadcast their faces across the world.

To create international Olympic champions, nations put their young talents through rigorous training program with huge financial support from their governments and sponsors.

But the price of the gold is high. This film examines exactly how much blood, sweat and tears top athletes invest in their quest for success. Is it worth it – and what happens to ones who sacrifice everything to reach the top, but who in the end, for various reasons, don’t make it?’

What is the price of gold? How high does it have to be?

Some questions for coaches to reflect on-

1. What is a cost? How does it change for different people? 5 surgeries in 3 years is probably a cost. Giving up 15 minutes of TV to get to bed in time? Not so much.

2. There are some athletes who are willing to anything to be successful (I am not talking about drugs).

‘I’d trade my life to feel…that sensation again. To be at the starting line and know that I’m in great shape.”

Some athletes do not understand the risks they are taking and the long-term consequences of their decisions. They cannot comprehend being unable to lift their arm above their head at age 40, so it doesn’t factor into their current decision making process. As coaches, we have an ethical obligation to ensure that what we ask each individual to do is truly in their best interest, both now and in the future. What are the unintended consequences of these decisions we make?

3. While swimming typically does not leave the same trail of physical injuries demonstrated in the documentary, can the same be said of mental injuries? What damage is being inflicted by the words we use and the choices swimmers feel obligated to make or willingly make? How are we helping individuals cope with any psychological challenges inherent to our sport?

4. To what extent are ‘health’ and ‘elite performance’ mutually exclusive?

If they are, do you and the swimmers you coach truly understand the implications? Are you/will you be able to live with those implications, 20 years from now? To what extent can any health costs be mitigated through better choices or counteractive interventions?

If they are not mutually exclusive, how can you find a ‘healthier’ way to achieve desired performances? Are you tolerating insults to health, physical or otherwise? Why? ‘This is what it takes’, is no longer a sufficient response.

5. These costs permeate, in some form, to all levels of sport. Are they appropriate for the level of swimmer you are coaching? Should there be ANY cost for the vast majority of participants?

I’m not sure there are necessarily ‘right’ answers, or right answers for certain individuals. However, I believe we all owe it to ourselves and our swimmers to seriously consider these questions, lest we make decisions only to find the price of gold was a little too high.

Watch the video. It’s fascinating, enlightening, and an entertaining use of an hour of your life.

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