Recovering from a bad day – lessons from long jumping, ballroom dancing and American football

After a busy day earlier this week, I settled down with a cuppa and watched a few minutes of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a spin off from the main show featuring, amongst other things, reviews of the choreography and interviews with the contestants.

The episode I watched featured Olympic long jumper, Greg Rutherford, and his partner, Natalie Lowe. Their cha-cha hadn’t gone as well as they’d hoped and they received their lowest score so far. ‘I blew it entirely,’ said Rutherford.

Presenter Zoe Ball went on to ask, ‘As an athlete, you must have performances where it doesn’t go to plan and you’ve got to psych yourself up and get back in the arena again … how do you do that as an athlete? That’s what you’ve got to do this week.’.

Rutherford replied, ‘It’s easier in jumping terms because I have had good days, very good days … you think about those, you remember, go over video footage … you reassess and then go at it.’.

His words reminded me of a recent conversation I’d had with a client who’d had an unfortunate experience at a conference and his presentation didn’t go as well as expected. We’d spent some time reviewing what happened on the day, looking back to events that had gone well before, and making action plans for the future. We reviewed, reflected and revised.


What if you’re a manager and you want to help a team member recover from a poor performance?

On Sunday, it was the 2016 NFL final between the Seahawks and the Cardinals: I don’t pretend to understand the first thing about American football but it sounds like a hugely disappointing game. It went to extra time, during which each of their star kickers missed an ‘easy’ shot. What’s interesting is the reactions of the coaches at the press conferences following the match.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was asked what he’d tell Chandler Catanzaro in response to the missed kick: he said –

‘Make it. This is professional, this ain’t high school, baby. You get paid to make it.’

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this about his kicker, Steven Hauschka:

‘[Hauschka] made his kicks to give us a chance and unfortunately he didn’t make the last one. He’s been making kicks for years around here and everything was in sequence, everything went OK timing wise, … we didn’t hit it. He has hit a lot of winners and as we go down the road here it will be much different and we will get different outcomes than that one. … I love him and he’s our guy.’

Which kind of boss would you rather have?

Coupling Carroll’s attitude with reflecting on when things have gone well, reviewing on what went wrong this time, and revising plans for the future can help you and your team member (or even family member – this isn’t just for work) move on from the bad day and plan for good days.

Today’s pebble for you to contemplate: when things don’t go the way you planned, how do you recover? How do you help others recover from a bad day?

What do you think?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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One Response to Recovering from a bad day – lessons from long jumping, ballroom dancing and American football

  1. Pingback: Is ‘bouncing back’ an essential part of resilience? | Turning over pebbles

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