I'm Ana Rita, I was a cyclist and today I'm a cycling coach. I live in the city of Porto, in the north of Portugal. In this book, I leave you the story of my experience at WSLA.
In this eighteen-month journey, I acquired key innovative skills as a leader, coach and promoter of women's cycling. I met new people, new mentalities, new contexts. And I've evolved!
This book is the story of this evolution, of this journey, along which I left behind my fears and doubts, I reached my expectations, freed myself from fears and realized goals. I also leave you the results of this path, of learning and confirmation that this is my destiny, to coach and to lead women in cycling. I found myself, and with that, I grew up.
Finally, I would like to thank the International Cycling Union, the International Olympic Committee, the Olympic Committee of Portugal, the WSLA teachers, my mentor Celia Selaya Dubey, my course colleagues and coaches and my tutor Pedro.
My WSLA HPC Journey – Individual Reflective Report
When making a survey of what the circumstances of my present are and, looking at those of my future, I find myself reflecting and building a little of my own life story. Reflection is part of the human being, so it is related to the ability to reflect and to cognitively traverse the outside world and the internal state of the mind, the self. Today, sitting at my desk, I remember people who, from the first day of training at the WSLA HPC residential, were significant to me. I remember the first days of classes when I thought “I want to be like them”. Cheerful, friendly, intelligent, and with an extraordinary ability to "call us" to something that is theirs, yes theirs! The fact of fighting for what they want and showing the world, especially to the world of sport that women are part of it and that they know how to lead and are phenomenal! During these days of learning, many topics were approached with wisdom, naturalness, and a healthy and enormous affection, thus managing to create in us a feeling of “passion” and wanting to know more. My reflections were usually tangled, full of peaks of various sizes, peaks called "doubts" and "inability" to complete, to finish, and to fail. I tried to close them in boxes, but they, stubborn, opened them again! Maybe because my biggest fear was being myself ... I learned to live from others and afraid of being rejected and not being good enough in the eyes of others. We create an image of perfection, which does not exist, but we only do it because we want to be accepted in this society that insists on judging the other! So, with the WSLA training, sharing, and help from my mentor, Celia, today I consider myself different! As Roosevelt (1910) said, it is not the critic who matters, it is not the one who indicates how the strong man weakens ... the merit belongs to the person in the arena ... ". And today I am in this arena, without fear of facing the other, I fight for my ideas and more specifically for the development of women's cycling, putting the stereotypes created in bags and putting them away in the trash. I am sure that I grew up, I always do my best in everything I do with the help of a few points: be mindfulness and stay in the present; think about things I can control; I learn to filter negatives thoughts and develop routines. However, I consider it important to continue working on one of the components for effective leadership, communication, especially in large groups, presidents, directors. For example, being able to present a vision of what I intend to achieve, involving everyone and everything in the in the realization of that dream. But for that, it is necessary to have equity!
So, I finish this reflection... everything in life has its time and its opportunity, so it is important to understand the meaning and how certain moments are significant! And the WSLA is proof of that!
Every gesture of ours, from a bike ride in Portugal, to being selected by the WCC (World Cycle Centre) to be part of a group of 25 coaches from various sports in the WSLA High-Performance Coach, to a plane trip to Hertfordshire, can have a panoply of fantastic meanings.
What I intend with this book was to give us clues, ideas, thoughts, that help us transform certain beliefs and acquire leadership skills as high-performance sports coaches. With the help of the teachers, facilitators of the WSLA High-Performance Coaches program, coaches from different countries, I went through unique moments, full of learning, sharing, friendship and group spirit. In this journey, I would use a word that illuminates our way "Fearless", that represents friendship, energy, awareness, respect, loving learning, effort, support and sharing.
In the background, this training served to transmit us skills that allows us to create, implement strategies, resolutions, ideas that help us to be stronger in the position we occupy, that is, excellent leaders at coaching women and build a fearless team. We want a team where athletes, coaches and staff feel comfortable to express themselves, take over and maybe correct some mistakes, creating a positive and safe impact leading to better performance and growth. This leads us to reflect on our actions and thoughts in a way that inspires us to change in a few moments, thus creating a meaning of what might be missing in our lives. I prefer this dialogue to a simple speech, since it helps us to reflect on our self, “Who we are and what we stand for? How we communicate? What impact us have on others? Yes, these were the questions of our first day of school, now I ask us to write in a post-it the answers and reflect on them. Yes, us coach! I believe that at the end of this book we will again take the post-it and change our beliefs and thoughts.
The Grow method
I hope you will continue with me, I will present you another coaching tool that we should use, the Grow method, which I will show you how it works and how you can apply it as a coach. The goal is to help us reflect and then move on to action, as resilient as we are, we will start acting for goals as a high-performance coach, not forgetting our motivation! From specific questions about our (G) goals, (R) reality, or what our (O) options for achieving those goals, as well as what it takes to accomplish this, (W) Will, what will we do? We can devise an efficient plan that allows us to achieve and achieve our goals, who knows a qualification for the Olympic Games in Paris 2024!
In high-performance sports, we often talk about the coach-athlete relationship, since the quality of that relationship can be a key to success. As well as the relationship with all the actors in our sporting context. Here arise questions of how to communicate, influence other people in order to convince them that our proposals and goals are appropriate or express feelings about some situation experienced, conduct training, encourage athletes, manage conflicts... But sometimes the communication used is not at all adequate. What's to be done? Communicate with impact: express ideas and thoughts in a clear and inspiring way; create an inclusive environment.
Some competencies for leadership I consider fundamental
“Has a strong network that supports own well-being”
“Is aware of the impact of own behaviour on others”
“Makes tough decisions in high-pressure situations”
“Connects with networks to support professional growth and development”
“Has a coaching philosophy that has been developed based on experience, knowledge and values”
My Personal Vision Statement
“I am a very accessible coach, I like to communicate with athletes, share my Knowledge, technique, always in a clear way. I think it is important to receive feedback, as well as working with passion and, at the same time, being able to create empathy and strategies, some fun but with the goal of getting the message across clearly.”
As I reflect a little on my story and the learning gained at WSLA, I intend to leave the following message:
We must live according to our values, face our vulnerability, because it helps us to be more efficient to work as a team and with the right skills, we gain confidence and grow as leaders! Be Fearless!
The next step is to continue to increase my knowledge, as well as create something more ambitious for me and women's cycling. Create a project that I will call a "golden project", towards Paris 2024!
Coaches may have waited for the end of reading my journey of knowledge, growth, sharing experiences and even stories. Perhaps so, and if so, you showed interest in following and growing with me, to have more women in the leadership of the sport that we are passionate about. So, it won't be a goodbye, just a… see you soon!
To be continued...
Please click below to download the e-book:
PHOTOS AND VIDEOS FROM WSLA EXPERIENCE