Imagine the scene - you're an elite sprinter at the top of your game. You walk out in front of 80,000 fans at your home Olympics to rapturous applause but all you can feel is fear. It’s the last place you want to be. Crippled by fear of failure and by the pressure you put on yourself.
It’s not everyday that you get the chance to talk to an elite sports person but this week I got that opportunity as part of our internal podcast series ‘DAZN meets’. I was joined by Jack Green who competed in the 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay for Team GB at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Jack was on a trajectory for the top by the time the London games came around. He sailed through his heat in the 400m hurdles, on course for what he felt was his destiny - to become an Olympic champion. Upon walking out on to the track in the Olympic Stadium, ahead of the semi-final, he was consumed by the fear, the pressure and the expectation. With so much on his mind - so much self-doubt - he couldn’t focus on the task that lay ahead and fell at the third hurdle.
He picked himself up and got the chance to run in the 4x400m relay final. In the heats he ran the fastest relay split across the whole of the Olympics at that point. The team were on course for at least a bronze medal but it just wasn’t to be. They missed out on the podium by 0.13 seconds finishing fourth, and in his mind, lightning had just struck twice.
During our conversation, Jack spoke very openly about the struggle that followed. A struggle to understand and accept what had happened. He was diagnosed with depression, bi-polar tendencies and anxiety, and eventually sought top level help.
We went on to talk about what he learned about himself and mental health in general. Jack provided his take on the recent comments from Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka - that we are still far too reliant on individuals speaking out about their mental health. It is time for leaders and managers to role model and create an environment at work where it is totally fine to talk about how you are feeling, regardless of if you have been diagnosed with a disorder or not.
We also touched on vulnerability, how it is perceived and the importance of being a good listener. Vulnerability is less of a weakness and more a case of being authentic - accepting who you are. Authenticity is an enabler for making deeper connections with others. This really chimed with me in terms of how we portray ourselves at DAZN, both as a business and as individual component teams. We need to be genuine, relatable and human. If we speak from the heart and with humility, people are more likely to listen to us.
What really struck me was the magnitude of what Jack has had to deal with and he has done this all in such a short space of time - he is 29 years old!! Jack’s story is gripping and the way he tells it is so heartfelt. At times I was blown away. My frame of reference is that of a spectator - someone in the crowd or watching on TV, I had no idea how to react or relate.
I was shocked but this is how I want to feel when we get a guest speaker involved. I want the listening/viewing experience to be exactly the same. I want to create a sense of empathy. Work can be pretty intense at times and it is very easy to become blinkered. We need perspective. That’s where real-life stories like these come in and help us understand things from the perspective of others.