It is said, the only instinct we are born with is survival. It this instinct that drives our behaviour while under pressure. It is amazing that our brain took millions of years to evolve and millions of years later it remains the same. When there is a perceived threat to our ‘survival’ we act in a fight or flight way.
The brain stem, or reptilian brain, is seen as being the oldest part of our brain and is responsible for feeding, fighting, flight and reproduction. Many of the things we do on a daily basis are influenced by this part of the brain. It was formed, literally, to ensure our species survived and gave us the foundation to evolve.
When this part of the brain was formed it was, most likely, wild animals, other humans and environment that posed the greatest threat to survival. Millions of years later and our brains still cannot differentiate between what is a genuine threat to our life versus a threat to our ‘status’.
I work in the world of tennis, in case you didn’t know, and I am witnessing more and more situations where great people are being perceived as a threat when, the reality is, they are a huge asset and should be valued as such. So, why a threat?
I genuinely believe it comes back to the reptilian brain. If someone is in a position of power or influence and they view someone in their sphere as a threat then the brain kicks into gear and survival instinct raises it’s ugly head. They will keep them at arms length, see them as a nuisance, that they muddy the waters and will not work with them. In some instances, they will proactively make life difficult for the person and this can lead to them walking away.
I see this happening in every area of tennis and it genuinely concerns me as opportunities are being lost to better the game. Here are just a few examples:
Parents not allowing their children to practice with other children they deem as a rival or enemy – survival instinct
Club coaches are being driven out of clubs due to them being a threat to a select few committee members who want to protect their area of the club – survival instinct
Local clubs not working together as they perceive other clubs as their rivals or competition – survival instinct
Local coaches not collaborating because they are scared they may lose players – survival instinct
Coaches not encouraging players to take up positions in other programmes as they are scared they leave their programme – survival instinct
Male coaches not welcoming female coaches into their environment because they are threatened by the potential loss of players – survival instinct
Female coaches dismissing male coaches as not being able to work with females – survival instinct
Counties not working together as they see other counties as rivals – survival instinct
Countries not collaborating with each other as they perceive the other country will benefit from their information and/or resources – survival instinct
Associations not communicating with each other as they see the other associations as rivals. Just look at the Davis Cup fiasco – survival instinct
I believe we are missing massive opportunities to grow our game and empower people to achieve amazing things, and all because of the oldest part of our brain.
If you are doing everything in your power to do your job to the best of your ability, then nobody is a threat to you. Look around you and see who you could work with to create win/win relationships.
Reflect on whether you have proactively made it difficult for someone to work in your sphere purely because you view them as ‘stepping on your toes’.
Do not let the oldest, most primitive, part of your brain stop you from being the best you could be, the best others could be and the best our sport could be. Let’s open our eyes and our minds to those around us, put personal issues aside, think about the bigger picture, and work together for what is best for our sport and not just ourselves.
I understand why people are threatened by others but I cannot excuse it.
Turn threats into opportunities….