Mates need to stop talking about sport and start talking about themselves.
Make small changes to look after yourself. Nehe Milner-Skudder is the Maori Men’s Health ambassador. Photo / Alan Gibson

Emirates Team NZ’s story is not a simple headline of winning the 2017 America’s Cup.

The real story is the incredible journey leading to the podium.

Planning, innovation, practice and, most of all, decision making. They knew how to make changes.

Coaches Murray Jones and Ray Davies have shared stories of their daily debrief at the crew’s house.

Facing Artemis in the semifinals was presenting challenges – Team NZ had the fastest boat, but they had lost 70 per cent of starts. It’s possible to have the fastest boat and still not win the America’s Cup. They needed a turnaround and fast.

Getting the team to accept the problem was a key step. Only after acceptance can there be a fix.

The solution was a series of surprisingly small steps.

Rather than detaching from the chase boat a minute before entering the start box, they needed to detach a few minutes earlier and throw in some manoeuvres. That made sure everyone was synched and had their head in the zone.

Rather than helmsman Peter Burling watching the opposition boat, and ignoring his data screen in the pre-start, they needed to have team members feed what the opposition were up to via the comms system.

Burling could then focus on what he should be doing – helming.

The changes were transformational.

To that point they had won 30 per cent of starts. From then, they won 80 per cent. The series of small changes had a huge and immediate impact.

It’s the same with us blokes and our health. Small changes can make a big difference.

If you are feeling constantly tired, angry, isolated or stressed, follow the Team NZ approach. Step one is to recognise the problem. Step two is to make small, clear and immediate changes.

Walk the stairs instead of taking the lift. Cut back on coffee, tobacco and alcohol. Talk to someone about how you feel. Visit your doctor for a check-up. Go for a walk.

Make small changes to look after yourself.

We don’t always feel top of our game, and nor do our mates.

As today is International Men’s Day, let’s also apply small changes to helping mates. Perhaps small changes in how we communicate and connect.

Research shows women have more close social connections than men. Why?

Connection ranges a spectrum from apathy (not caring) to empathy (truly feeling compassion). Women are better at empathy. Men, we can improve here.

Before launching into conversations about sport, house prices or electric cars, there are other conversation starters – simple starters to talk about your mate’s well-being: “How are things going for you at work?” “How’s your sleep going with the new baby?”

Men don’t talk about empathy much. Instead, let’s create a masculine version of the word that sits better with men.

The word “menpathy” appears in the online urban dictionary. It’s an unofficial word, describing the pain a guy feels seeing another guy take a big hit on the sports field. The receiver of a hospital pass being crunched. The batsman hit squarely in the nuts. The sailor thrown from the capsizing America’s Cup catamaran.

Men flinch watching these and feel the pain.

“Menpathy” needs to come out of the urban dictionary and into everyday conversation. It should be a real word for asking your mate about his health, caring about the answer and maybe following up later.

Taking Team NZ’s approach to changes may vastly improve the health of Kiwi men.

The simplest change may be starting to talk and listen about your mate’s life and health.

Today, on International Men’s Day, let’s step up our “menpathy”.

John Berry is a Men’s Health Trust trustee.

Source: NZ Herald


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