Friday, June 18

Naomi Osaka is not alone

The withdrawal from Roland Garros of the Japanese tennis player to avoid appearing at press conferences has focused on the anxiety that young athletes sometimes suffer from having to face a battery of questions in public

Too often journalists see athletes as machines, as interchangeable parts that, the first time they don’t work, we throw away. “I am afraid of what they will say, to the press, to the eyes of the people,” he wrote. Robert Enke in your journal; a reflection that collects Ronald Reng on Too short a life, biography of that goalkeeper, plagued by depressions and who committed suicide in 2009 when the former Blue was going to be the starter of Germany in the 2010 World Cup. Naomi osaka has decided to stand up and has resigned from Roland Garros overwhelmed by the controversy that began of not attending the press conferences for “mental health”. The Japanese tennis player, in addition to helping to break the stigma of this type of disorder, brings to the table the pressure that many young athletes feel in the face of media scrutiny.

“There are people who wonder how it is possible to compete in front of 5,000 people at a high level and not face 25 journalists. While tennis, for example, is played with the right hemisphere, speaking is done with the left hemisphere. That explains why that sometimes there are athletes who do not know how to explain what has happened. Because they are different learning and the second often do not have a specific preparation. And that can generate anguish and feel the press conference as a hostile territory, “he explains Xesco Espar.

After having to stand in front of the microphones when he was a Barça handball coach, he now also prepares players like Carolina Marín and coaches to do the same without causing them an extra source of stress. “50 or 25 years ago an athlete only had to be skilled in competing. Now many are beginning to understand that it is not only the games themselves, but everything around them like the media and sponsors. And for that they need to work on other skills.”

“When you don’t feel comfortable because of stress, pressure, insecurities, you avoid answering depending on which questions. And that can affect you a lot”


Rafa Muñoz you know well what it is to feel overwhelmed by the press. After breaking the world record of 50 butterflies and winning two bronzes at the 2009 World Cup in Rome, he was seized by a depression that made him on the brink of suicide twice. “When you don’t feel comfortable because of stress, because of pressure, because of insecurities, you avoid answering according to what questions. You think ‘why do they ask me this, if I don’t want them to ask me?’ And that can affect you a lot.” He recommends simply not answering uncomfortable questions. “You are not obliged to answer. I have done it with some in which I did not feel comfortable in some interviews. I recommend not to speak, to be as concise as possible, if you come to go, then you go.” While some athletes have managers who filter their interviews and advise them communicatively, he (like many others) did not. “You spend a lot of unnecessary energy. I remember that one day I came out of a race that had gone bad; I had had a little confrontation with the federation, they prodded me and I talked too much. Then you don’t swim so well anymore.

I would have appreciated training in this area, as well as in managing success. “You train for your thing but not to speak in public, or to manage stage fright in front of the media, nobody teaches you. They ask you questions that you do not control and you screw up. Certain comments can annoy or hurt a lot. Many athletes have been lost because of the road through these things, “he reflects. And he points out that now, with the networks, there is even more danger. “When I competed there was no Instagram and Facebook was not the same. Now a viral video can amplify a shit and do a lot of damage.”

“I was very nervous in the interviews. With the networks I would have hidden a little more to avoid the embarrassment that you go through when you were young”


“With the networks I would have hidden a little more to avoid the embarrassment that you go through when you were young,” he acknowledges. Toni Velamazán, one of the pearls of the fifth of the Mini. Johan cruyff He gave him the alternative at Barça in 1995 and he played for six seasons at Espanyol, where he is now the head of football seven recruitment. Today his stuttering is normal and he even laughs at himself, but as a young man and a teenager he was ashamed. “It made me very nervous in interviews.” He admits that with the social networks in which he puts the magnifying glass on everything and everything goes viral, he would have been more withdrawn. His relationship with the press changed as a result of an interview in which something was published about which he has not spoken. “It is a before and after my dealings with journalists. I was beginning to show my head in the national team. [ganó la plata olímpica en Sydney] and Primera clubs. And I started to be very distant with the press. ”


Velamazán considers that the treatment of footballers and the press has changed “for better or for worse.” “Before we were all much closer.” Barça, the team in which he was formed, began to shield the players already at the time of Frank Rijkaard, although it was with Pep Guardiola on the bench the one that was already bunkerized. A process that most clubs have followed, limiting the appearances of coaches and players, who feel more comfortable communicating through their social networks (generally managed by agencies) where they have control of the message. Under the direction of Carles folguera, Barça promoted the Masia 360 program, in which the youths did social media and communication workshops taught, among others, by Manel Fuentes, to learn to communicate in public.

“It is essential that young players have the accompaniment of clubs and federations in this area. Imagine how any of us spoke in public at 17 years old. And it is a job that has to be done from a very young age,” he says David Espinós, communication expert and founder of the agency Khimera. “I always put the example of Sergi Guardiola, Valladolid player who signed for Barça and at eight o’clock he was on the street because of tweets he had made when he was 15 years old “.

Espinós believes that by “bunkering many clubs is to go from one extreme to the other, much for fear of what they will say about me and the worst enemy of communication is fear” and that what has to be an accompaniment in the communication field, just as there is in the nutritional, physical or psychological. . And be clear that “you do not have to give your opinion on everything”, be it at a press conference, interviews or social networks, even if they are asked. In this sense, the answer he gave is paradigmatic Jurgen Kiopp when asked by the covid. “Famous people without knowledge talking about what people with knowledge would have to talk about. Politics, coronavirus, why me?”

To the technicians they do not have the lips of the German, Xesco Espar teaches them in his academy of trainers to “not speak in public without knowing what to say”, to prepare the press conferences and interviews to connect the questions with the part that they have prepared to avoid the block of staying blank, running away from conflict, and avoiding distractions from your actual work. So as not to get caught up in reckless questions like the ones he masterfully denounced Cesar Luis Menotti. “There is a group of journalists who analyze with a pride that does not correspond to their status as a journalist. ‘I would have thrown the penalty’. No, you would not have thrown it and you will never throw it because you will never enter the field from Boca to play 11 against 11. Then learn to listen to what it feels like when one enters the field with the jersey. Be prudent and there is a recklessness that also catches the coaches. “

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