Lifeline Connections

Family and Coach: Support System for an Olympic Athlete

Family, Friends, and Significant Others

A little while back, I interviewed an Olympian named Jared Ward who will be running in the final competition – the marathon – in a little over a week. The interview was about his marital relationship, but I noticed that Jared and Erica provided many insightful points about the value of a healthy support system. So even if you aren’t married or in a significant relationship, there are many principles that every person can live by when building a healthy support system during recovery.

One particular answer really made me think about how we should all be treating one another. I asked Jared to give me an example of something small but that has made a huge difference in his training for the Olympics.

He said, “Every time when I’ve walked back in the door from a run or school or a workout, anything, Erica always has a big huge smile right when I get in. I feel like she has set this precedent of ‘we’re excited when Daddy comes home’ and the kids get excited.”

So, what can we learn from this? Well, one thing is the value of maintaining positive expectations. Jared felt safe and happy to return home from his busy day and schedule because he knew that his wife and children were going to show him that they loved him and that they enjoyed his presence. If you are a significant person in the life of someone who is recovering from an addiction, it is wise to set the precedent of “I’m happy that I get to be your friend/spouse/sibling.”

One of the most difficult things for someone in recovery is the stress of unpredictability. We all stress about that at varying levels, but for a person recovering from a dependence disorder, they have to learn how to deal with this on a new level. If they can predict, because of your positive affirmation, that you still love and appreciate them even when they aren’t doing their best, it builds a more stable foundation for them. On the flip side, if you are a person in recovery, it is important to remember that your loved ones are suffering from your drug or alcohol use, too. For them, it can be unpredictable and scary, and they need the same show of support from you. Let them know frequently that you love them and that you value their support.


It is not a secret that a lot of the credit for the accomplishments of an Olympic athlete is due to their coaches. These people spend many hours with one or more athletes training them. So how important is this role for the Olympian? Edgar Grospiron a champion in freestyle skiing/mogul, said this of his coach, ““My coach was not only a sports coach, but a life coach. This was his mission, though he was not paid for this.” To have a coach is one thing, but to have a coach who is passionate about their job can make a world of difference.

Because of the long hours and different types of wins and losses, a coach needs to be able to provide physical, mental, and emotional assistance to their athletes. Another unique thing about the coach is that they have often been Olympians themselves- so their wisdom is meaningful for every other hopeful.

What does this mean for a person in recovery? If you are in the process of searching out professional help, keep these characteristics of a coach in mind. At Lifeline Connections, we are so passionate about your process of recovery that we provide specialized care. We have counselors, pet therapy, massage therapy, and exercise options to benefit you in whatever way you need. As for those who are not in recovery but are one of the many providers of support, be passionate about that support. Take care to show empathy and appropriate assistance to your “athlete” to help them get to their goal. If your loved one seems to be beyond your help, embrace the option of professional assistance and encourage them in that direction. You can still be there when they need you, but they may require someone who has adequate experience to be the head coach.

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