Danny Massaro – An interview with David Pearson – Part 1

18th September 2016

David Pearson has been a coach for 35 years. He is a father of four, 2 daughters, 2 sons. David was the longest-serving Head National Coach across all sports in the United Kingdom from 1995 until 2010.

David has coached 4 World Champion Squash players; 2 women, 2 men– coincidence!? Widely acknowledged as one of the best Squash Coaches in the world, ‘DP’ as he is fondly known, continues to coach all players across the playing standard spectrum and from all corners of the globe.

Winner of UK Sports ‘Mussabini Medal’ for outstanding coaching in 2000, DP is renowned for two special coaching skills. Firstly his technical knowledge and ability to get his players to actually learn and apply new technical skills; Secondly his ability to form strong and lasting relationships with players by focussing as much on the ‘person’ before him as on the player aspect of their make-up.

david pearsonThe volume of young players he has seen come and go in his 35-year journey give him a unique insight into aspects he feels has made the difference to those who have done well in sport but more important than that, enjoyed happy and fulfilled lives. He remains a life coach to many people who have been lucky to experience his tutelage, mentorship and friendship.

Danny: You refer to the word “Background” when it comes to discussing players and their parents. What do you mean by this exactly?

David: To me, the word background has emerged as my word for the foundations and upbringing that the performer went through as a child. What values were instilled into them from their upbringing? Things like schooling, the place they lived, and the people they were involved with, the rules that were set, that kind of thing. I believe the biggest part of it is how the Parents “parented” for want of a better phrase. If parents provided support and love enough so the child felt security, yet was challenged and given room for their natural personality to flourish then you tend to get more emotionally stable people as they grow up. Children need boundaries and love but also need space to be themselves, to grow into what they really are as individuals. You can’t control that.

I don’t believe children want sympathy or too much interference in their adventures, I just think they want clear boundaries set and clear rules set about standards of behaviour. Only when Bad Behaviour occurs should the parent step in.

You can tell the kids who have learned what it is to respect people. They have calmness about them around adults and speak to their parents normally and respectfully. They aren’t scared or anything, just polite and confident. You can tell they have been given a voice within the family household yet they haven’t taken this too far and become too cocky or condescending. If they come for coaching and I ask them questions they are comfortable having a debate or suggesting their opinions and the Mother or Father doesn’t jump in trying to talk for them.

I think later on when they get to the late teens into adulthood “the breakout years” as I say, that is when the effects of the background are really noticed. Players really need to show independent qualities and life starts to hit them a bit more head-on. If they haven’t got that deep sense of security then all sorts of problems can start. Not really bad things you’d notice but just subtle things like how they deal with setbacks or how they talk to people who deserve a bit of respect, adults or younger children even.

A big one is who they tend to BLAME when things go wrong. Good background and they get to work themselves fixing the problem without much fuss, a bad background and all the excuses start! You start feeling the dishonesty and the subtle lying, stories they tell you don’t always stack up and you just lose trust in what they are telling you. It is an Insecurity expressed as overconfidence and too much talk! Lots of talk and discussions but when it comes down to it they struggle to keep promises and produce results consistently.  As a coach, you are battling this deep insecurity and lack of maturity at the very time it is required the most. In sport, you can’t really wait until you’re 30’s to mature because your body has slowed down, so those that do well and come through usually showed great maturity and self-assuredness as they came out of the teenage years.

I saw the way Jordan Speith won the Masters yesterday. You could tell for someone who is only 21 years of age that he has had a great background. He talks of his younger sister’s inspiration a lot, his parents didn’t over react when he won, and he didn’t over react either!  He had a really healthy perspective of what winning meant and he behaved naturally. Maybe this was why he remained so composed to lead all 4 rounds of the tournament. It will be interesting to see how he now deals with success because again that is where your upbringing is also huge. Remaining humble and keeping your feet on the ground is another major part of the journey of sport, if winning has always been valued too highly as children then it all becomes too much when they’re older. The ego feels too inflated and again you see lots of things in a person in how they react to winning as much as how they react to losing. Of course, it’s always better to win than to lose that is the nature of life I suppose and it’s what we all work and strive for but how you handle it and how it affects you, what it teaches you is the most important part. There are plenty of superstars people like Roger Federer, Sachin Tendulkar, Jack Nicklaus all who have managed success and attention well. They are champions of life and of sport.

So are you suggesting that without the correct ‘Background’ people can’t turn it around?

No, not at all. I just think it is far more unlikely if they haven’t been reared with boundaries and security. The thing is it can be a two-way street as well and this is really important.

What do you mean exactly?

Lots of good things can come out of adversity also. I’ve seen kids come out of really challenging upbringings and in sort of way become hard and tough. They do well in spite of their parents who may have been nasty or unloving. They have a point to prove and have gone down the positive reaction path rather than the destructive one. Rather than rebelling, something in them fired up and they got on a mission never to feel like that again.

They take control of their own lives and don’t just give up or be a victim. I have had a World Champion player like that. They were somebody who took a really tough upbringing and turned it into a massive positive, through determination and incredible toughness.

Saying all that, the issues from childhood still affect people all their lives and despite going on to be successful in sport there can be lingering personal problems and resentment. So it is very complicated really. You do see winners like this but have really deep personal issues and self-identity problems and I suppose this is where the coach sometimes takes on a ‘father/mother figure role’. That is where coaching goes deeper than just the sport and is why all the great coaches are coaches of PEOPLE first, not just players.

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