Going underground
eclipseteam / 06.03.2020

Going underground

At Eclipse, we use the outdoor environment and activities to develop people. There’s a lot to be said for how outdoor adventures, challenges, activities and experiences can be used in our learning. In this short article, I will be focusing on the environment and how it can play a big part in positively developing people. To do this I will be reflecting very honestly on my recent experiences caving in Yorkshire.

Caving, February, cold and wet is a collective of words that provokes fear and sets the alarm bells ringing in my head. I had been caving once before in similar situations and remember thinking, it’s not something I’d do as a hobby, but it challenged me in ways that only caving could. Caving is a recreational exploration of caves and potholes, some including climbing, swimming, abseiling, and crawling. In some areas of the caves you have plenty of room, and in some you feel like you’re crawling through a keyhole.

‘Getting out of your comfort zone’ is a term that gets thrown around a lot, it’s something we at Eclipse explore and practice in different ways. Athletes will experience times where they feel out of their comfort zones, whether it is in training or during performance. A good way of replicating these feelings off the ‘pitch’ (or the place where you compete) is by using outdoor adventures. In an environment that is very different from what we are used to, there is a sense of realness, a perceived risk that can create unfamiliar emotions. We can use these feelings and situations to learn, develop and ultimately boost performance in a real-life sporting situation.

Take my caving experience, 40 metres underground crawling through what felt like keyhole sized tunnels, we had never been there before, the feeling of being out of my comfort zone was familiar, but the environment was like something I had never felt before. Although the experience was safe, the feeling of army crawling between rocks provokes fear and anxiety before calming down, breathing shallow and wriggling free to the other side. It goes against your bodies senses and challenges you in ways that you don’t experience elsewhere. There were moments where all I could think was, get me out of here and then seconds later moments of complete tranquillity followed where I felt so far away from the real world and in awe of my surroundings. The combination of both these feelings is what made the caving experience so impactful and memorable. When we reached the bottom cavern, we switched all our lights off and just sat there for a few minutes, in complete darkness. The first few seconds were spent picturing monsters coming to grab me and all the other weird things from films I wish I hadn’t watched. I then subconsciously started to think rationally about where I was and what was actually down there (hopefully no monsters), and what started as a panic state of mind progressed into complete relaxation.

The whole experience brought a level of discomfort and uncertainty which is extremely beneficial to individual athletes and teams when reflected upon. It also brings out a need to look after each other both physically and emotionally. Experiencing these feelings in an unfamiliar, uncertain and challenging environment like caving with your team can be related straight into game situations, performance situations and can be used in training to prepare for upcoming events. At Eclipse, we use activities including caving to help create these emotions within teams and individuals to help generate great results.

Josh Williams is a Development Coach at Eclipse Performance. You can connect with him here.