A guest post by Olympic Cyclist Ryan Owens
Back in March everything seemed to be going to plan. Fresh off a silver medal and national record with my team at the World Track Cycling Championships in Berlin I was starting to look ahead to the summer and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to try and go one better.
The rest of the story will no doubt be familiar to many, less than a month later the Olympics were postponed and the nation was in lockdown.
Like so many others dealing with their own challenges and struggles at this time I found myself in quite an isolated position right when I needed connection.
Following a short period of time trying to work out the situation myself, I started looking to reach out for support. At British Cycling I’m lucky enough to have access to an excellent sports psychologist, with whom I took quite a holistic approach with over a number of sessions and made a lot of progress.
A little while later, the perfect supplement to my work with my psychologist arose in the form of an invitation to join a men’s group from a former coach.
I’d never heard of the concept before, let alone actively sought out to join one but immediately recognised the value it could have for me as soon as it was explained. As men we so often lack close connection, especially with other guys.
The Men’s Group
The group brings like-minded men from all different backgrounds together online to discuss the challenges we face in a supportive, structured and safe environment without judgement. Everybody agrees to a set of boundaries and commitments to the group centred around privacy and trust to ensure everybody is on the same page.
The sessions are centred around coaching concepts and promote self aware thought that you can carry into the weeks between each meeting. Perhaps most importantly though, through relating to and supporting each other the members develop strong, supportive relationships.
After just 2 tentative sessions at the beginning where I was trying to learn the new environment I was fully invested and it became the highlight of my week throughout lockdown.
I was gaining so much from it myself and recognising the importance it could have for so many people that I asked my group leader how I could go about starting my own groups to bring that space to more people that could benefit.
I joined his organisation, jointly founded with his wife and therapist in Long Beach, California and he trained me up in how to lead the groups and I spent much of my lockdown period reading up on topics and subjects that we cover in our sessions around my cycling training.
A Safe Space For Men To Talk
Since June I have been leading groups of my own and have felt and experienced first hand the difference that the environment they offer can make to men of all different ages and backgrounds. Many of us know the importance of being able to talk about things but have had pushback or a negative response when we’ve tried.
The knowledge that you’re in a 100% supportive group eliminates that fear and allows for men to connect on that deeper level in a way that so many of us desperately want but otherwise don’t know where to start.
I’m still part of my original group that I joined back in late March, some 30 weeks later and it is an irreplaceable part of my life now. Feedback from the groups I lead have been the same, for many it is the highlight of their week and for those who regularly see a Therapist or Counsellor they have found it to be the perfect supplement to those sessions.
We offer 8 week introductory courses that meet on Zoom once a week for 90 minutes so you can join from your own home.
Following the introductory course which is aimed to introduce you to the environment and a few key coaching topics we transition into a rolling, weekly group which can be subscribed to on a monthly or weekly basis.
Currently I am gathering interest together to start a new 8 week introduction course with a start date and time to be decided to best suit those interested.
If you would like to find out more or book a call to have a chat and see if it’s the right thing for you then check out: https://www.empowertherapyandcoaching.com/mens-groups
I have also done a podcast with our USA group Lee Povey on our own experiences from our times in groups: https://www.empowertherapyandcoaching.com/podcast/empower-mens-groups