Sports documentaries have been a revelation of lockdown life. They’ve exposed me (not someone that plays or watches sport despite being a Pilates teacher) to what being a sports person is really all about. It’s not always the most naturally able or biggest and strongest who win, it’s not always the shiny prize that drives the most determined and Pilates, mindfulness and psychology play a huge role in gaining a competitive edge.
The two standout documentaries to me have been Drive to Survive which takes you behind-the-scenes of the Formula 1 World Championship and The Last Dance about the rise of Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls.
Beyond the fascinating politics, power play, glamour and testosterone of Drive to Survive, you’re shown glimpses of what it takes to build a mind and body that can cope with putting your life at risk every week in a Formula 1 car. Pilates features heavily. For the driver they use it to keep a strong and supple body that can cope with the G force of the drive but also the whole pit crew do it together before the race so they’re ready to go from sitting watching the race to an all systems go ultra-fast tyre change. Off grid you see the drivers escape the adrenaline of the drive by connecting regularly with nature, quiet and stillness and spending time with family and friends who keep them grounded and help them retain a sense of humour even in dark times.
In The Last Dance the focus is mostly on Michael Jordan’s journey to super stardom but one of the most fascinating characters is Phil Jackson, the coach of the Chicago Bulls. He’s considered one of the best and most successful coaches of all time, so it was fascinating to see the techniques he used. He talks about how he was influenced by Zen Buddhism and Native American culture as a child. Before games you see him doing Pilates style exercises with the team, encouraging them to ‘centre and breathe’. You can see how these techniques help the players shut out the chaos of the court so they can bring their A-game.
“Michael [Jordan’s] a mystic. He was never anywhere else. His gift was not that he could jump high, run fast, shoot a basketball. His gift was that he was completely present. And that was the separator.” —Mark Vancil, “Rare Air”
So don’t be put off ‘sports documentaries’ if you don’t consider yourself ‘sporty’ or a fan of the sport being profiled. They’re really an exposé on how mere mortals can build powerful and resilient minds and bodies to withstand and overcome unimaginable pressures and challenges.
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