These thoughts are to help and inspire people like you and me to reach higher and strive for greater things, to stand for a cause more noble than self serving, seeing the good in others and seeking it for their sake. I unashamedly weave my faith, biblical insight and life experiences into a sporting context to illustrate my personal journey to this point - I hope in a small way, I can help you on your journey to being all you were intended to be....

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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Power of a Shout

Have you ever stood in a wide open space, thrown your head back and just shouted for all you're worth? If you haven't tried it, go ahead. It's really invigorating. On a deserted New Zealand beach, facing the crashing breakers and looking out across the blue green expanse of the ocean, I stood with my arms outstretched and yelled "Freedom" - holding on the end of the word as long as I could, in true "Braveheart" fashion. Now stay with me on this, as far from advocating something crazy, or doing something that would disturb the peace or cause offence, there is an interesting dynamic attached to a "shout".

Something happens physically, emotionally and mentally when you give a shout. It's even better if there's a group of people all shouting the same thing. In a crowd, it can become electrifying. Sports teams frequently remark on the lift the crowd can give them.

In sport there are some great examples of "a shout". None more so than the "Haka" in rugby union. A feature of many of the Pacific Island teams, but probably best know as the pre-match challenge thrown out to opponents of the New Zealand All Blacks. 15 men standing in formation, facing their opponents, issuing a challenge with the menace and foreboding of the onslaught which is to follow.

England World Cup winner Will Greenwood writing for the Daily Telegraph and in his book "Will Greenwood on Rugby"(1)  tells of his personal experience ..."stare into the eyes of an All Black during the haka and you see a deep cold darkness. What you glimpse is a man's soul and it draws you in...the crowd disappears and your mind fills with the deafening voice of a nation asking you a simple question; these boys will do whatever it takes to win, how far will you go? that moment no matter how you got there, you have to decide..." Powerful stuff.

I like the underlying theme in what Greenwood says. In the challenge of the shout, you see a man's soul. In other words, something of the real man is seen through the shout. I guess that is true of the negative aspects of "shouting" - you see the real man for sure. But, there is a gulf between shouting and a shout. Between a rant and a shout. Between a voice raised in anger and a shout projected from deep within the soul of a man.

Scientists tell us that there is a physiological response when we shout - neurotransmitters in our brains are triggered and chemicals released through the pathways in our brain prepare us physically and mentally for challenge or engagement. It's not just science that has something to say. As a man with a faith, the bible has something to say about the power of a shout. It cites so many times the shout that armies raised before conflict. It also details another fascinating instance - "shouts of joy and victory echo through the tents of those who know God". In other words, these men understood the were winners in life and could raise a shout that was an affirmation of what they knew inside. They could also simply raise a shout, because like my experience standing on that New Zealand beach, it simply made you feel great - that is the "joy" part. Celebrating life, something coming from deep inside of you that wants to say "Yes!!"

Before a game, we would stand in a huddle and begin to jog on the spot. We would build it up to a run, then in unison, we would shout, counting off the numbers from 1 to 10. We would repeat the exercise and then run out onto the field ready to engage. My son's team gather in a similar huddle, a different generation, but linked arms they shout "1,2,3, squeeze, 1,2,3,squeeze" as they press into the huddle. Then they're off to engage.

Back to my beach experience. Did anyone hear me? I don't know. Was I drowned out by the sound of the waves? Probably. So why did I do it? Because at that moment, in those circumstances, like the guys back when the sound echoed through their tents, something from deep inside of me wanted to break out and celebrate and accept the challenge of life head on. Try it for yourself. There is an incredible release in the power of a shout.

(1) Will Greenwood on Rugby (Simon & Schuster 2012) ISBN 978-1-84983-715-6