What does “off” mean?

We’ve felt “off” for over a year. “Things” are upside down in so many ways, it feels. The world stopped, and now we’re restarting without much ramp time…but are we restarting the old way, creating a new way, waiting to see what happens?

Two things can be true at once:

Jump back in

Step back and figure out what you want your future normal to look like and work a plan to make that happen.

Here we go!

Coaching Practice = Practice Coaching

Over and over I remind myself and other coaches that being is greater than doing. Who we are at the foundation, our core, the personal drivers, are crucial to being successful day to day. What we do, the tactics, of course also really matter, but without a sense of why we care about the things we care about, the doing can be simple noise.

Lately, however, I remind myself that the doing must be done. No matter. We don’t coach others with words alone. If our words, the actual coaching, is to be successful they must inspire others to practice. Testing the movements, skills and actions of a sport is how performers learn what drives improvement, and winning.

Without the testing, the doing, the practice we can’t keep the experiment moving and gain ground on the skills.

Coaches need to drill like this. Create opportunities to practice coaching a situation or a skill, role play with others, to do the thing. Find a way to put this into your system.

Practice coaching practice. Practice coaching a meeting, a recruiting call, a drill. Make self-evaluation more than a yearly or quarterly thing.

Be. And Do.

Questioning Learning

Leading is much more than showing, or telling, what you know. It’s allowing others to learn, or to know what they can, at this moment.

Questions are among the most powerful tools in your kit. Authentic, “this is what I’m wondering” questions lead to amazing insights.

And, the asker is often not the primary, and certainly not the only recipient of knowledge.

In fact, questions almost never stand alone. Nor does the asker. Someone else almost always has a version of the same inquiry. By not asking out loud, opportunities are missed.

A leader among peers will find ways to encourage questions rather than stifle them with a barrage of answers.

Questions are unifying. In this unprecedented time, coaches can use strong questions to bring groups together when they can’t be together, to unify thru forcing a shared experience. Learning, together, is powerful.

Leadership can look like the solo, up front, figure, the one with the microphone, at the podium, all eyes on them. It can also look like living the values, being curious about the future and asking questions that others might be afraid to ask.

Rather than saying, “Google it,” ask, “what do you think?” and see how it goes.

Start Here

So, you want to go to college? And you want to play a varsity sport.

True?

If your answer is at least, “I think so,” then you have some work to do. Things are not going to magically unfold.

This year it’s been different, certainly, and people are prone to saying things like “when this is all over,” and “when we get back to normal,” phrases that are likely to hold back personal progress as well as impact mental health by focusing us on uncontrollables.

There are things you can do. Now. Here are two you’ve probably thought of and two you probably have not. Do all four for three colleges and see what you learn. Then, do them all for another set of schools…pick some new ones and see what you learn.

1-Go to the home page of the institution, the admissions office, and the financial aid page. Read 100% of the words and watch 100% of the videos. Keep clicking, reading and watching.

2-Do a Google search for the college using the “video” tab and commit 30 minutes to watching.

3-Use Google maps to do a street view tour of your own.

4-Create a LinkedIn account (you’re going to want one later anyway) and search the college, alumni, professors and students. See what people are up to.

If you’re paralyzed with inaction because you’re not playing as much as you’d hoped or can’t travel as you would have, you are missing opportunities to learn. There is plenty to be done.

Ask questions if yourself and of others, find people who have been where you are, and be willing to start over and over…just like preparing to take the field.

Ready? Set. Go.

Personal statement

As a coach I enjoy digging into new things, reading about the ideas, strategies and philosophies of those who have written their ideas down before me.

What’s new? Is of interest. And, I know that the time I spend clarifying these things for myself and my teams is the most impactful work that I will do.

The slowing down and thinking and writing, the parts that are not always as fun are what works. For me.

At the start of the new year we look for new things: challenges, philosophies, topics to attack. What about those things that we had on our list in other Januarys? Did all of the boxes get checked? Are those things no longer inspiring, didn’t work or just became tarnished with the passing of winter into spring?

Maybe all of these things, or maybe I’m just really good at starting things…

“What does that look like?” is the question that has moved me forward as a coach more than any bigger questions of meaning, other people’s frameworks or philosophies.

The second most important question is what “what doesn’t that look like?”, or what’s not it? Once again, providing myself with examples, customizing the bigger thoughts, is what makes things move forward.

Education is free. When I take the time to learn and study what matters, globally and then make it fit for me…a stitch here, a tuck here, a little bit of expansion there… everything is customizable. I’m going to go build something. For me.

Controlling

In my many years of coaching (and living) I have incorporated a lot of ideas taken from others. I’ve stolen, borrowed, repurposed, tested out, internalized and discarded many strategies. You have to, I’m sure.

We adopt and customize.

The things that have stayed with me for the long haul are the ones I’ve made time to stop and think about, the ones in which the customization is more impactful than the initial adoption; when I’ve front-of-my-mind considered what this idea means to me.

One key nugget like this, that many people talk about is quote control the controllables. This is a concept that’s been talked about and written about for millennia, yet many of us first heard it on a team in college or read it in a book, from a therapist or a friend.

It’s a foundational idea: don’t waste energy, or time on things outside your circle of control. Super simple, obvious even, yet a philosophy violated more than followed.

On the first day of the year, when many of us are moved to think about our lives, our jobs, and our place in the universe, I bring this idea, control the controllables, to the forefront of my mind.

This is a great place to start, a fitting reminder of the most basic of concepts. For me, the customization part means that I have to actively take stock to decide what I actually have control over. To remind myself that it’s my approach, my ethic that matters. Nothing more.

For generations I’ve told players that it’s effort and attitude. That’s all they have control over, how they respond to what happens. I’ve preached it, I’ve practiced it even, but I know that I need the reminder.

Happy New year.

When All You Have is a Hammer, Everything is a Nail

Multi-tools are cool. Stuffed into a stocking, offered as a gift, kept in the glove box, just in case.

Oh, the things you can do with a screwdriver, wrench, corkscrew and nail clipper all-in-one! Whatever the problem, it’s got the tool for you…as long as you have a “standard” problem. And even better if it’s a small problem.

If your need is metric, or bigger than a nose hair scissor, or requires a hammer, the tool in the pocket of your backpack likely won’t do it.

For your problem you might need a 5/16-in socket, or a sledgehammer, those things are not in the glove box. Keep that multi-tool handy, there are lots of things that can help you with. Just don’t think that you can toss it in your pocket and be all set.

For what you need you should consult your customized toolbox.

If you’ve lived in one room, or remember your first apartment, you know what it’s like to try to open a can without a proper can opener. It’s doable with a knife and a hammer, but not safe, nor especially effective, and you might get shards of metal in your tuna, or glass in your beer.

So, for you Coach, start building a set of tools that will work for you in any circumstance. Perhaps you know you won’t need a sledgehammer, that your style will require a full set of sockets, or that Allen wrenches and needle nose pliers are going to be more important to you. Think about it, and for sure you should develop your skills for when you don’t have the exact to what you need, but you can do better than a one size fits all gadget.

And for sure have vise grips.

Camp

Cat’s in the Cradle, Puff the Magic Dragon, One Tin Soldier…a bunch of sad songs that make me smile every time.

A couple of dozen rustic cabins, a pond, other unheated buildings with picnic tables and smelly kids. Canoeing, archery, arts and crafts…and the singing. The singing was the staple of our world. And I was an enthusiastic but terrible singer. It didn’t matter.

This was Camp. Yes, with a capital C. Camp Downer (believe it – what a name!). A few adults and a bunch of teenagers. Campfires. Swimming. Singing.

Culture is a word and concept that everyone’s talking about–in sports, teams and business. Entrepreneurs, influencers, coaches and leaders of all sorts talk about the importance of building culture.

At camp, however, we didn’t build culture, we just lived it. Morning reveille, the bells, the bunk beds, the cold water showers and late nights of counselors drinking in the woods. All of it – the shared experience – was glue that stuck groups together. Forever.

Pick your year. The summer of ____ can be recalled in detail by many of the teenagers who shared just eight weeks together.

Camp Downer was anything but a Downer and remains at the front of my mind forty years later because we had “culture”. We shared the the fears, the fires, the bed wetters, the fake weddings…and the songs. The rhythm of our behaviors, the “we know what’s supposed to happen next,” the bugle in the morning and Taps at night…day is done. Now you know.

We were a team. And because we were a team then, we remain a team now, through grainy pictures and comments on Facebook. The shared experience remains etched. That, and the songs.

We’ll get together then…

Milkweed Project

Milkweed is a life cycle on display.

It’s like an idea. Ideas are born, grow, spread their seeds and become greater through the additions of other factors. The offspring ideas find places to grow, the many seeds float and beautify on the way and a select few get lucky and start the process all over again.

For me, milkweed also reminds me of a time with my dad. A time when he made me grow by not helping with a school project. Even my tears which almost always worked on him did not that day.

The milkweed report was going to have to be written on my own.

I wish the fear of failure and procrastination tendencies went away that day with the milkweed report. They didn’t. I’m still a master procrastinator, sometimes moved to tears by my inability to get started. I know I’m not alone in that situation, but it feels good to say out loud anyway.

I am happy to have the milkweed memory to remind me that things do get done.

Rule #38

There is nothing like game day.

Now that our team hasn’t had a game day in what seems like forever, I’m tempted to say I appreciate them more than I did before.

However, that’s not true. I’ve always appreciated the chance to show up for and with my team and see how it shakes out.

Being “ready” doesn’t equal winning.

Working the process doesn’t mean the better team will prevail.

Being shorthanded, committing to your culture or being a great communicator means something to the game, they say, but regardless, the game will need to be played.

The fact that the game is always there is something we could always count on. Injured? Graduated? Quit? It doesn’t matter, the game will go on without you. Love your team more than anyone before you? Nope, it’s not important.

Just. Show. Up. We HAVE to give everything, but the game guarantees nothing.

I’d love to have that gamble in front of me tomorrow.