And You Are Who, Coach?

It’s all about you, and it’s about you making it not about you.

Your team doesn’t know all the things being a Coach puts on you. Your team sees only how you respond, and in many cases they think your response is about them. So, you see, it’s complicated, but also simple.

You must be clear on what they need to be and do in order to be a part of this thing you are leading.

So, it’s not about you because it’s all about what you’ve built and how you show your people around. Work on it.

How Are You Doing, Coach?

Actually, I think I know the answer. It’s either some version of “meh”, or — regardless of what you might say out loud — “I’m ok…It was a long/hard year, but I’m hanging in.” Those are the responses I get mostly, with an assortment of “I’m really, really struggling,” in there when people get real.

I also hear lots of follow up along the lines of: “…but i don’t want to quit coaching yet, I think I have more in me”. So for that I am excited. Coaches’ mental health is being tested alongside their athletes (and bosses), and we’re all finding our way. The biggest ah-ha moment for coaches, administrators and athletics alike is, surprise: coaches are human, too, and the malaise that we hear about in all corners of the world is affecting those in coaching seats, too.

Why that’s a surprise even to those Coaches who are having this experience (my hand is raised here), is really the surprise!

The comeback is going to be great. It will not easy, but it’s there for the taking. Cleaning up the expectations, the communication and accepting the flow of change in the world of athletics will serve us well. That, and offering grace to the other guy at every turn. We can do this together.

D. E. K.?

Does everyone know?

Do all of the central people involved in your program know what they need to know in order to move the team, program and individual in the right direction, with minimal friction?

The Coach whose answer is, “I think so,” probably should find out.

The knowledge they need to have starts with the standards and expectations and a clarity around: here, we do it this way.  This clarity allows people to show up and work together with efficiency. The norming of everything – the clarity of a program model that everyone knows – allows for both productivity and creativity.

The head coach first needs to be clear for themselves- tougher task than it would seem – and work to create easy to understand principles for all aspects of the program.

When everyone knows the games come easier and the connections grow deeper, things make sense and the outcomes are better and deeper than the inputs.

Ready? Go. I’ll meet you there!

“I’m Curious…”

The punctuation makes all the difference.

Caring a lot about the experiences of the people around me and being truly curious as to how things are happening for them is a key to being a Capital C Coach.

I start by asking myself what I’d really like to know. Rather than “how can I help,” I ask, “what does the situation need from me?” as help might not be the thing. Quite often the answer is “nothing”.

Curiosity helps me to slow down and ask rather than tell. It’s challenging for the head coach to think they may not be responsible for all of the answers…it’s also a weight lifted to realize we’re not.

Helping myself allows me to help my people. My curious approach reminds me that not everyone approaches things they way I do, and to slow down and truly wonder means I can be of greater help with less effort.

Win-win is a great place to land. I wonder what you think?

I Need You

Work harder. Dig deeper. Find it within you!

So many messages around us say that we can just do it; it’s not that hard if you make a plan and try… you’ll find it within yourself.

What if it’s not true that working harder will make it happen? If the digging and the searching inward doesn’t yield the answers, and perhaps never will?

What if we need each other, if the answers lie in reaching out as much as looking inward?

Connection helps.

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.