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.

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.

Kids With Options

Lots of people in the college coaching world are talking about generational differences and how to “relate to Gen Z” players (and staff). We are telling coaches and leaders that they need to open up and be more vulnerable to those they lead. What does that mean?

I think we’re getting “opening up” wrong.

Teams need trust for sure, but this does not need to be personal–on either side. Coach, you can show “who you are” simply by sharing honestly what you believe in.

When you talk about what you believe in and why, when you clearly share the things that are foundational to you, you’re automatically being “authentic”. When you know, you know and when you share “who you are”, that’s who you are. That’s personal without being personal. It’s unlikely that everything you do is going to work well, every time, but everything you are, the be behind the do, is real and that matters for trust.

Some coaches seem to think that sharing values and asking questions, aside from the rhetorical, is a sign of weakness that could damage their coaching authority. This is a challenge, yet by not sharing we risk lack of understanding as well as lack of commitment.

Commitment to what? This is an important question.

There is no middle ground. Either you state your beliefs and talk–even to yourself–about why they are important or you keep operating in a veiled manner that keeps people guessing. Kids with options want to know you.

Rule #22

This one is a fan favorite.

Something so often said, “you just need to work a little harder” and you’ll get what you want or reach your goals.

Likely you said this to yourself before.

It sounds so simple, like a done deal.

Work is often a part of the solution, but working harder we know is not always the answer.

How can you ask yourself some questions that might allow you to see things from a different angle? How can you take your foot off the gas and maybe make things flow more smoothly?

Trust Is Tricky, and Easier Than You Think

When you’re the little kid holding hands and jumping into the pool, you fully trust the other guy, you’re honest with your word. You jump.

But after that one time when the other guy doesn’t jump with you…when you feel laughed at, do you become the guy who doesn’t jump?

“I’ll trust them as soon as they prove their worth it”.

Will that work? How else to do that except to jump when you said you would? ‘Cause when you don’t jump, you’re the liar and the one not to be trusted.

What’s the downside to being in the pool on a hot day anyway? So what if you’re alone because your the only guy who jumps.

Every.
Time.

Coach, create a culture where everyone agrees that honesty and being true to their word is the thing–that jumping is only the mechanism.

Leading With A Vision Just Got Tougher

Leadership done best is an ability to present a picture of a future that’s successful, exciting and compelling. When people not only trust a leader as a person but are inspired by their vision, things are more fun and the process moves along.

When “the future” seems so precarious this becomes even more challenging.

Many “leaders” can’t find their way to paint a picture of a future that’s compelling, or are even able to consider what might happen. This is when the real leaders become fewer in number and even more important.

Finding our way toward leading ourselves in this way is, as always, a great first step.

When you know what your now looks like and why, it’s way easier to know what to do.

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