What do you do?
It’s a question many of us ask and get asked all the time. How do you answer?
Do you say, “I plan practices,” or “I read and sometimes respond to incredible numbers of emails”?
As a coach you likely say some version of “I’m the _____ coach at ______,” or “I coach [insert sport here]”. That sounds like who you are more than what you do. Which is it?
Do you care about the difference?
Saying, “I create the conditions in which people and teams learn to inspire others with action and empathy,” seems a bit much…but that’s a great thing to be. It’s who I am, I am the one who builds such a set of conditions.
There’s a lot to DO, but I’d rather BE.
Are we at the end of history or the beginning of the future? Perhaps neither, we’re just here?
In many ways people think that “today” is the best version of a thing, idea, product, etc. that’s possible. Of course we know that things are changing, that evolution of that thing or idea has occurred, but we often accept the way we do it as the final answer.
What if we were able to view each day simply as an opportunity to make the thing even better tomorrow? If the thing was a relationship with ourself or another, a team or a player…could this be a dose of optimism that might propel us even further?
Resilience is overplayed these days. Everywhere I turn someone is telling me to bounce back, get the next one, look for the ways to rebound…
First, I’m all for making mistakes, and wallowing in them for a while probably isn’t so bad for us.
Why the hurry to get back to perfect, or pretty, or the way the world tells us we should be?
Bad hops are gonna happen. Turn around and chase down the loose ball–if you’re in the game there’s not a fungo hitter ready to hit you another.
We ask players to do it out side of formal team sessions, we know that our kids should get time in after piano lessons, people go to the driving range (not me, but some people)…do you practice the skill of coaching?
Do you work on your question-asking skill and train your eye with extra video work? Do you talk to the other coaches in your organization about the things they do that work for them regarding the infrastructure of coaching, not just the problem-of-the-day?
Find ways to get in the coaching gym and improve your skills. This is just as important as you technical knowledge.
Doing this is closely related to learning how to fail, just as we we ask our kids. You’re likely going to ask a yes/no question when you wanted more detail, or design a conversation that falls flat. Great!
Keep practicing being a coach. It’s more than doing coaching.
Most humans I know suffer from some version/level of imposter syndrome. We too often think that the things we think are probably wrong, too outside the box, something no one else is thinking on…or, just weird.
Experiment with saying all of the would-be wacky things you’re thinking and see how it goes.
I bet someone will say, “I’m so glad you mentioned that, i’ve been thinking that but thought it was too weird to say out loud!”
Let me know how it goes.
For over 30 years I’ve been coaching college athletes, and each of those years they spend some time near the end of the season writing evaluations. These can be simply checking of boxes, or that plus writing anonymous (usually) comments.
This is consistently the saddest day of my year.
Win or lose, a season is an incredible emotional investment for all. At the end, all coaches hope that players have had a “good experience”. We want them to have grown and learned how to play as a member of a team. We don’t always tell them that, however.
Players seem to have developed this sense that college coaches are there to serve their personal development first and foremost, just as their private and paid coaches have done for their youth career.
Of course they do!
This is the experience they’ve had in sports–most youth “showcase” teams are NOT there to be a great team, they are there to get kids opportunities after they leave that team. So, why do we expect them to change their perspective just because?
College coaches need to frame the experience that’s upcoming when they join a program. This should be done in the recruiting process, and made clear again and again.
It probably doesn’t include a coach offering non-stop individual feedback , so let’s be sure everyone is clear.
We should stop saying, “they should know how to put the team first,” when most kids have very little experience with this.
Recently I had a chat with a coach whose team was doing okay, but not great.
They talked about how the team was trying, how the kids had worked hard, how the team had some hardships over come in regard to injuries etc.
They talked about some things that had happened in the past and some things that they were doing now. A wide variety of thoughts were tossed out with a variety of levels of clarity.
As a coach of coaches I recognize words like those, and I really recognized the look in the eyes of this coach. They knew they were not telling the whole truth to themselves, nor to me.
They knew something was missing but didn’t really know it was them. Well, they knew..
The idea of taking the time to truly clarify the things that are centrally important to you is a task that is not actually that challenging. However it’s one that we don’t think to do and we don’t think we can do, and/or that it won’t make that big a difference.
Start by asking yourself what you believe in, what the central “you” is made of. With just those two questions you’ll start gaining ground.
What will your legacy be? Who will recall what you say and do, and how it impacts them and the world?
Is it what you say today or what you’re planning to say tomorrow, or next year, or at some other future point?
Every thing you say out loud you are saying at that moment. Why not try to be at our best for the person in front of us. Now. This is the only impact that matters.
How the receiver hears it is way out of your control.
As a coach you likely talk about controllables a lot. How are you doing on being in the moment yourself?
Take ten minutes and think, talk or write about what you want your legacy to be.
Your problems, no matter how “first world” they seem, are still your problems, and they deserve your best investigative skills.
You should have a system that allows you–indeed compels you–to spend intentional time and energy to work on your problems.
Solving them does not have to be the goal.
Working on problems will cause you to better identify what you care about, what your programs need and perhaps even uncover more problems to work on.
That’s a good thing.
Don’t deny that you have problems, even if you think they might not deserve recognition. Go find them, root them out and get to work learning from the situation.
“It’s important that, first and foremost, before anything else…”
You are a good teacher, or listener…
You have a morning routine…
You have well-established, stands-the-test-of-time core values…
You have a power pitcher…
You know who you are…
…and so on…
Really you just have to make your best effort at planning to be your best at whatever angle you decide on. Right now. For these people.
Yes, you’ll make changes. It’s ok. You’ll look back and say, “WOW! Was that a crazy ______!” (Ask your Mom for some middle school pictures).
The magic is that there is no magic. You create the tricks. Practice. Stink. Repeat.