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!

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.

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.

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.

College

Many athletes think about and plan for their four years in College. It’s scripted in our minds and we can see the good times, the wins, the classes, the friends the bus rides…

We know that it might not turn out exactly as we envision it, but it’s likely to be great. We’ll start, be healthy, maybe even make all-star teams and win championships.

Get strong, get sleep, be ready. It’s gonna be great.

Ok, have a plan B, too.

Enjoy.

Rule #29

Providing clear standards and expectations is a gift that coaches can offer. The comfort that comes from knowing what’s likely to happen, and what will happen after that, is real.

An important part of well defined standards is “what it doesn’t look like”.

If the downside outcome is achieved the real or imagined booooo you hear is the same voice that says, “I know you’ve got this!”.

Get back after it knowing your people are in your corner and will be behind you no matter what.