Diamonds in the Rough

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Regardless of where you are in your career, at one point, you didn’t know what you were doing.  Maybe you were really good at hiding it, but deep inside…you knew the truth.  So, you struggled.  Perhaps your team didn’t get as many wins as it should have based on its talent.  Or possibly your team muddled through major team chemistry issues due to your lack of management experience.

Someone believed in you.  Whether it was your athletic director or your recruits who still committed to the program.  You weren’t your current awesome self, but they could see it in your future and decided to get on board.

My guess is you’ve got players like that on your team.  Maybe they drive you crazy because they’re super talented but haven’t put it all together yet.  Or, even worse, they’re great in the gym or on the field with you, but are completely tanking in the classroom.  Don’t give up on them…believe in them, just like folks believed in you before you were quite ready.

I can’t guarantee that they’ll appreciate your efforts, but I can guarantee you’ll become a better coach through the process.

 

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.

Thriving As a Coach

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Coaches, our lives are like that movie Groundhog Day, where the main character relives the same day over and over again.  That’s us!  Our off-season comes at the same time every year.  As does our regular season.  And also our non-traditional seasons.  The athletes change, we change (hopefully getting even more awesome)…but the years are the same.

So how do we keep ourselves refreshed and excited each year?  Of course our athletes keep us excited and motivated, but how do we keep ourselves excited about the drudgery of a repetitive lifestyle?

  • Have fun: Whenever you have a crisis of spirit and wonder why you’re putting in these crazy hours, remember that you love your sport. You love your athletes.  And you get to lead, mentor, coach, and learn from these young people every day…that’s pretty fun!
  • Be yourself: When I first started coaching, I was acting the way I thought a coach was supposed to act…more specifically, a female coach. Only when I was true to myself (pretty serious, assertive, high standards) did I become more successful and have dynamic and successful teams.
  • Enjoy life: While we do spend lots of hours with our work, I encourage you to lead a full life…not just a coaching life. Hang out with your fam, grab drinks with your friends, workout, play candy crush.  Whatever’s your thing.
  • Stay positive: Control your brain. You have a choice each day to be positive or negative…choose positivity.

A coach’s life is repetitive.  Let’s be sure we’re repeating the good stuff!

 

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.

Be Inspired

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Inspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

I think most of us would agree that athletics lives just as much in our brains as it does our bodies.  As coaches, we want to inspire our athletes to push past their perceived limits, both physically and mentally.  But what about us, as coaches?

Who inspires us?

Shouldn’t we have people in our lives who inspire us to do or feel and be creative?  Just this weekend while recruiting, I asked another coach about a situation I’ve got.  She’s one of those coaches I can say, “So I’ve got this athlete who…” and she’ll challenge me to think about things differently.  That’s inspirational.

Be sure to have those in your circle who inspire you to do, feel, and think creatively.

 

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.

You Don’t Need To Go It Alone

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I think most of us know that we shouldn’t operate in a silo, but that ends up happening a lot.  As I’m sure won’t surprise you since I write quite a bit about coaching, I try to fight that tide in our department.

Coaching is hard work, yet addictive. Exhilarating, yet soul crushing. Discouraging, yet hopeful.  It’s this odd confluence of contradictory actions and emotions…it’s hard to go it alone.  But yet, we try.  I don’t know if it’s because a coach is new so they don’t want to seem as if they lack knowledge.  Or maybe it’s a seasoned coach who doesn’t want to look as if they don’t have all the answers.

My advice? Stop it.  We need a crew of people who have our backs.

What should that crew look like?

Seasoned coach:  It’s nice to bounce ideas off of other coaches who’ve been in the game for a while.  I will talk to any coach of any sport to pick their brains.  I always learn something that will help me become better at what I do.

New coach:  Look, I’m hesitant to say that I’m an “old” (use air quotes) coach, but I’ve been doing this for a while.  A few years ago, I went in to talk to a young assistant football coach and said, “So my players are always on this thing called Snap Chat (I’m sure I said it with a question mark)…do you know what that is?”.  After he stopped laughing, he explained and I learned.

Coach in another sport:  As you can see from those examples, I’m a huge fan of reaching outside my immediate circle of volleyball coaches.  My first year as a head coach, the men’s basketball coach at that school took time to sit down with me whenever I had questions…this man was amazing!  The way our team handles scouting reports is still based on his influence all of those years ago.

People who can help us:  Having folks higher up on the food chain who will fight for us is important.  Cultivate relationships with your boss, your boss’s boss, and anyone on campus who will champion your program and the positive impact of your team.

You don’t have to go it alone…you shouldn’t.  Find your crew!

 

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.

What’s the Point?

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Mentors.

That’s who we are to our athletes.  We have a tremendous impact on our athlete’s ability to have perspective.  The discipline, persistence, and tenacity they learn in their athletic lives can have an amazingly positive impact on their current and future lives.

So while we all want to win…that’s not the point.

So what is the point?

Right mindset: The outcome isn’t the point, the journey is the point.  Desiring to work hard, deciding not to give up, never being satisfied with one’s position.  Those folks are winners…but that’s not the point.  The point is their path to winning.

Goal setting: There’s always room for improvement.  After all, if winning is the only goal, we would all schedule “easy” wins so that our athletes feel good about themselves.  If the goal is doing one’s best and working one’s hardest each and every day…that is a lofty and challenging feat!

Constant striving: This is the athlete all of us love. Always ready for a new challenge, continually expecting to be pushed.  When they accomplish one goal, they just set another.

These are but some of the reasons I think athletes make better humans, though I am, of course, biased.  They learn to collaborate, cooperate, compete, succeed, fail…all things that will make them better people.

And that’s the point.

 

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.

Women in Coaching

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Madeleine Albright famously said that “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.  I am left to assume there is a less sarcastically special place in heaven for women who do help other women.

There aren’t a lot of women in college coaching.  Even less in college administration.  Even less when you move up the levels to Division I.  You can read more about that here.  This situation sounds like an invitation for us to help each other where we can.

So what’s a lady to do?

If you’re working with athletes who have a desire for careers in athletics, mentor them. Encourage them.  If possible, connect them with folks who can help them achieve their dreams.

If you supervise a coach who’s worried about being able to balance family and career, figure out ways to manipulate her work schedule so that she can be effective at home and at work.  Coaching requires a lot of hours…but many of those hours are self-managed.

If you’re an administrator, can you make your office child-friendly?  I don’t think our athletic offices should be confused with daycare centers, but creating an environment that helps coaches when they’re in a bind could help more women stay in the game.

Let’s support each other so that coaching remains a viable career and let’s be accessible to help raise up the next generation of coaches and administrators!

 

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.

It’s Worth It

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It’s supposed to be hard.  All of us coaches have our sayings and that’s mine…especially when we’re getting in some conditioning.  The point to the team is, don’t be surprised that this is hard work, that’s the intent.

I sure hope no one told you coaching would be easy.  Rewarding? Fulfilling? Awesome? Amazing? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.   But easy?  Nope!  Though I don’t know if “easy” was ever the intent…it’s supposed to be hard work.

So how will you do it?

Dream Big:  Since you’re working hard, you might as well dream big. Dream so big that it makes you a little nervous.  You challenge your athletes to push themselves outside of their comfort zones and I think you owe it to them to do the same.

Stay Focused: It’s nice to receive validation from others, but don’t expect everyone to believe in your dream.  If it’s appropriately big, people around you will be skeptical…and that’s okay.  You should be fixated on your dream, not other people’s opinion of it.

Surround Yourself With Good People.  Your players, your assistant coaches, all of the folks who will help your team succeed.  Your job here is to create culture.  Make sure all of these people understand your vision for the team.

Good luck to you, Coach.

It’s hard work.  And it’s worth it.

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.

Where Are You Going?

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Why do you coach?

Is it because you love your sport?  You love the athletes?  Is it because you enjoy being around young people?  I enjoy asking that question…I wrote about it here.

Another fair question of a coach or any profession, is where are you going?  Where do you expect coaching to take you?  When will you say, “This is what I’ve been working for!”?  There’s got to be an end game, a goal, some measurement that says, “I’m finished” or “I’ve succeeded”.

What’s your destination?

Championships won:  Perhaps you got into coaching because you want to win a lot.  Awesome!  What’s “a lot”? Every destination needs a map, how are you going to get there?  Winning is fun, it’s addictive, and it’s hard work.  Be sure to surround yourself (personally and professionally) with people who support, and don’t hinder, that good work.

Lives touched:  Coaching is a people business.  Coaches impact young people at formative times in their lives.  When their time with you is over, what do you want your former players to say of you?  That you were fair? Tough? Challenged them? Loved them?  Believed in them? Decide who you want to be and go about being that person.

Maybe you have some other marker that you’ve identified as knowing when you’ve “made it”.  Be sure you’re checking in with yourself, ideally after each season.  That way, you can be sure you’re making steady progress toward your destination.

 

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.

Believe in Yourself

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To: Young coach.

From: Someone who has been in the game for a while.

It’s easy to believe the negative stuff.  A player challenges how you teach a skill and you wonder if they’re right, maybe this other coach they had was better than you. A parent is grumping to you about playing time for their kid and you wonder whether you want to listen to that kind of nonsense every season.  Another recruit says, “Thanks, but no thanks.” *sigh*

Take a deep breath.

You’re forgetting about the athlete who finally “got it” after doing what you’ve been asking them to do.  Or what about that parent who took time to thank you for working with their kid?  And remember that game-changer recruit who had you jumping up and down in your living room when they finally said, “Yes.”?

It’s not all bad.

Get better. If you’re not always trying to learn, whether from coaches within your sport or those outside, you’re doomed to stagnation.  Stay fresh, keep learning.

Evaluate yourself. At the end of each season, go over everything with a fine tooth comb.  Identify areas of success that you can expand upon, as well as areas that just didn’t work and need to be scrapped.

Define culture. Figure out what traits you want your team, and those associated with it (including parents), to have and go about creating that culture.

Be confident. You’re going to make mistakes or make the wrong decision…that doesn’t make you a bad coach.  Good coaches learn from those mistakes and decisions and use them to become even better.  My guess is that there are a whole lot of championships built upon mountains of mistakes!

So, young coach, believe in yourself. Learn from the bad stuff and don’t forget about the good.

 

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.

Ode to Coaching

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Keep coaching.

There. I said it.  Don’t give up on coaching.

It’s a great career where you make a tangible difference in young people’s lives.

Yes, it has long (thankless) hours.  Yes, the parents can be overbearing.  Yes, it’s easier for the athlete to blame you, Coach, rather than take personal ownership. Yes, you have to think of one hundred ways to say the exact same thing. (Like, literally, the exact same thing.)

But, you enjoy mentoring young people, don’t you, Coach? You enjoy hearing about how they finally “got it”…whether it’s in their athletic, academic, or personal lives.  You understand that you may not always get a “thank you”, but it means a lot when you do.  You enjoy your sport and love seeing young people who share your passion.

So…don’t stop coaching.

We need you.

 

I’m embarking on a series where we reaffirm why we do what we do.  Please join me.