Coaches Corner: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

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“Reaching your potential can’t ever be comfortable.”
—Kelly Sheffield, Head Women’s Volleyball Coach, University of Wisconsin

I read an interview with Sheffield where he said he expects his players to immerse themselves in the process of getting better and I loved that phrase.  There’s ownership required from the player and a level of expectation set from the coach.  And that’s how we got to the quotation I put at the beginning of the post.  Surely, we all want our players to reach their potential, but the process of getting better is oftentimes harder than our athletes think it will be.

So how do we get them there?

First things first, they’ve got to buy what we’re selling.  Sheffield was in a different position with his team, because he was in his first year with them.  But I think we should always remind our athletes about those things that we hold in high esteem…whether we’re in our first or twenty-second year.

  • What is your vision?  This could be a goal of winning the conference or it could be a GPA goal you have for your team.
  • What culture does your program have?  I just got back from evaluating a player at a tournament.  After seeing what I needed to see from her, I got caught up in watching another court.  The players weren’t engaged…with each other or the coach.  As a matter of fact, they seemed to hate the sport of volleyball!  That’s a culture and it has been created. Since we’re in charge, let’s be sure not to create this sort of environment.
  • What kind of coach are you? Do You! as Russell Simmons says and own it.  If you’re fiery, contemplative, stats geek, tough, nurturing…whatever your style, be comfortable with it, because it’s the only way your players will know what to expect from you.



Once they’ve bought in, they’ve got to trust you.  They don’t need to trust you to start them.  Helping our athletes to reach their potential isn’t some sort of weird contract (if I work hard, then you’ll play me a lot), it’s truly for the benefit of the team…and by default, the benefit of the individual athlete.  Areas where we should be trusted include:

  • Do you believe in their skills?
  • Do you believe they can get better?
  • Do they believe you care about them as people?



Finally, they’ve got a choice to make.  As Sheffield says, our athletes can “make the decision to be extraordinary.”  It’s a daily decision our players must make.  To work hard.  To accept coaching.  To fail.  To keep trying.  If they make these decisions, they’ll be on the road to reaching their potential.

Want more Sheffield?  Check out:
Coaches Corner: Kelly Sheffield
Coaches Corner: What Does Enthusiasm Look Like?
Coaches Corner: The Roles Of Player And Coach
Coaches Corner: Four Things To Think About When Considering A New Job


Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals.  These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!