I love [insert your sport here]. I work hard and I try my best. At every practice I do everything I can to show you I deserve to be here. I work to impress you and my family. My parents believe in me. I believe in me.
I seem to have all I need, right? Well, I’m missing one thing. I’m missing your unconditional support. I know that you’re there to push me. I know that you believe in my abilities. What I don’t get from you is support “no matter what.”
If I’m hurt or not feeling my best, I’m afraid to tell you. I’m afraid of how you’ll treat me or how you’ll look at me like your disappointed. I’m sacrificing my body and my ability so I don’t have to confront you.
Does this situation sound familiar to you? Do you know an athlete whom struggles with an injury or a poor performance or two and wants nothing to do with talking to the coach? Unfortunately, this is all too familiar in our uber-competitive society. It’s the “whatever it takes to win” attitude. Take it from me, I’m as competitive as the next person, but when the athlete begins to sacrifice their mental and physical being for the game, we have a very serious problem. And fortunately, this problem can be resolved and even avoided. You may not like what I’m about to say, but, it begins with you, the Coach.
Yep, I said it. You can be the winningest coach, the smartest coach, the most motivating coach, but you also can be a culture crushing coach. What do I mean by that? One asset that many coaches do not have is learning and understanding their players. We expect this of our children’s teachers on a daily basis. We want the teachers to understand our children and tailor their lesson plans for each of them. Why do we expect it of teachers, but not of coaches?
As a coach, it is your responsibility to learn your players, to understand what motivates each of them. Players, just like students, are motivated differently. It is part of your duty to learn how to get the best out of each them. As well as, knowing when something isn’t right, like an injury. If you have an acute knowledge of your players, then you should be able to recognize when they are not 100%. Recognizing it is one thing, how you handle it, is another.
A player should never be afraid to tell their coach about an injury. Players are silenced because of the fear of being benched. Having an injury shouldn’t mean punishment. Show your player you care. Show them you are concerned more with their wellbeing than with winning the game. A little compassion at the beginning could save a lot of heartache in the end.
I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek’s Start with Why. It’s a book that was introduced to me in my professional life. And, recently I read this blog post about coaches balancing their Why and it really struck a cord a with me.
Start with Why is about your purpose, why do you exist, why do you do what you do? In business, the answer isn’t to make a profit, that’s a result. Sinek says “that people buy why you do something, not what you do.” In this video he uses Apple as an example. In short, we all have a reason for being and coaches have a reason for coaching, like in the blog I linked above.
Every coach has a Why, a reason they sacrifice so much, day in and day out. The example used in the blog is that a few families demanded that the coach do away with the equal playing time rule. This strikes a cord with me because all of the organizations my kids play for, have this rule, and we’ve encountered these same parents before. The coach (in the blog post) almost felt obligated to submit to those families out of fear of losing them to another club, in turn, compromising his Why. This coach wanted to try and “balance” his/her system to appease a few families. I absolutely love the response his friend gave him, “You do not balance anything. If you cater to those few who only want to win, it isn’t a balance. It is abandoning your principles. Instead, you get really clear on who you are and what you do….”
If your organization or coach doesn’t have a parent meeting before the start of the season, they should. A parent meeting is a great way for the organization or coach to lay out their Why, their mission. It’s not going to remedy every situation, but at least the Why is upfront for all to see. If they don’t agree with your Why, they should probably find a different organization. “Never compromise the many for the few.”
I can sit here all day and pull out great quotes from the blog post, but I won’t. I encourage you to read it in its entirety, especially if you are a coach.
I began the process of writing this blog by asking myself one simple question, why do I coach? Why do I do it? What started my inner drive to help others try and become better people, both on and off the field? What do I possess that makes me the type of person that would want to take on this role? What were the things that I experienced in my life that caused me to want to take on this very important role for others? Is it that I get to dive head first into someone else’s world and try to help them grow? Is it that I get to share in their successes and help them through their failures?
The answer always comes back to the same common theme. I coach because I believe it is important to have good people who want to make a difference in kids lives. This is all I have ever known. As long as I can remember I have known that there was something bigger than just me, I am just a part of this world yet I still have an opportunity to make a big difference. I truly believe that all of these parts come together to help form who a person is and what a person is all about. Knowing that youth athletes are at different points along a continuum, I want to be a part of helping them recognize they are capable of greatness. This was instilled in me by my parents and coaches. They taught me to be there for others and to try and have a positive influence on others. I feel now, more than ever, we need each other. I think we owe it to ourselves, and others, to open up and share what we have learned. Coaching is about motivating kids to try and be better today than they were yesterday.
I have chosen to follow what I believe is important. I have found something in me to share with others that I enjoy. It gives me a purpose and shows others a skill that if I chose not to share it, I would not have a completeness in my life. Being a coach allows me to be bigger than I am. Are you here to contribute something larger then yourself? Is this why you coach?
“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. “ – Vince Lombardi
I was a player before I was a coach or a parent. But, it was a long time ago; today I’m a co-worker and those values I learned long ago, serve me today. Now as a parent, I must remember what that was like, so I can share those experiences with my kids. Last time we talked about what it means to be a coach, to guide your players, to teach them the sport. Well, as the player your most important task is to be a good learner. This means showing up ready to work. This means being present and ready to learn. It means trying your best 100% of the time.
Once you join a team, there is no more I or me. As a player your child’s responsibility is to themselves, their coach and their team. If they have leadership tendencies, encourage them to step up and be that person for their teammates. Be there to pick them up, be there to encourage them. Be a doer, but also a shower (that’s almost more important). Show them that you always hustle, show them that you always give 100%, show them that when you struggle you are able to move on from it. If your child is not comfortable being a leader, encourage them be a team player, because that’s important, and it’s important to know how you can best contribute to the team.
A team player is someone that shows up to do their job. At practice their job is to listen to instruction, be respectful to the coach and teammates and try their best. At a game their job is to do all of the above but most importantly support each and everyone on the team. Cheer on your teammates. Give high fives or fist bumps, a pat on the back or a “good job” or “you’ll get it next time”. As a player they need to learn the game and try their best, as a team player they need to be the biggest supporter of each of their teammates.
Let your children know they don’t need to be best friends with their teammates, in fact they don’t even need to be friends. When you walk on that playing surface you’re teammates, no matter what else is happening around you. And if you’re all friends and want to spend time together afterwards, that’s just icing on the cake. This is the time when they’ll create memories that last forever. Enjoy it, live in this moment, because it really does go so fast.
One thing you will take away from being a teammate, is learning how to work with all different kinds of people and it will serve you your entire life. Remind your child that their individual commitment to the team is what makes the team work, and later, the company and society work. And that means we’re learning life’s lessons through sports!
So your kid wants to try out for the [insert sport here] travel team? Is your family ready for the commitment? Do you have what it takes? Does your kid have what it takes? This is something at Sports, Love & Family we feel very strongly about. It’s one of the strongest life lessons we’re teaching our kids.
Before you jump on the travel team band wagon there are some things you should ask yourself and your child. First, are you as a parent ready for this commitment? If you are not willing to drive your child all over the county for practices or games…you are not ready. If your social calendar is booked every weekend…you are not ready. If you don’t enjoy spending hours watching sporting events…you are not ready. If you purchased a vehicle based on seating availabilty and trunk capacity…you are ready. If you seek out sport events even if you don’t know any players…you are ready. If you are not ready for this type of commitment then there’s no point of asking your child if they’re ready. It begins with you. If you can’t give it your all, then don’t bother. The goal is to be an example to your child and if you can’t fully commit, then don’t do it.
Once you know you can commit, now you need to discuss what the commitment looks like with your child. Make sure you’re being honest with your child when you talk to them. Let them know how often practices are, how long and far away game days may be. Let them know how long the season is and if it interferes with other sports or activities they like to do. Because, parents, let’s face it, this is their first commitment they will make and how you handle this sets the stage for later in life.