The other day, I was watching ESPN while I was working out. One of the segments I watched first was about Johnny Manziel aka “Johnny Football” and his chances at becoming the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback. Shannon Sharp, one of the commenters during this segment, commented (paraphrased as I did not stop running to write the direct quote down), “…don’t be too hasty in making this judgment as most of the players he has been playing against will be signing up for unemployment or coaching next week.”
Well, I was taken aback when I heard Sharp’s word. I realize the point he was making about NFL preseason games but his comment stung. I just didn’t like how he lumped coaches into it.
In comparison, a few minutes later Jim Caviezel came on to promote his new movie, When the Game Stands Tall. He was asked why he took this particular role, Caviezel replied that he did it as a tribute to his coaches. He further explained that his coaches helped him become a better actor. That threw the ESPN host back a bit. So Caviezel explained how as a basketball player he learned how to deal with rejection which aided him immensely in the eight years it took to get his career going. He also talked about the positive influence his coaches had on him helping him pursue being the best player he could be.
Anyone who knows me gets that I am biased about good coaches. I love them for their work and their contributions to our communities. I wonder what Shannon Sharp truly thinks about coaches. I do thank Jim Caviezel for his feelings and finding a vehicle to share his experiences with the rest of us.
Thanks to our guest blogger Helen Williams for this article.
Athletics is a great teaching tool; for coaches as well as their players. Sometimes we coaches forget that it’s as important for us to learn from our experiences as it is to help our players grow. I learned several things as a head coach that you can’t know until you sit in the big chair, and I use these lessons in my daily life.
Winning Is Important But… Winning or losing games should not define who you are as a person. And even though that should apply to everyone I would venture to say that coaches who don’t win many games say that much more than those who do. No matter how you rationalize it, it is awful when you lose. You feel horrible when you put your heart and soul into something and it doesn’t turn out the way you imagined. But you know what? Life isn’t fair. I read a great quotation from the speaker Tony Robbins, “Expecting the world to treat you fair because you are a good person is like expecting a bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian.” So win or lose, live your life.
Have a Strong Sense of Self. Everyone will think they can coach your team better than you. You need thick skin in the coaching profession (and in life). Go to work every day and try to do the right thing. But never, ever base your opinion of yourself on someone else’s perception of you.
Try Not to Make the Same Mistake Twice. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. And even though it doesn’t feel good mistakes help us grow. Learn from those mistakes. I always think of the saying “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Don’t be stubborn and think you are always right. It’s okay to admit when you are wrong. It’s okay to be human.
Try Not to Make a Mistake So Big it Ruins Your Career. We all have that inner voice telling us when things aren’t right. Listen to it. It only takes one small indiscretion to ruin a career. Be smart.
Forgive Yourself. You are not always going to do or say the right things so lighten up on yourself. Many a night I lay awake worried because of something I said to a kid or the way I handled a situation only to go to work the next day and the kid had either forgotten, moved on, or forgiven me. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s wasted energy you could be using elsewhere in a more productive way.
Appreciate The Good Times. Coaches forget to “live life” sometimes. After games I let myself enjoy the win only for the amount of time it took to ride the bus home and then my thoughts immediately went to what I needed to do for the next game. There were times that, although I was extremely happy for and proud of my players and their performance, I didn’t allow myself to fully experience any of their joy. I think about that and hope that in the future I won’t forget to be “present” in the moment.
Relax. If you’re doing all that you can your dedication will make you successful eventually, whether it’s with what you are doing now or something else. Don’t be discouraged by failure. It’s better to try and fail than to sit and wonder what could have been “if only…”
Have Patience. Not everything is going to happen when you think it should. Everyone has a schedule in their head of how their career should progress. Guess what? You’re not always in control! Robin Roberts had a great quote, “God’s delays are not His denials.” We don’t always get what we want when we want it. Sometimes what we want isn’t supposed to happen. Often our destiny is greater than we could ever imagine. We just need to get out of our own way to achieve it.
Keep Knocking. So many times people give in to doubt when they encounter obstacles; some literal, some figurative, many created by themselves. Whenever I feel passionate about something I pursue it even though I may have doubts. I believe that if something is on my mind and in my heart every day, then there is a reason for that. So when one door closes I keep “knocking” until the one I need opens.
Enjoy. Being a coach is a privilege, an honor, and a blessing. Be grateful you get to do what you love even though the path is not always smooth. And be sure to remember that on your worst day, when nothing goes right, there is always someone worse off.
For years I have been a big fan and practitioner of the OODA Loop. The OODA Loop was developed in the late 1960s by US Air Force Colonel John Boyd to help train fighter pilots during the Vietnam War. But know I want to talk about it in the context of sport and how it can be used to teach decision-making on the field to your athletes.
The simple thing about the Loop is that is provides a decision maker–whether you are deciding what kind of ice cream to order or what play to put into action on the court–a simple way of cutting through the noise and distraction to focus on decision-making. You can read more about the OODA Loop here.
What spurred me to write this blog is a soccer coach’s (bettersoccermorefun on YouTube) short videos using the OODA Loop to teach decision making on the soccer field. Check them out here, here and here.
See if you can incorporate the Loop into your coaching. Good luck!
Thanks for Helen Williams for this blog.
About three years ago, I decided to learn how to swim. As a child, I did not have access to a pool and was somewhat fearful of the water. I had taken lessons before but never followed through.
Like most people, as I get older my body does not like exercises that require pounding. I was looking for a challenge, but not something that would make me ache when I woke up the next morning. So when I started working at MIT I knew that with their great aquatics center I really had no excuse not to commit. I enlisted the help of a coach and began weekly lessons. My first coach did a good job teaching me the basics. I worked hard and tried to make my body execute what I intellectually understood was the correct way to swim. But after the first few lessons, I decided to try a new coach. The second coach had an entirely different style. She was positive and encouraging with everything I did. When I was fearful of doing a forward roll to learn flip turns or jumping into the deep water where my feet would not touch the bottom, it was her patience and support that gave me the confidence to try and eventually succeed at both.
When I could barely swim a few yards, my coach told me that I should do a triathlon. “A triathlon? I can’t even swim 25 yards without gasping for air!” I said. “No problem. You will be fine” she said. In my head, I am thinking “this woman has lost her mind.” But my coach saw my potential before I did and she was going to make sure I eventually achieved it. I had not been coached in over 20 years and this entire process made me think about my own coaching style. Was I as positive and encouraging with my players as I should have been? Did I focus on the positive rather than dwelling on the negative? As I watch events like the Olympics and World Cup Soccer, I wonder about the relationship those athletes have with their coaches. I’m sure there has to be a lot of positive reinforcement in order for them to perform to the best of their ability and win medals.
It’s not that we coaches should never correct our players. If we don’t, we do them a great disservice. But I realized from my own experience that it really feels good when someone believes in you (sometimes more than you believe in yourself). Coaches need a healthy balance that works for them and their athletes. Figure out ways to critique a player’s performance while helping them maintain belief in their abilities. I encourage you to find an activity you like and be coached so you can view things from the perspective of your players without focusing on the win/loss aspect of the profession.
In 2013 I finally fulfilled my coach’s prediction and finished my first mini triathlon. And it was all made possible from that small seed of belief she planted.
You can learn more about Helen and her coaching journey at: