Coach, you make the difference
While it is in human nature to derive greater pleasure from success than from perceived “failure” in most aspects of our lives, winning is not necessarily the ultimate reward – especially so in the realm of coaching junior sportspeople, where there is such a broad range of growth opportunities and positive direction that can and should be delivered.
Winning is an outcome, a result, to which we may quite reasonably aspire – although not at the expense of other, more fundamental responsibilities that coaches have to young persons in their care.
Alumni contributor Mark Maguire provided us with his reflections on the role of positivity and self-awareness in sports coaches.
The coaches’ default system
Everyone loves to win. Though some can deal with losses better than others, I think it is fair to say the obvious that nobody loves to lose. I have never seen a team of baseballers, whether young or old (coach and parents included), not jump for joy and celebrate with gusto from winning a game after a long stretch of losing. Winning tastes better after losing.
Coaches have a default system built nicely into their DNA; that is to win.
No, coach, you’re not a bad person for wanting to win; you’re not a bad person for wanting all the right ingredients given to you to help you win; you’re not a bad person to even expect the support from your baseball club so you can lead your team to win. And you know what would make winning even better: that all the players and parents who are involved in your team liked you and said awesome things about you. Everyone would sleep well and there wouldn’t be any issues to deal with. Yes, winning… and when everyone’s a winner… that can’t help but taste good.
But let’s get back to the default system built into you that wants to win and to tackle a season that you already perceive will be full of downsides, frustration and losses. (If you’re an awesome coach with an awesome team with an awesome plan, you maybe wasting your time reading any further).
There is something you probably already know and probably don’t need reminding but I’m going to say it anyway: don’t focus on winning. Winning is a result, an outcome. It’s similar to the fact that when you focus on wanting to be loved and you try everything in your power for others to love you, the outcome is the person or group you want to love you, is turned off by you.
In every aspect of life we all must let go of the outcomes; they are too far away and hinder us from working on the one thing we have control over—ourselves.
Coaching Yourself First
Whatever group of young baseballers you’re working with this season, you’re teaching individuals techniques and skills to add to their repertoire so they will not only be better players but they will also contribute to the team better. You’re working on the here and now and what is in front of you. The outcome will take care of itself. And if the weekly outcome of the individual or the team is not what you hoped for, then you evaluate what has happened and keep working on the skills, techniques or even the respect for the game that you’re aiming for.
Coach, you make the difference
But now, here is the big thing, and I hope you are sitting down and not going to skim through this paragraph. The first and foremost person you’re coaching and are responsible for is YOU. I see it all the time when coaches (also parents and players) are complaining about what’s wrong, blaming others for their frustrations, and making excuses for why their situation is dire.
Coach, if you want to have any chance, you must STOP all these negative behaviours. These only reveal your own insecurities and fears about the outcomes of your team and yourself. You have lost focus on your own personal growth and what you’re learning and correcting about yourself.
I’ll say it again, the one and only thing you can control is yourself: your reactions, your mindset, your attitude!
If you are prone to complaining, excuse making or blaming others, it doesn’t create a good mix if you’re prone to wanting to win. Don’t worry, you’re not alone; but you will be alone if you stop complaining, blaming and excuse making, because very few make the effort to show self-control to stop it.
Breathe deeply and refocus on how you need to act or react to your current situation.
The default for any coach who is having a tough time (real or imaginary) is to try anything and possibly sacrifice anything to muster up a win. It feels good. Everyone now feels better, except of course, the ones you sacrificed. But sometimes, the sacrifice for the overall morale is worth it.
Don’t, however, sacrifice the overall good you want to create by teaching higher values of the game and having higher expectations of your young athletes. Eventually, you will be known to have made a positive difference and that difference will last a lifetime for those fine human beings entrusted in your care.
Coach, you make the difference!