[This is an update to an article original published in 2014]
Coaching can be an emotional roller-coaster, full of surprising highs and terrifying lows.
When things go wrong and you hit one of the lows, especially the low-of-lows, a normal reaction can be “I give up.”
I’ve uttered those words more than once.
Yet here’s the thing, often the crush of the low-of-lows is only temporary. Just around the corner is a better day.
But the trick is getting around-the-corner, over-the-hump, out-of-the-ditch, or whatever you call it when you fall down, pick yourself up, and move ahead.
Following are 5 actions I’ve used over the years (36 years and counting) to keep going as a coach. These are actions which have helped me get to that brighter-and-sunnier day.
#1. Remember why you coach sports
Let’s start with the most powerful step first.
Answer this question: Exactly why do you coach a sport?
This one piece of information is immensely powerful. Knowing “why” can stop negative thoughts in their track and help re-energize low spirits.
A few years ago we had a terrible discipline problem. It turned out a majority of the team broke training rules and several athletes were asked to leave the team. It was a dark time. Knowing “why” I choose to coach (I coach to help people find their inner super powers) helped me find light in the darkness. I came back to that phrase often.
#2. Take a brief escape from coaching
Short respites, ones less than a day, can give needed mental breaks during negative times. Even very short bursts can shore up flagging attitudes and have mental and physical benefits. Anything that engages you could work as a brief escape: movie, parade, shopping, exercise.
When I need a quick break, I juggle. Yeah, yeah, I admit it, I’m one of those guys.
I usually keep three juggling-balls in my pack and sneak away for a few minutes for a toss. I’m not very good and drop more than I keep afloat, but the juggling engages and distracts me.
Or I go find fun people to hang with. People I might not even know, but who are really enjoying themselves, like at a comedy movie, or street performer, or something silly…
I also suggest tuning out of the daily news. Today, the headlines are so divisive and extraordinary I found it a huge mental drain to read or watch the news. You might find benefit in taking a news break.
To determine what escape might work best, you need to know what type of coach you are. This might help.
#3 Stop the negative self talk
We can be our own worse critics. And it is not uncommon for us to lay on the negative self talk. Sometimes things aren’t as bad as they really are, on the outside. On the inside, things are looking really dark.
When my self-talk goes sour, and I want to give up, I look into a mirror and say a few of my negative thoughts out loud. I look myself in the eyes, and slowly say the thought.
I have found that within seconds I stop myself, and replace the negative comments with positive ones. Most of the time it works, this reflection trick, for me. But when it doesn’t, I…
#4. Lean on a social-support network.
There is overwhelming evidence that screams A HUGE FACTOR IN PROFESSIONAL SUSTAINABILITY is a social-support network. In other words, when things get tough the coach who has dependable friends and family will be around longer than the solo coach.
I have several buddies I can blast anytime with the “You won’t believe this …” Or “What would you do in this case …” messages. Their non-judgmental support is priceless. A dependable social-support network is life raft worth bringing on every journey.
[Warning, a social-support network is not the same as your social–media audience. The former are people you can count on, the latter usually just consumers.]
#5. Create an exit map from coaching.
Sometimes wanting to give up is caused by feeling trapped. Believing you’re stuck in quick sand and there’s no way out. Fifth grade was like that for me.
I wanted to give up. I still remember those days of despair and dreading school every morning. It was the school counselor who really helped me get over the dread. She and I sat down one day and drew a map of the rest of my fifth grade year, ending with dismissal for summer vacation. I carried that map in my little notebook, pulling it out whenever I started to feel trapped and wanted to give up. It really helped.
An exit plan is one of those coaching secrets you rarely hear about but one that might make a huge difference. Here’s my detailed take on it: 3 Ways An Exit Plan Can Make You A Better Coach.
#6. Find perspective.
I know I promised 5 steps, but this one is so powerful I couldn’t leave it out. Watch this video for a quick tweak of perspective.
A brighter day for your coaching?
If you try any, or all, of these steps and things aren’t better, then the reality might be you should give up. Quit coaching. Take a hike. But that’s a drastic step that should be taken only after some clear and deep thinking.
Here’s one final resource I’ll recommend, before you take any drastic steps. Make sure you do the homework section. Or read this book: Why Good Coaches Quit: And How You Can Stay In The Game.
“One reason people who spend a lot of time thinking about and working on a problem or a craft seem to find breakthroughs more often than everyone else is that they’ve failed more often than everyone else”. -Seth Godin