Know how older coaches have survived?
Being on the elder side of coaching, I really enjoy talking to young coaches. Twenty-something coaches have an interesting perspective.
Last week a few of us were comparing notes at lunch, and I was surprised at the common areas of thinking we shared. The generation-gap didn’t matter, nor did different sports.
And I was doubly-surprised how quickly the following list was generated and agreed on. Without further ado, I present to you 9 Harsh Realities Of Coaching Sports Today, as agreed upon by 4 coaches (1 old, 3 young), as they chewed their food.
Harsh Reality #1. Coaches lie.
We do. We lie — to ourselves mostly.
Partly because we have to … the reality of our situation may be too harsh to handle
Partly because it’s not played on paper — never is (except fantasy leagues)
And partly because there is something very intangible about our job. Call it chemistry, or magic, or karma there is a lot about working with humans that is mysterious and hard to explain.
Here are some of the lies we tell (ourselves):
- Next year is our year …
- I can’t deal with these parents …
- We lost because of that bad call …
- We lost, I suck …
- I could never be that good …
The insider-view: There are many more lies we tell. You probably have a few doozies you tell yourself. Knowing them can be powerful.
Harsh Reality #2: We are Bozos on the trolley.
Years ago, my mom and I took the subway into Boston. Growing up it was something we did often.
One day, we sat in the back, and soon after a full-dressed clown got on. He (I think it was a he) sat in a sideways-facing seat because his shoes were too big for the bench seats. He had a red nose, white face, and huge wild hair.
I just stared, not having been that close to a clown before. Over the next thirty minutes the reaction of the passengers that came and went was what I remember most.
The clown, who seemed exhausted, just sat there — hardly moving. Yet, without doing anything except sit, he had a huge impact on his fellow riders.
- Some were frightened (One kid was absolutely freaked out – no, it wasn’t me)
- Others waited to be entertained (“Get up and do something,” one elderly lady scolded)
- Several ignored him
- One fellow wandered over and started lecturing him on how to be funny (” I used to be a clown, and this is what you should do…”)
The insider-view: Looking back on that, fifty-years later, aren’t coaches rather like Bozo? Not because we are clowns, but in the way many people view us?
Harsh Reality #3. Thick skin, thin skull makes a good coach.
A thick skin is a prerequisite for joining the Coach Club. There has to be some protection from the negativity, right? Actually, you’d be better off with Ironman’s suit some days.
Ah, but not the skull. Thick skulls get in the way. A thick skull makes it hard to listen when the Universe is talking to you. You’ll miss a lot with a thick skull.
The insider-view: Let the bad stuff bounce off and listen to the good stuff is how you survive/thrive in coaching.
Harsh Reality #4. One-trick ponies get shot.
Ninety percent of coaches only coach one sport. I get the appeal and advantage of it, but … I learn so much when I help coach my son’s basketball team. Or assist with a batting practice — even for only one session. Neither are my sport.
The insider-view: If you only know the tricks of your sport, you limit your depth of knowledge. Not necessarily a wise thing, especially when competition for paying coaching jobs is getting cutthroat.
Harsh Reality #5. Specialists get paid more.
“Hey, you just said to try coaching other sports!” Yes, but …
Here’s a truth — the more you do what others can’t, the more valuable you are. And the more you will be rewarded.
So become an expert in your sport, smarter than anyone else. But that doesn’t mean limit your depth of knowledge.
Who is more valuable to an international business, all other things equal: the person who is fluent in English and Spanish? Or the person who is fluent in 5 languages?
The insider-view: Become better at what you do, and trying other things can help that.
Harsh Reality #6. Teenagers are crazy!
Nah, they’re not really crazy. They are doing their full-time job, which is to:
- Drive you nuts
- Question the status quo
- Reject the rational approach, and go with emotions instead
- Ignore your solutions
They are very, very good at what they do! And, it’s just not today’s teens, but all teens since Day One. (You and I were just as bad, if not worse!)
The insider-view: If you can’t tolerate what teens are good at, don’t coach teenagers (and I extend this to any age group). It will put your mental health at risk!!
Harsh Reality #7: Winning is our currency.
We may hate it. Denounce it. Rail against it. Doesn’t matter.
The true valuation of a coach is the how much you win.
Face it, few would know of John Wooden, Pat Summit, Bill Belichick if those coaches had not won.
Retention, recruiting, following-the-rules are the $5 bills in your wallet. Winning is the $100 bill.
The insider-view: THEY expect wins, so give them what they want. Doesn’t have to be just the record, there are other wins that count too (awards, academic success, etc.).
Harsh Reality #8. Coaching owes you nothing.
The split-second it’s announced to the world that you’ve become a coach — don’t expect any presents. In fact, don’t expect anything from the world of coaching. What you get you have to earn.
You, on the other hand, owe coaching a lot. The moment you become a coach you are obligated to make the most of the privilege of being a coach.
The insider-truth: It’s funny how it works this way. Rather like becoming a parent.
Harsh Reality #9. Expect the unexpected.
An athlete arrested for arson.
Being shot at twice.
Making an Olympic team.
Standing next to Castro.
Parents fist-fighting each other.
Alums saving people’s lives.
Welcome to my crazy world of coaching. What’s yours like?
The insider-view: Expect the unexpected from coaching, and you’ll never be surprised.
Does this matter? Well, yes, if you find yourself on the receiving end of one of these harsh realities. But don’t be overly concerned — there are a few things you can do.
Actions You Can (and should) Take In The Next 24 Hours
Start by asking this simple question: What harsh reality of coaching can stop me in my tracks? Find the answer, and then figure out how to neutralize it.
That should start your week off with a bang. In the meantime, coach well, we-oh-so-need-you.
Oh, and listen to a podcast or two. Made just for you!