Friday, April 5, 2013

An Open Letter to Coaches

In the wake of the recent incidents at Rutgers and any other preceding case before it that has now been re-exposed in the media, I  would like to offer a few points of reflection for any coach out there.It doesn't matter if you work in the grassy fields of the local YMCA on a Tuesday night to the ivory towers of D-I Universities. I write this not intending to point any fingers or offend but to keep the conversation going on how to get the best out of yourself as a coach and subsequently get the best out of your athletes. As I tell clients and clinic attendees all the time: take what you want and use it as best you can.

Dear Coach,

You have one of the greatest jobs in the world and one of the hardest at the same time. In between long hours, late nights, unappreciative fans and parents-you sometimes wonder why you chose to do what you do. But the thought typically fades away quickly when you see the pure joy of accomplishment on your athletes' faces and see the hours and hours of work pay off. It's a grind, but those little moments are worth it.

Sadly, though, those moments seem to be forgotten sometimes and the satisfaction is replaced by frustration. You are in charge of numerous personalities and abilities, after all. Sometimes it seems like you're talking to a brick regarding some of them. Improvement at times can't come fast enough; especially when your job is on the line depending on the outcomes of the season. Sometimes it's magical, sometimes you're at a loss. What can you do?? How do you best approach dealing with administrators, opponents, staff members, and the athlete's underneath you? There is not one best answer, but here are some things I suggest:

First, always be honest with yourself and look within. What do you value as a coach, even more, as a human being? Are you being true to your value system? You don't have to be perfect, but how close are you to being the leader you want to be? When it gets difficult and you're scratching your head looking for answers-why did you get into coaching in the first place?

Trust yourself and those around you. If you don't have a common trust with your staff and supports, you're in for a difficult ride. Surround yourself with people who make you better at what you do. Regardless of experience and credentials-there's always something you can learn from others. The best teams and programs crank out consistent results because the synergy and trust in the organizational structure.

Winning. We all want to win, but sometimes it is taken out of context and put on a greater stage than it needs to be. Find a way to win, but with an element of grace and humility. What does a winner look like? Sound like? Act like? Convey this to your athletes regularly. Perspective is everything.

Model the behavior of confidence and success. Athletes look to you for an example and as a leader. A coaching relationship as a unique and special one. Whether you like it or not, they look to you for guidance.   They learn how to win with the guidance of a good coach. Don't fear mistakes, however, because you will make them. Just like practicing a new skill-these mistakes are merely doors opened for learning experiences.

When things get difficult, go awry, or get out of control-be mindful of your emotions. Many a coach has gotten caught up in the "heat of the moment" and has faced consequences. This goes back to looking within and examining yourself-what makes you angry? What is an appropriate way to handle your anger in a way that benefits the team. Emotion is part of sport-it is up to us to manage appropriately. If you mess up, blow it, or fall off the wagon-simply get back on-admit mistakes and strive to find new ways to change responses.

If you're struggling with something or feel out of control-reach out before things actually do get out of control.  Again, know your "buttons" and how to handle them.

Take care of yourselves. Don't take your sport or yourself too seriously. Time is precious, but leave some for yourself and your significant others. As Randy Pausch once said-"put your oxygen mask on first".

Again, if you're reading this, you obviously care about your coaching. Hope this finds you on the path to success. Know that success is a process. Know yourself, trust yourself, trust the process.

Adrienne Langelier, MA

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