Athletics is a great teaching tool for coaches and 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 after becoming a head coach that you can’t know until you sit in the big chair. I apply these lessons to my daily life as well.
Winning Is Important But . . . Winning or losing games should not define who you are as a person. This should apply to everyone, but I would venture to say that coaches who don’t win many games believe that much more than those who win. 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 it would. But you know what? Life isn’t fair. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins says, “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. Many 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. It doesn’t feel good to make them, but mistakes help us grow. Learning from those mistakes is what’s important. 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 give yourself a break. 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. Afterwards, 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 wonder what could have been “if only. . . .”
Have Patience. Not everything will 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! Award-winning broadcaster Robin Roberts says, “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.
Understand that there is always an opportunity to learn while coaching. Learning can come from other coaches, your players, or life’s daily circumstances. Always be open to lessons that will help you make a positive impact on your players’ lives.
Enjoy Your Position. Being a coach is a privilege, an honor and a blessing. How many people are lucky enough to get paid to do something they enjoy? Be grateful you get to do what you love even though the path is not always smooth. And remember that on your worst day, when nothing goes right, there is always something to be thankful for.
Coach Helen Williams has over 25 years of college sports experience. In her new book, “Coach Like A Mother: A Guide For The 21st Century Sports Coach,” Williams shares her diverse experiences. Coaches of various sports at every level can gain valuable coaching lessons. Buy your printed copy from Williams’ website today! An ebook version is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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