A Mindset of Process, Engagement, Connection and Vulnerability
When athletics is at its best, real life creeps into the competitive atmosphere. Real adversity strikes players and coaches. Some tough choices need to be made. The previous chapter was originally presented as a blog post, and I received some feedback on it, that perhaps it was too much of a downer message. Two different coaches called it ‘whiney’, and frankly I have no problem with that. One of the grim realities of coaching, is that we are going to have moments of weakness, we will have situations that are outside of our control. A great example is the De La Salle High School football team, which faced the death of a star player’s mother, and the death of a recent graduate who would be on his way from very difficult conditions in the inner city to play for a premier NCAA football school. Moments of weakness are found there, and yet its the support structure that we as coaches create, that tell whether we can overcome our own adversity, and help a team deal with intense levels of grief and still soldier onward.
Hitting the Wall, Sending Out an Authentic Message
What was refreshing for me, is that these coaches felt compelled to discuss that blog with me. The fact that they took the time to reach out, connect, show concern, and interact on a dark topic was helpful to me. Interestingly enough, I had been going through a time of considerably low energy, due to exhaustion from a lengthy trip, followed by a pretty tough illness that laid me out for over two weeks. The result of all these things working together was amazing. First I wrote the blog, then the feedback came, then I (mistakenly?) did not post the blog onto the wordpress, I only sent it to our email list. A coach responded wondering what the message was, and what the lesson was, as he was confused by the fairly negative blog. Styrling also chimed in after that email came in, and we had a talk. I responded to the email explaining the lesson of experiencing these negative outcomes, even when we are doing everything right. We are still dependent at times for the success of any group to have people with common goals, and better yet fully like minded with a very well aligned mission. I had a day of very low energy, and really was depressed to a degree, which I shared with Styrling, and thats where the magic happened. When I shared that vulnerable moment with fellow coach, he proceeded to pick me up. What he did not know is that I had delayed in calling a potential new client, because my energy was low, and I knew that if I called that person to make a sales pitch that there was very little likelihood of success in gaining that client. Styrling’s energy became my energy, I shifted my mindset back on track. Shortly thereafter I called that potential new client, and we had a very good conversation which led to an easy conversion. Looking back on this, there were some very positive outcomes. Obviously I gained a client, but how can I be sure that it wasn’t the experience that I had that created the synergy with her? Also, I put out a message that I am not invincible, and I do believe there must be a coach out that can be helped by knowing that putting on a false front is not the solution. We as more experienced coaches many times put on an air of invincibility, and that may not help coaches who are our juniors to have or accept empathy. Also, an opportunity to create greater understanding with that coach who reached out to me was awesome, because he knows much more about what I am all about and what Styrling is about as well. Finally, the coaching synergy between Styrling and I was increased as it came to light was the larger purpose was behind what looked like a failed blog post, the jury is out on whether it was a failure.
Paying it Forward, and Back
A while back I was at a conference, and I met a coach who was a multiple time NCAA National Champion. We talked for about 10 minutes, he told me to look him up on Facebook, which I did. We interacted a bit more, and I invited him to be interviewed by me. What happened next really surprised me. He told me how great it was to feel valued again, that for years he had felt left out and no longer a part of things. I was blown away, as we naturally assume that people who have achieved lofty goals in their lives and careers will always be surrounded by friends, that they don’t have any dark moments. This is when athlete centered coaches, reach out to other coaches to get them back on the rails, as then the work can continue better and stronger when we look out for each other.
Bottom line, never underestimate your value in another coach’s life, and never underestimate your value in the same way.
Standing By the Message
I thought about that a while, and decided to keep the message out there, in hopes that someone is helped by the idea that there are things outside of our control. I never once felt like I should retract the message, or overly explain it. Which leads us to how to handle that in a team context. No one here is perfect and we are prone to having difficulties in relationships, and facing upsetting circumstances in life. When we do, we have a choice about our mindset, how we continue to set the tone with our teams, and how vulnerable to make ourselves with our teams.