As coaches we know the obvious outcome we want to see is a win, as players we want playing time, stats, recognition for our achievements. As parents we want our kids to feel successful, we want to feel successful as parents, we want our kids to have the best.
But all of those things are outside of our control. We are builders, and we know we want to make the best building we can, but if we don’t mix the cement, pour it, design a frame, the we have no foundation at all.
What we need for a successful season has nothing to do with points or wins, or who offers our kids a spot on their team. We are building with the wrong tools. We are trying to build with talent, physical traits that are advantages, scripted plays, highlight reels and having the best uniform or tournament tent, and recruiting stats. But our foundation is a bag of unmixed cement, it’s not going to support anything at all. It’s like a lot of icing and no cake. Yea ok that might taste great!! But on a plate it’s just a hot mess…
The foundation is built by coaches, parents and players. Mix in the proper ingredients and build a team that’s solid, will stand the test of time, and will support the success that it earns for the long run. What is the foundation of success?
This may sound too soft for us hard core sports lovers, but the foundation we need for success is built with….Love. And it’s anything but soft.
Pour it into the team:
1. Love of the game. Love and appreciate all aspects of the game, respect its intentions, the work that comes with it and the joy of play. The game is meant to be fun, challenging, sometimes frustrating, but we have to appreciate all of it or none of it, we cannot separate it out.
2. Love of the players. Coaches must love their players as people before they love what they do as athletes. Parents must show love of their kids as people before their love of their performance. Players must love themselves and not base self-esteem on points, awards, goals or other’s opinions.
3. Love the work. It’s not always enjoyable to sweat and push ourselves, to grow as a person, to resolve conflicts, face failures, but love the work for what it brings, for how it makes us grow, love it for what it is even if it’s not enjoyable many times. The work is the water that makes that untamed powder become a solid structure. We need to add work, we need to put the muscle in to stir it.
4. Love the failures. Failure is a gift, it shows us where we need to add more work. It helps us stay humble, it provides the challenge that makes it worth while in the big picture. Embrace it, love it, use it.
5. Love the discipline. Getting up early for a run, sacrificing a want to take care of a commitment to your team, driving to every practice and game early Saturday morning, those things aren’t many athletes, parents, or coaches favorite things. But the satisfaction of disciplining yourself in order to become great, can never be matched by an accomplishment that didn’t require it. It’s part of the great that comes with giving exactly what you promised of yourself to your team. As Tom Hanks says in a League of their Own, “it’s supposed to be hard, if it wasn’t hard everyone would do it, the hard is what makes it great.” Discipline gets harder as time goes on, learn to love what it brings you, learn to see long term results and not just instant gratification as reward.
6. Love to watch. This applies to all three (parents,coaches, athletes) equally importantly. We spend so much time directing or, conversely, disconnecting. Coaches need to step back and watch, take notes, be silent and see what is unfolding. See the good and stop focusing quite so intently on mistakes,so directions become based on building strengths and kids are enabled to think for themselves and grow. Parents need to watch, relax, enjoy being a fan without any investment in the scoreboard. Just like when we watched them learn to walk. We cheered when they took a step, we smiled and worried when they fell down, but it was joyful to watch the process. Players need to watch as well. Champions are champions on the sideline as much as on the field. Are you watching what needs work on the field, who needs more support, where things are working and are you really vested in encouraging specific praise for your teammates? That’s your team out there, the other piece of you- are you as into the game on the sideline as you are when you are on it? Can you claim to be all in but disconnect when you step off the field?
6. Love your body. Treat your body like the machine that it is. It needs proper fuel, flexibility, it needs to be stressed correctly to grow but it also needs recovery. Junk in, junk out. Coaches and parents model how our kids will learn to treat their bodies. To be the best we can be, we must all keep health high on the priority list. Kids don’t naturally know about nutrients, proper conditioning and resistance training. We all need to be more educated and talk about it often, do it together, don’t just preach it but live it.
7. Love the possibilities. All of this love is aimed at a strong team, and strong teams mean great players who thrive on building themselves to be better, together. That opens doors to start reaching for possibilities. If your desire is to play at a higher level, to make state playoffs, or become a captain, be in love with the possibilities that lay before you when you embrace the right tools to build a great team. Don’t focus all your energy on the possibilities because the energy has to be on the build, but love the opportunties that will become open to you as a result.
So many practices or games I drove home feeling defeated because I was too focused on the outcome. I saw we weren’t building fast enough or working hard enough to get where I wanted to go and I wasn’t loving the process at all. But then I learned the secret ingredient to a better team, a better coaching experience, better parenting-fan experience and happier more successful players, was a lot of love. The stress and turmoil to meet expectations had to take a back seat, outcome based thinking had to be thrown out completely. When you love the process- every piece- even when it’s hard, the return is so much greater. The result is beyond any outcome based goals you could hope to shoot for.