“I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you’re trying to accomplish.”
–Phil Jackson, Basketball
In my years of playing sports, I was fortunate to have many different coaches each with their own unique styles of coaching. I never had one coach that didn’t know how to effectively motivate me. Their styles of coaching, however, were as individual to them as I was as an athlete. When most players “age out” of a league inevitably a coaching change would also occur. Luckily, I was able to keep the same coach for the majority of our summer softball league through high school. Playing varsity sports, however, came with new coaches and a new level of maturity as a ball player.
Anytime a player, for whatever reason changes coaches, that event becomes a brand new period of adjustment. You have to develop the confidence and trust in the new coach just like the new coach has to develop the confidence in you as a player. You both go through similar phases at individual speeds. As a player, you watch your coach to see if his/her actions are congruent with the words they speak. You watch to see if your coach’s words are truth or just empty promises that are spoken out of convenience. Likewise, the coach watches behaviors of their players both on and off the field. They watch to see how individually motivated you are to play and to be a “team” player depending on the sport. They also want to see if you’re going to put forth 110% effort or just try to skate by half-assed. They look to see if you’re loyal to the sport and your individual game. Having an “off day” isn’t the same thing as few players perform perfectly all the time. How you recover and are motivated from an “off day” is what differentiates the good players from the great players who develop into champions. Through these observations you both have to decide if the person before you has the potential to be a part of a winning team. They also watch to see to what extent team unity has been developed. This is also when the coach sees if the “team” or individual is in need of some type of remedial work sometimes starting again with simply fundamentals.
In the game of my life things are incredibly similar. “Coach” and I have gone through an adjustment period with not all of it “fun” but necessary. She agreed to take this player on without having much information about the extent of prior coaching and essentially with an “AS IS” label among many others. She would use her gentle force of discipline to teach this hardheaded player HER way of playing. First, though, she had to determine at what level of functioning this player was performing. She determined that a previous coach a few years ago was quite damaging and was too controlling to develop the trust with this player. It damaged the player almost for good and didn’t allow for growth of anything but resentment for future coaches and the hurt and pain that wouldn’t leave anytime soon. Despite the rough shape of her new recruit, coach has seen worth where some others have not because this coach refuses to put down a horse for having a broken heart. She knows that what this player needs is to start back with the fundamentals which include love, compassion and above all…..TRUST.
Coach knew that this player was hurt deeply but with time, patience, consistency and a relationship lacking in judgment this player might just begin to melt and the potential that waits in the shadows might one day be achieved just like she had envisioned. Coach also knew that this process would be a marathon not a sprint and that both parties would have to be willing to believe that the process could work. After all, a win is still a win even if it’s not done gracefully. The biggest statistic that this player carries in her portfolio is that 199 times she has fallen and 200 times she has gotten back up. This player couldn’t and still can’t even begin to imagine the potential but coach can and that’s all that matters, as long as, this player is coachable.
Practice after practice and with trust building on both sides coach began to see what she had initially envisioned for this player. This player has shown that she works hard for every play and gives her all in practice because she hungers to be a champion again despite what she has been told and the already failed expectations of others that has left her with a broken spirit. Coach saw that this player had aggression that needed to be tamed but would never hurt her again like some previous coaches did with invalidation. Coach knows that on the other side of this untamed aggression and with additional love and consistent discipline is an incredibly loyal champion waiting to emerge. How does coach know this? Because she can see that covered by a sometimes nasty shield of aggression is the heart of a champion that is currently keeping her player alive.
Today begins the ball season that this player has been practicing endlessly for even when coach hasn’t been watching. These “opponents” who are unnamed are those “teams” that left this player for many years scared, hurting and dysfunctional despite her best efforts. This player is finally entrusting of her coach to stand side-by-side and to play against these opponents as she has been guided and will continue to do so until victory is achieved. The battle wounds will be plentiful and falling down will inevitably happen as this is part of being an athlete. But she’s determined to win or die trying.
She is told who her first opponent will be and she begins to shake with fear. Her coach gently reassures her that her ability is there but that she is the only one who can execute for she is the player and that is her job. Coaches teach and guide. Ambivalence rolls down her cheeks for fear of yet another failure and this player takes the field to lead her team, as the team captain, like she has practiced many times. But not without turning to look back to make sure her coach is still there as promised just one more time. Standing there is her coach in the shape of that familiar and long sought after diamond. And once again this player has the confidence to show her trustworthy coach that she is indeed coachable.
Coach nods with one more sign of encouragement and hollers…..PLAY BALL!!!!
“Coachable people seek out those who speak truth to them, even if it is a painful truth, because it protects them and it makes them a better person and leader.”
― Gary Rohrmayer