Was it the coach or me? Did I give up, or did they give up on me?
I keep pondering this dilemma. Ever since my negative experiences as an athlete it seems like I have a personal vendetta towards coaches that don’t provide the right amount of support. But is that fair? Is there a right way to go about the coach-athlete relationship that provides the breeding ground for mastery AND success?
Was I just scared to keep pushing myself in the face of adversity and desperately wanting to go home? Or could they have taken just a bit more time to tell me that they believed in me, after taking the time to understand that I don’t.
Is that why I believe in fostering compassion and support for athletes and not subscribing to the ol’ “my way or the highway” mentality? It's a tough question. Both types of coaching styles have seen their fair share of success. Think Jurgen Klopp versus Jose Mourinho, or Pete Carroll versus Bill Belichuk. Different managers, with vastly different coaching philosophies, yet successful nonetheless. Sport is a tough business. It is results oriented, sometimes to a fault. But that doesn’t mean we have to shy away from competing. To compete is one of life’s greatest pursuits. I think we just need to redefine what competition is, and more importantly what success is.
There is no perfect method, just imperfect people trying to make things work the best they can.
Would I have thrived under a different style of coaching? Probably. But the reality is that both of us could of done better. I could have believed in myself more, and they could have done the same. There is no perfect method, just imperfect people trying to make things work the best they can.
If I was coaching me, would I be doing everything in my power to build confidence, or destroy it? What if they just told me that they know that I can do better, and trusted me to go out and do it. Maybe I wouldn’t have quit. I would have went above and beyond for them, paying dividends on the trust they bestowed upon me. But in addition to that, I should have worked on my internal world, and developed the right mental skills to handle adversity. Because ultimately, there are few things I can fully control in life, and coaches are not one of them.
So for those of you struggling through similar situations, understand that everything outside of you is not inside your control. You cannot make the coach start you, or give you just the right amount of feedback when you need it the most. Stop trying to change that. Focus on the things you tell yourself first, and build up confidence. This affects the way you feel, and eventually the actions you take which will lead to the results you want.
For you coaches out there; if I were to ask you what the most important thing for athletes is, you would most likely say confidence. So why do anything that destroys it? You are in a unique position to build someone up with the right feedback, but can also completely undermine someone's self-esteem with just a few words.
For you coaches out there; if I were to ask you what the most important thing for athletes is, you would most likely say confidence. So why do anything that destroys it?
So I think we need to both get better at this. Everyone has got their own problems. Why not help each other out in the process. Train the internal mental game, as well as create the right conditions for a mastery oriented environment. Support first, and then challenge. But then again, I could be wrong. Some of you may scoff at this method. That some people are just “weak” and need to be able to take a hit once in a while. And I agree with you. We do need to learn to live with adversity better.
There is one scene from That 70’s Show, of all places, that I think hits this concept home. There is a scene with Red (known for being a hard-ass father to his son Eric) and his wife Kitty. She is trying to get Red to not be so hard on his son, but Red is convinced that Eric needs to understand that life is tough and needs to learn the hard lessons. The conversation goes like this:
Red: The world is a tough place. You drop your guard for one second, and they’ll kick you right in the ass!
Kitty: Well, you’re right. Red, the world is hard, so, wouldn’t it be nice if Eric came home to a place that wasn’t?
I don’t think I have a definitive answer for you. Both views are correct. Depending on the context they have their strengths and weaknesses. So what I am saying is we need to find the best balance of both worlds. We need to learn to deal with challenges, but should also feel like we have the right support to deal with it. I believe we are in a unique time where we are starting to realize that going too far in either direction can have negative consequences. The right way, in my view, is to walk the line in the middle. That is not to say that it is easy, quite the contrary. But let’s experiment and see how it things play out. We might find that through a bit more compassion and support, individuals will be in a much better position to handle the inevitable hardship that comes with life and performance.
I am curious to hear your thoughts. What methods of coaching, parenting, etc. do you find to be most effective?