With it being the beginning of a new school year, I wanted to share something I’ve been thinking about that I thought might be a good reminder for all of us.
Athletics are obviously results based, with winning being the name of the game. Winning can be extremely rewarding for all involved, and we probably wouldn’t be involved in athletics if we didn’t enjoy winning and if competing didn’t motivate us. Winning or not can also affect our employment. Have said all that, I’ve decided going into this year that I’m going to try to appreciate and enjoy the process of working towards those wins a little bit more, regardless of how many wins actually take place.
For me, looking back, the relationships I’ve been able to build with athletes, coaches, and others I’ve worked with has been just as, if not more rewarding than the games won or even championships won that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of. If we are in this solely to win, we won’t be able to make the impact we could make, and our careers won’t be as rewarding as they could be. Talking specifically about the athletes we work with, if all we care about is winning, that will absolutely have an adverse effect on our potential to develop positive relationships with those athletes, be able to help them to buy into what we are trying to accomplish with them, and gain their trust so that they are confident that we have their best interest in mind. If they feel like we treat them as just a means to an end – winning – we will not get very far with them. If we have that type of shallow relationship with the athletes, it will also make the winning that we are fortunate enough to be a part of MUCH less rewarding than it would be otherwise. They need to know that no matter what happens, we care about them as people and want the best for them. By valuing the athletes we work with as people, and taking seriously the impact we could potentially have on their lives, we will be able to enjoy the process all the more. It will also make the winning that takes place even more rewarding than it would be otherwise.
I also feel strongly that if we focus too much of what we get out of our careers on winning, we will often become extremely frustrated with the lack of control that we personally have over that positive result. I’ve been studying the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey(VERY highly recommended), and in the book it talks about putting less of an emphasis on things outside of our “circle of control” or our realm of control. Covey goes on to say that we should keep our “circle of concern” inside of our “circle of control.” I think this is imperative for us as strength & conditioning coaches. It doesn’t take long to come up with a long list of things that we don’t have control of/that are outside our “circle of control,” that have a HUGE impact on the likelihood of winning games that our teams have. For instance, we have a very limited role in the recruiting of the athletes that are on the teams we work with, we don’t determine who the sport coaches of our teams are, we don’t determine playing time or playing style, we don’t determine the funding for the programs/teams we work with, we don’t ultimately determine the quality of the facilities we work in, and the list could go on. If we get too caught up in winning, and in turn, more caught up in these things that we don’t have control of, losing games can take its toll much more than it should. We should focus all of our energy on the things inside of our “circle of control” in the process, making it so that the aspects of the team that we have a direct impact on are never the reason for lack of success in the win column. If we do that to the best of our ability, we can take a lot of pride in the fact that we gave those athletes and the team the best chance possible of success on the field or court. We should never let the negative things outside of our realm of control with a team have an adverse impact our effectiveness with the responsibilities that we have with a team.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t value winning by any means. Winning, with all the hard work that is often involved and required, can be extremely rewarding. However, that process of working towards potential success can be extremely rewarding, regardless of the eventual outcome. We need to remember that we can take a lot away from the process of working alongside other great people in trying to overcome challenges and working towards potential wins.
I’ve been fortunate enough to coach athletes in a variety of sports and situations from junior high all the way to the the highest level of Division 1. I’ve coached teams that were extremely successful and anything but successful, as far as wins and losses goes. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy winning with the “good” teams. However, regardless of the record and outcome of each team, I look back and value the relationships with the athletes and coaches I worked with more than anything. I also was extremely proud of the teams that didn’t have as many wins, but kept competing with everything they had. The bottom line is, no matter who we are working with, we need to remember how lucky we are to have the unique opportunity to work with young people. These kids will recognize if we sincerely care about them as we do our very best to develop them and give them a better chance for success on the field or court. As strength coaches, we are also able to work with the athletes in environments that can be perfect to teach them long-lasting life lessons like hard work, responsibility, accountability, team work, etc. The athletes will be thankful to us for helping them learn and develop these qualities, and the relationships built in the process can be strong and lasting. The relationships and lessons learned will be remembered far longer than games that were won or lost. Enjoying this process can and should be just as rewarding as wins, so let’s enjoy and appreciate the process a little more.