Have you made mistakes like me?
The beauty of making so many mistakes as a coach, parent and professor is that I have plenty to write about. And hopefully, you will have plenty to reflect upon as you travel down the perilous road of coaching. If any morsel of wisdom trickles into your best self, then each article is well worth sharing.
“Winning isn’t everything; it is the only thing.”
This Red Sanders quote popularly attributed to Vince Lombardi has misguided so many youth coaches and I was one of them. It is so clear, so powerful and so macho that it resonates with every fiber of testosterone in my competitive body. I hate losing, as my friends can attest, and my early success as a coach only fueled an “it’s all about results” approach.
But a funny thing happened over the seasons as time passed. I forgot about score lines and I remembered the frivolity and the locker room banter far more than I could remember the scores. I remember Jeremy as a wonderful young student athlete and Rob as a tenor who filled the school chapel with his amazing voice. I remember Joe and Mark who as my assistants guided the lads with intelligence and passion. I remember road trips. I remember Mike, Scouse, Paddy and I laughing so hard during our days as aging professionals. I remember Chuck, a loving father, waking up early to meet the team bus with pancakes and maple syrup. Ok, that was before we looked into game time nutrition, but boy were those flapjacks delicious.
In short, I remember relationships.
Somehow in between those moments when I was lost about winning, I managed to be an advocate of my players. (I was not so patient with referees at times, but that is an error for another article.) I enjoyed winning. But I enjoyed more the lifelong relationships that were forged from the toil of training and the magic of matches.
You will age a bit, and that will happen when you are not paying attention. The next thing you know you are old enough to give advice, even if nobody is listening. You will begin to believe that sharing your best and worst traits may actually change the world.
Also in time, you will tend to value positive people a lot more. You will learn to choose with whom you associate and why.
I would choose to learn from a wonderful mentor like Bobby Clark all over again. I would choose to lead my amazing players all over again. I would choose to be with those parents that supported holistic development of their children all over again.
I still choose pancakes.
I would choose to win as well; it is competition after all. But, I would choose any coach that puts positive relationships before results.
And when I speak to you twenty years from now, you will remember relationships before you remember results.
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