Is College Coaching a Good Job?

It’s tough out there!  50+ positions have turned over in college softball this year. FIFTY! A good amount of coaches–of both genders but more women it seems–are leaving the profession altogether.  #coachingishard

Tongue in cheek I have said that women are leaving more often than men because they are “smarter”, and when it gets tough the recognize that there are other great opportunities.  I don’t really believe that, however. I think that lots of “smart” people are finding coaching at the college level to be too big a challenge because “we” don’t adequately prepare people for the job.

Yes, it’s a job. One that needs training and deserves our best attention. Like teaching in too many places, however, we think about how people do the job and not enough about what the role of a coach should be.  There’s too much at stake to just roll out the balls and hope people get it.

Obviously, sports at the college level is zero sum. Those who win couldn’t do so without another party playing the role of loser. Someone has to win.  So, unless are are globally happy with a 50% loser rate, the scoreboard cannot be the only measure of success.

Let’s train people to define success (by this I mean administrators being honest with themselves and others) and devise a plan to achieve most of the goals. Let’s allow mistakes on the scoreboard and believe in our bones that, indeed, things like good team culture, kids enjoying the process and becoming “better” people will indeed lead to positive results on the scoreboard, but not every time and not simply because we hope that coaches and players alike “get it”.

We are better than this.

Embrace The Suck (not what you think)

You might not be good at ________.

You might even know it.

You might hate to admit it, but you really don’t care about getting better.

Although it’s not what people mean when they say it, you are (at least subliminally) embracing the suck.

It might even be your job that you have no desire to to the work to get better at.  Then what?  In some worlds one can just get by not doing things and still getting okay results…but there is a “fix” for those of us who are not willing to change:  find a good deputy or designee.

DELEGATE.

Become good at simply knowing what needs to be done…you don’t need to be good at doing it. Find an assistant, a #2, a captain, a colleague that can get these things done for you.

Embrace the suck, if you have to.

Team Malaise

What happens when a team just loses it’s mojo?

Is this simply a “that’s what happens sometimes”, situation or can it be fixed?

Finding the cause, or lighting a spark…is one more important than the other?

Go back. Go deep. Go internal. Ask good questions about why this team plays or works on the things it does. What are the values at the core of the project or program? What’s its collective WHY?

If you can find the seed of its existence and agree that it’s one worth working for, then you can determine the actions that the group must take to move forward, to achieve and take steps in the name of the WHY.

Identify the WHAT, too.  What will you do? What things will you not do? Keep track regularly and enlist a tracking system to hold the whole group to.

These small things are the only things…one piece at a time a team can bring itself back to creating a great future.

Big Me, Little Me

Most people have at least two voices, often competing ones.  We have internal debate. We have the “little voice in my head,” and we have “me”.

The “me” is the Big Me.  The one that others see, the one that takes action, makes speeches, plans practices and leads the team.

Little Me is the internal Me, the one that has doubts, or, sometimes, confidence; the one who wonders if that is a good idea, who tells us we might not be good enough.

For many of us, the Little Me is too often a negative voice, the one that says, “this might not work”.

This JV me often holds us back. Don’t let the little me have too much control. Be honest with yourself.

Be big!

Your Mileage May Vary

Have you heard someone talk about a tactic, a coaching idea of some sort, and implemented it in your program to no avail?  It didn’t work.

You’ve worked something in to a practice, or with a team and loved it.  Then, you try it again and are not satisfied?

There’s no simple one-size-fits-all response to these situations. Try it again? Do it differently? Changing a variable might change results, it might not. The most value is in your inspection of the situation. Your testing is important, and your consideration of the “why” and the “how” is just as important as the result.

Make a plan, execute, look back and assess.  Then, plan again.  “Try something new” is only one possible option.

Problems, Part II

Problem identified. Now flip it and look at it with a long lens. What opportunities do you see?

After you’ve decided that this situation is indeed a problem to be addressed and that there is a change to make, you’ve made a giant step in the right direction.

You probably see a chance to make a change, or make an impact.

Start by identifying the current situation, reminding yourself of the central principles you value and brainstorming some actions.

Choosing a plan doesn’t require you to know if it’s going to work for sure. Make plans anyway and start to do the work

Problems, part 1

What is a problem? Is this thing that’s happening or not happening actually a problem?  Perhaps the reality is just the reality and you’re making it a problem for you (and maybe for others)?

Once those simple questions are answered then we can get to work on finding solutions if we need to.

One solution might be to stop allowing the situation to be a problem for you. Perhaps your mind is allowing this thing to intrude and impact you in a negative way, making it an issue for you when it need not be.

If that’s not the case then work to clearly define the issue and get to work.

Regardless of Outcome…

Sometimes we say, before attempting any thing, that we are excited for the activity and will enjoy it, or learn from it, “regardless of outcome”.  True, we should always be hoping and expecting to learn from our situations, but too often this phrase is used as a built-in excuse.

We say, in advance, that we don’t really care about the outcome.

In sports, this is used when a team is young or inexperienced, or perhaps just unsure.

Having a good process and executing it well is for sure a key part of working any situation, but if we’re keeping score, planning and working to win is also part of the equation. Don’t give yourself an out before even starting.

Motive or Mistake?

When something goes wrong we often ask a version of this question: “why did they do that?”

This speaks to intention, that the person planned to screw it up, the “why?” implying that they wanted to make a bad decision. Of course, sabotage might be in play, but usually it’s a given that the person was not motivated to do things poorly.

Errors of all kinds come from a lot of angles. Typically, lack of focus or attention to detail, lack of skill, or poor preparation.

Coaches should understand this and teach focus in addition to skill and strategy, and look to ourselves to ask how we can better prepare our people.