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.

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 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.

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.

Anticipation & Assessment

Regret.

We act hoping we won’t have regrets for doing that thing. We incur stress that the things we do or have done are wrong; we hope that we are pleased with results of doing.

On the other hand, we don’t as often consider how we might be changed by not taking action.  What if we said no? What if we allowed the status quo to be the status quo?  Might that also change us?

It follows that we should consider the double negative: what have you NOT been doing that, if you had been, would have been a bigger negative?

Assess your plan from all angles and consider all possibilities.

 

Strength In Asking

If you have a question, someone else likely does as well.

Asking involves risk. Maybe someone will think you’re not smart enough to get it the first time, maybe someone will think you underprepared for the situation.

Ask anyway.

What others think has such an impact on each of us that we can become paralyzed with inaction. When was the last time another’s opinion alone made you better, or worse?

Get the information you need, and know that on a team, almost always you will not be alone in wondering about that question.  By asking you make everyone better.

No Neutral Rule

There is no such thing as “not doing anything wrong” on a team or at work. If someone is saying that, they’re probably doing something wrong.

If you are not giving, you are taking away. Energy is a zero sum game.

When you answer, “it’s going”, or “as good as can be expected,” when asked how you are, you are violating the No Neutral rule.

Be mindful of your projected energy.

Alone At The Top

Coaching is hard. Any program or team has a lot of moving pieces in play at any one time: players, parents, bosses, fans, vendors, strategy, maintenance, skill development, team culture all demand time and energy.

We work harder. And harder. Too often coaches hunker down and simply try harder rather than ask for help or look for a better way.

The culture of perfectionism that we talk about in our athletes exists for coaches, too.

Protecting “our stuff” is inherent to the coaching profession. We think that secrets might be stolen, ideas brought elsewhere only to beat us later…asking for help is a sign of weakness, right?

Why protect your stuff? First, you’ve likely not done anything totally new, and so much of coaching is in the talent, the team-building and the communication rather than the ideas or strategies themselves.

Make an effort to learn and share, bounce ideas off coaches of other sports, other age groups, other towns or schools.  Find a way to make it less lonely and you might find yourself enjoying it more and getting better results.

Look To The Stars

It makes sense to read what champions have done, to follow the drills posted by those who have had great success, to “do what the best do”.  Following a proven path can lead one to success.

But, nothing is automatic.  Simply because it worked for her does not mean it will work for you. There are lots of possible reasons for this:

-she has more resources than you do…

-his players have more physical tools than your players do…

-her team is better shape than your team is…

-he has four assistants and you work on your own…

One person’s ideas do not always easily translate to another’s situation.  That coach’s ideas just might seem like a fish out of water in your practice plan, or you might not be able to pull it off relative to other things you say and do.

Instead, read and watch things that the successful coaches do and say, value them, and spend time making them your own. How can you take their concepts and make them work for you, with your team, in your situation?

It’s the time YOU spend thinking about YOUR program that is most valuable.