The leaves have fallen, the temperature has dropped and soon enough, a new beginning will come from another season’s end. I look back on the past season of performance and play and learn from our experiences to prepare for the next round of training. From new athlete sign-ups to the return of our college athletes on holiday break, I can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment as we clear the slowest time of the year and enter into the eye of the storm ahead; winter training.
This past weekend, I was able to watch a local soccer team of ours compete in their third state championship in three years. It’s a team that made a commitment three summers ago to prepare themselves for more than the regular season, but for post-season play and beyond. Instead of running “captain’s practices” two weeks before their pre-season began, they trained HARD at 7am, three days per week all summer in a facility with no air conditioning but filled with passion, enthusiasm and high expectations. And when the season was over, they would reinvest themselves back into the program for winter and spring training, combining their efforts in the gym with local soccer clubs and regional tournaments and invitationals. It was and always will be our very first team at RYPT and win or lose… we know it’s more about the “doing” than the “ending”.
Despite a 1-2 record in the state championship, the level of achievement these athletes accomplished is truly remarkable. With great technical and tactical coaching, superior senior leadership and team accountability and a commitment to getting better off the field, it’s to nobody’s surprise that they made it this far, at least it wasn’t from my vantage point. Injuries will happen, game strategies will change and people will have two choices to make; step UP or step OUT. I expect our athletes to do the former.
But during this time, I see that our seniors come to the realization that they either will never play or it will never be this “fun” again. What are they supposed to do with their lives now? For years, they’ve defined their schedule by their sport of choice, committing themselves to countless hours of training and competition. How can they simply move on or wait until the next step magically appears?
Quite simply, what do they do when they reach the end of the road?
You remember that feeling, don’t you?
- When you finally realized you weren’t putting on that jersey ever again…
- When you wouldn’t be singing that victory song in that locker room after another big win…
- Or set foot on that field where you spent so much time preparing, practicing and performing in front of family, friends and teammates…
What happens when it’s all over? Do you define your success by what lies at the end of the road or what happens ON the road?
A great lesson I learned early on in my career comes from one of the best books I have ever read on coaching and life called “Make the Big Time Where You Are” by Frosty Westering. In one of the chapters, Coach Westering talks about what success really is.
You know… The normal characteristics of championships like undefeated seasons, diamond rings and gold embossed plaques, right?
I mean, isn’t the goal to reach the end of the road and win the last game of the year as beautifully put by Brad Pitt in MoneyBall?
Maybe, but that depends on who you ask. And if you’re asking me, I’ve got a small confession to make…
During my full-time coaching career in college and the NFL, I never was a part of a winning season…
Ouch. Does that mean I’m a loser because the teams I was associated with had more losses than wins?
I would hope you would agree with me and say No.
But is success really what’s at the end of the road?
Shouldn’t it be the road itself?
Think about it, have you ever accomplished so much only to be let down at the end of the road when it didn’t go your way? Work so hard only to come just a little short and feel like all your hard work went to waste?
- Like losing in the playoffs?
- Getting hurt?
- Missing a bowl bid?
Or maybe you wrote a cycle that simply didn’t work at the end during performance testing?
Or institute a new training method for your team, only to see numbers decrease and motivation come to a complete halt?
I have. And it sucked. But I learned from it and realized if we weren’t enjoying the process itself, the product wouldn’t really matter anyways.
So, if you have athletes that might feel a little disappointed how their season and career finished, get them to remember a few things…
- Like the goofy photos they took on the bus of underclassmen sleeping just to post on Instagram to snag a couple hundred likes.
- Or the PR’s they set in the gym year after year, pushing themselves to be better.
- Or the team dinners, freshman skits and super top secret stories from the locker room that they’re dying to tell someone else about.
But most importantly, get them to remember the fact that they MADE IT to the end of the road!
Because in the end, we’ll all remember the score but we’ll probably talk more about the Saturday nights, away trips adventures and the fact that we made it…
THAT far, THAT year with THAT team.
Thank you to Shore Regional Girl’s Soccer for the inspiration to write this…#stayRYPT