Dear Distracted Dad,
Yeah, you! That’s right you! Is that Facebook newsfeed update so important that you can’t put it down for the next 30 minutes and spend some time with your son?
Or what about you? Yeah, the one with the kid jumping all over that couch without any regard for other people’s things at this birthday party. That “tweet” or quick check on Instagram needs to be done right now?
Seriously man, where are you priorities? These are called “moments” for a reason. They happen briefly, occasionally from time to time and will be gone before you know it. Then, one day, you’ll wake up, in a ditch, down by the river and you’ll be begging your kids to spend time with you, that is of course, when THEY have time.
So, put your phone down. Shut it off. Airplane mode, I don’t care.
Just be here…now…without any distractions…please. Those emails, texts and social media mayhem can wait…’til later.
A Devoted Dad
I’ve been meaning to write this for a few months now. After an awesome Easter weekend back home in Massachusetts with family and friends, I was determined to finish my thoughts on my keyboard after constant reminders on the freeways throughout our journey.
Ever notice the signs these days in big, bright letters listing reminders like “distracted driving kills” or “you text, you pay”? As a frequent visitor back home to New England, I feel like I’ve seen them all. They used to talk about drinking and driving or stopping for a rest, but now I feel it’s everything related to avoiding distractions, or else.
Have we become so focused on everything else, we forget about what’s going on now?
Call it multi-tasking. Doing too many things at once. Not paying attention. Day dreaming, whatever. All I’ve noticed is that when we allow ourselves to try and take care of so many things at once, nothing awesome comes out of it. The old adage that a “jack of all trades can be the master of none” holds true, especially when it comes to family.
Hi. My name is Adam and I’m a distracted dad.
I don’t mean to be. It’s never my goal to answer emails, start a project, work on the website, design a program, check business operations, write down an idea (or six) while playing basketball with my toddler son or giving a bottle to my newborn. I’m not looking for an excuse to get out of playing monster trucks or memory, it just happens. I get sucked in to the notifications and vibrations from my iPhone and run to it, as if it were a damsel in distress in the highest part of the castle amongst a fire breathing dragon…
“It needs me!” I tell myself. “If I don’t take care of it now, it’ll just haunt me the rest of the day.”
But, that’s not really true. I shouldn’t allow that email, text or small to do item affect my special time. Something so simple can wait…can’t it?
If I CHOOSE so, yes.
So why admit to this fault? Maybe it’s a call to action for all of us termed “fitness professionals”. Business owners, strength coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, all of you. We never leave work at work because guess what? Our work is our life. We love it! It’s what we do that defines most of us. For us, it’s more than lower body-fats, higher predicted maxes and optimal training loads. It’s about impact. About making a difference in someone else’s life through (insert fitness/training/working out label here).
But at what cost? And to whom does it affect most?
There were two instances that really inspired me to write this post. One was during a “parent and me” soccer class that my son Cody and I were participating in this past winter. During these types of classes, I shut my phone off, put it in the car and give my son my full, undivided attention. It’s me, him and the challenge of learning how to dribble, trap and score, all at the experienced age of two.
Another dad, well he didn’t do what I did. He talked on his phone the whole time, not listening to the instructor or helping his son learn the fundamentals. He then got mad at him for not paying attention and acting up and pretty much embarrassed him and his family while we all watched and waited for our turn.
Are you serious?
Or there’s the time where I go to “Messy School” every Tuesday and bring my kids to the town recreation center where they can crawl/run around and play with everything imaginable. Play doh, magna tiles, race cars, blocks, anything you can think of.
Some parents, well, they’re “there”. But usually in a corner, on their iPhone or huddled together with their friends, gossiping about the latest news or Pinterest post. And some parents are right in the thick of it, fully mindful of their experience.
I again, put my phone in the car and spend quality time with them distracted only by avoiding collisions between grocery cart races and playing catch. Because I know how crazy life is and for that special time, it’s just us and nothing else.
I understand. I get it. When you stay at home with your kids for part of the day like me (5am-10am) or most of the day like my wife (10am-8pm), you need a break. You need to talk to adults. You need to have an intellectual conversation about something other than goldfish snacks and potty time.
But, are we matching up our behaviors with our priorities?
I know I’ve struggled with quality time during what we call “normal business hours”. I think many of us young parents do. Our routines get out of whack, adjustments need to be made and there still lies a feeling of accomplishment when we get something done amidst the chaos of a frantic family. And sometimes, we just need a break. But, most of the time, we need to do better.
Imagine how much better we’d feel if we really took the time to enjoy what was going on around us?
- Like when your son goes on his first Easter egg hunt or plays in his first whiffle ball game…
- Maybe when your daughter crawls for the first time…
- Or simply, when after a long day of writing, texting, emailing, coaching, training and cleaning, your soul mate lies exhausted on the recliner waiting for you to get home just so you can “talk”.
So, if you’re like me and doing a million things at once, maybe it’s finally time we just slow down a bit.
Prioritize when things need to get done. Remember when work is work and play is play. Set time away specifically for family, faith and friends and not let anything come between it.
And focus on one thing at a time and marvel at its beauty and awesomeness.
Because one day, we won’t be coaching or working out. We’ll be sitting there…thinking and reflecting about everything over the years.
And when that time comes, I want to be reassured I’ve got a lot of memories to relive and rejoice about.
I hope you will too.
A “Determined” Fully Devoted Dad
One of the most sought-after qualities of any coach is being honest with yourself. Being able to understand the big picture in a cut-throat, ego-driven profession is an attribute rarely seen among coaches. I made the decision to join Bobby Smith at Reach Your Performance Training. A decision that was made easy knowing the importance of the impact I could have on athletes regardless of sport or level…
To see the video interview and read more, click below.
Thanks again Mark for the opportunity to talk and learn!
The bags are packed, the stories been retold and new connections are on the horizon. As I sit with my family of four returning back from yet another awesome NSCA Coaches Conference representing RYPT and the YSCC, I remember how great this week has been, connecting with former interns, mentors and friends as well as meeting so many great people. Hearing all their experiences and stories certainly makes me feel proud that they have come so far but yet even more excited for them to experience the real challenges ahead and how they will respond to them.
- Like balancing time between coaching and your spouse…
- Or managing both a business AND a family…
- Maybe moving yet once again and starting over, without a guarantee in sight…
A common theme I continued to hear from old faces and new dealt with the future, the uncertainty, the “Boogeyman” of the unknown. Whether it was college coaches flirting with the idea of leaving the sacred NCAA or an up and coming young coach seeking out advice on a new opportunity, the smell of fear was as pungent and rancid as ever.
I was a magnet to all of their questions, concerns and fears, and I couldn’t of been more humbled and honored to hear them.
I guess it makes sense. Since I’ve graduated from Springfield College in 2006, I’ve lived in six states from coast to coast, worked with six successful organizations, and held seven different positions from the professional rankings to the private sector.
I even married the love of my life, started a family of four with two beautiful children who can do this and even purchased two homes along the way.
I’ve gotten in and out of credit card debt, lived in Craig’s list ad rented rooms and garage apartments (twice), and ate nothing but cans of tuna fish and Muscle Milk protein bars.
And, at this point in life, I’ve never been happier.
So how can you sleep a little bit better at night and throw out the fear of the unknown?
Believe in the power of N.O.W.
Years back when I was at a crossroad in my life, I met with a leadership coach to help provide me clarity on the decisions and experiences going on at the moment. I was newly married, recently found out I was going to be a father and struggling to find inner peace and belief that everything would work out.
A summary of the breakthrough meeting went like this…
Him: So, what’s your biggest fear? What’s holding you back from making this decision?
Me: I guess it’s just the fact I don’t know if it will work. It’s a giant risk, something I’ve never done before and I’m scared that I won’t be able to provide for my family.
Him: So, you’re telling me that with all those degrees, all those certifications, all those life experiences, regardless of what happens, you WOULDN’T find a way to provide for your family? You would simply sit there, lose your home, let them starve and suffer in the inevitable failure? You wouldn’t work an extra job? Hustle around the clock knowing you had to do whatever it took to keep your family together?
And that’s when the light bulb exploded and I felt like this…
From that moment on, I knew that no matter what happened in the coaching or business world, nothing would stand in my way to take care of what matters most; my family. That moment is when I decided to do it N.O.W.
NO OTHER WAY
There are a lot of things that are going to happen that you simply cannot control.
- The weather.
- The economy.
- The football plays being called.
It’s a sad truth, but in today’s world, there are no guarantees.
- No promise your marriage will work.
- No guarantee the business will make money.
- No contract clause that will tell you your job is safe.
So why hold yourself back? Why allow what COULD happen get in the way of what WILL happen?
Imagine not pitching an amazing idea for your team or department because of the cost or logistics involved.
Or not taking a head coaching position because you know there is no way you’ll be successful there and it’s a dead end job.
Or starting a business from the ground level because you’re scared it will just stay in the red and suck you dry?
As we get older, we only lose more time and add more responsibility, so if we don’t make time for it N.O.W., when will we ever?
The temperature will change, the economy will crash and your head coach will probably be mad at you for something anyways, so why worry?
Why act in terms of maybes and possiblys when you should be acting with absolutelys and definitelys?
So, do yourself a favor and make a decision based off what you do know. That you’re a committed, dedicated and relentless pursuer of success and won’t allow anything or anybody get in your way of achieving greatness.
There’s No Other Way!
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
Almost three weeks ago, my amazing wife Mary Kate gave birth to our second child (and first daughter), Macy Anne. Even with another C-section for my wife, this was a much more tolerable experience than our first go-around with our son Cody. Being around a new hospital with new doctors and somewhat of a “what to expect” mentality allowed us to be more at peace with the process and end result which was a beautiful, strong little girl and a faster recovery for my wife.
Side Bar: But, let’s be honest. For the soon to be dad, it never really changes. You still sleep on a god-awful recliner that doesn’t want to stay open. The TV in you room is stuck on one channel with no volume and the AC unit somehow says 68 degrees but it feels hotter than the turf in Sun Devil Stadium. And I still don’t understand why they don’t feed us? I mean seriously, I’m staying at the hospital too chief!
One way or another, I came out of the hospital four days later happy, calm and ready to take on the world with +1 to our family. Despite sleep deprivation and an IV bag of coffee attached to my arm, the development of coaching and the entire continuum of how to make an impact amongst every athlete I come across still rattled in my head, louder than ever. And during my stay, I couldn’t stop thinking about one book that I recommend all our interns read their very first week, The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn and how the simplest of things can make or break such a beautiful experience like childbirth. Our experience at Monmouth Medical Center was filled with “Fred-like experiences” throughout our entire stay, easing our thoughts and fears before the real challenges began when we got home.
The Fred Factor is the story of a postman named Fred who delivers mail to his customers. Now, Fred isn’t any regular postman. Fred simply takes the ordinary job of delivering mail and makes it extraordinary by all means. He connects with his customers, goes above and beyond without being told to and takes the extra step when no one is looking. He sees an opportunity to make a difference in every task or situation around him, teaching us valuable lessons for both our careers and personal lives that not only enhance our productivity, but our overall happiness as well.
And it is because of our recent stay in the hospital that I felt compelled to compare our experience with the Fred Factor and how we can relate it to coaching.
Now, to get you in the same mindset as me, I want you to think about a few situations that may have occurred to you over the years…
Have you ever sat a table, only to wait almost 10 minutes to have someone snarl at you and ask you what you want to eat without introducing herself or welcoming you to the restaurant?
Or said hello to a cashier or gas attendant only to be asked “Will that be all” or “How much?” without any ounce of sincerity?
Or even work with people that bicker, complain and flat out suck the energy out of you and everyone around them when doing easy or simple tasks in the office?
I have. And I can’t stand it.
The biggest take-a-ways I got from the Fred Factor and what I hope our interns understand are what’s called the Four Principles. It was a simple four-day stay in a hospital that reminded me of how these very four principles should drive and shape the work place each and everyday to create the very best experience for customers (athletes, clients or whomever). Hopefully, you can see how important these basic principles are in not just coaching, but also outside the weight room.
1) Everyone Can Make a Difference
Do your coaches and interns truly understand their roles and what it means to be in the position they are in?
Do they understand that what they do, regardless of how much glitz and glamor it may or may not hold, has a valid and important purpose in your department or business plan?
I remember getting upset and often frustrated with all the data collection I had to enter in during my first years of coaching. Having a constant case of “Excel Eyes” and triple checking all my work to make sure I didn’t miss anything while it appeared the people above me were sitting around not doing anything productive.
Or maybe it was little things like weight room set-up, equipment reorganization or cleaning that never seemed to change or end. I mean, how many ways can you honestly reconfigure a weight room with the same equipment? (My record is 9).
But it wasn’t until I became a head coach and director that I realized how much OTHER stuff needed to be done while the data was being entered or the weight room was being set-up, broken down or changed. Wait, you mean there’s more than just blowing the whistle and slow clapping the breakdown?
What reminded me of this very principle was simply everyone that worked tirelessly inside the hospital walls during my wife’s stay. Everyone from the security officer at the front desk (who coincidentally has the title of Director of First Impressions), the ladies behind the cafeteria food and the nursing staff (shout out to Patti’s niece!). Things like getting easy directions for take-out food, second helpings or special food requests for my wife and the late night search for some K-cups on the recovery floor. Surely not the people or jobs we may label as “impact makers” like doctors, but nevertheless valuable people and positions that make the world of difference during a life changing experience.
So the next time you find someone on your staff complaining about the little things, explain to them why what they do is so important and how their purpose and position assists the greater overall picture of success.
Or if you catch yourself doing the very same thing, remember the last time the waitress kept forgetting to fill your water glass or the bus-boy who didn’t take your dirty plate before adding another plate to the table…
2) Everything Is Built On Relationships
How many times have you heard one-liners like the following?
- Communication in the key to success
- Success is built on relationships
- A successful relationship is built on trust
Regardless of the situation, a known and proven fact is that everything IS built on relationships. From hiring a babysitter to marrying your soul mate, the value of a healthy relationship is priceless. Despite challenges in getting to know people or figuring out if they are a good fit (think hiring new interns or coaches), the ability to connect amongst people you spend most of your time with throughout your life is vital to happiness and success.
Have you ever coached in toxic environment where you dreaded going into work everyday, only counting down the minutes where you could go home and prevent falling asleep to bring tomorrow closer?
Or fail to connect with an athlete who seems to just take what you say to him/her, spit it back onto your coaching shoes and walk away, not giving a damn of who you are or what you’re TRYING to say?
Relationships are the glue that keeps teams together. It’s getting to know people for who they are, not what they do. Who would’ve thought the woman responsible for keeping our hospital room clean used to be an elementary school teacher until she had to move to Puerto Rico and take care of her dying father?
Or the guy working the security “buzz-in” to the maternity ward was working two other jobs to help put his daughter through college?
Sure. Maybe getting to know people like that isn’t your thing. But, it’s amazing when people in those positions actually open up to you and then go the extra step for your care/service because you simply said more than hello to them.
3) Continually Create Value For Others
I get it. We’ve all got only 24 hours in a day. From the Fortune 500 company CEO to the free intern who is driving 2 hours round-trip to spend her time shadowing your groups/teams, it’s all the same. But, we’ve learned to accept that the most successful people spend their time more efficiently and effectively, constantly engineering success by creating value for not just themselves, but for others.
How many of you reading this have someone that might look up to you as a role model? Maybe an athlete, a coach, an intern or even a family member that constantly seeks your approval or wishes to learn from you? Are you PAYING IT FORWARD by teaching those who wish to be taught everything that someone along your very own development took the time to do for you?
Or are you brushing them off to the side, claiming you have no time or putting it on someone else because you’re too busy?
I started the Young Strength Coaches Corner for this very reason; to provide leadership and guidance to young and upcoming coaches so that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes me and other veteran coaches have already made or currently are making. By placing a premium on teaching and mentoring, we are able to share articles, insights and life experiences to ensure a greater end result; better coaching. While we have grown older and gotten busier with growing families and new jobs, the very premise of why we still exist still rings loudly; to create and recreate value for all those that are charged with making a difference in athletes’ lives; the coaches themselves.
4) Reinvent Yourself Regularly
This is my favorite one of all. It reminds all of us that despite the bad day we had yesterday or the grogginess and fatigue that sets in towards the end of a 12-hour grind, we have the power to be different and “reset” for tomorrow. Not one action or one behavior defines who we are, but rather it’s a collection of every experience, both good and bad that truly shapes who we are as coaches and people.
Sometimes we’re going to snap. Sometimes we’re going to say or do things we wish we didn’t. And as much as we wish we could take them back, we can’t. We fail forward by learning what we did and what we should’ve done to make sure the next time we’re in that very same position, we are armed for the appropriate response. And before the next opportunity arises, you’re fresh with a clean slate and ready for anything your way.
So, whether you’re a volunteer assistant, big-time head coach or simply a parent that helps out in your child’s youth league, are you a FRED? Can you make the ordinary EXTRAORDINARY and make a difference in this world? Will you provide value and appreciate the power of relationships? And when it hits the fan, will you have the power to rinse, repeat and start over?
I hope so. Because there are a lot of athletes out there counting on it…
Fall is finally upon us. As I swap out the sandals and shorts for jeans and a hoodie, I can’t help but get excited for the Friday night and weekend football games. Despite many first-hand sideline experiences with the game itself, I’ve never been able to truly enjoy any of it until I left college and professional athletics. I now have the opportunity to talk and check in with parents and watch our very own athletes perform on the gridiron, under the lights and away from the pressures of school and life. It’s here with the scents of fresh cut grass and sliced oranges that I find peace at the end of a long week (and before the arrival of my newborn daughter any day now).
But unfortunately, at a game this past weekend (Go BUCS!), I overheard a conversation that immediately triggered this post. My hope is to remind each and everyone of you of what we might be doing wrong and how our MINDSET can negatively affect our coaching.
Between watching the game and running around chasing my toddler son back and forth, I overheard two adults who CLEARLY knew how to coach in the lower area of the stands converse about a particular athlete who they both seemed to know or at least, take notice of. Maybe their son played PEEWEE football with him or they went to school together. Whatever. The conversation went something like this…
“He ain’t got a shot. I don’t know why they’re putting him in anyways”.
“The kid’s a NONNER. Look at him.”
“Would love to see what this kid’s parents look like.”
“Just bad genetics. I mean look at the kid. For cryin’ out loud.”
You get the idea. Now, if you’ve ever attended a high school football game, or any game for that matter, you know that you’ve got the SUPERFANS, ASSISTANT COACHES and overall CRITICS all around you. They’re the ones who don’t keep their mouths shut, offer their opinion on every play and even suggest their own play calling right from the stands.
It immediately made me realize that if these very people, parents of players on the same team, were so critical of someone they probably didn’t know well, how could it be any different than those who ACTUALLY knew the player?
Could the athlete’s coach(es) be saying the same thing? Limiting the potential of a young man simply because they saw him for what he is now, not for what he could become?
A topic that I have begun to read more and more about refers to this very premise; fixed versus growth mindsets and its impact in coaching.
Take the above scenario and find maybe three words that describe the parent’s interaction best.
Now, take the same situation described above and apply a hint of personal value to it. Let’s say, that was your son out there. How would you describe his ability and actions that were portrayed in front of the stands that moment?
Not there yet, but closer?
Determined not defeated?
The ideas of fixed and growth mindsets are explored in detail by one of my latest readings, Mindset by Carol Dweck. In Mindset, Carol describes two types of beliefs in regards to intelligence and aptitude.
Within the “fixed” mindset, individuals simply have it. They’ve got the talent and are natural at the tasks they are given. They’ve got the juice and just go with it.
Then there is the “growth” mindset, where the abilities are developed and learned over time, through trials and tribulations, personal values, and what we are willing to work on.
So, my question to you is…
Are you “fixing” your mindset before you even give the athlete a chance?
Coaches who hold a fixed mindset limit their options for success by narrowing their vision so tight, they can’t see the forest from the trees.
They reply back in recruiting meetings with answers like “Can’t change that. Bad genes. No shot. Complete nonner. Who’s next?”
They look at an athlete who is nothing but skin and bone and crush his spirits when he says he wants to put on 25lbs of muscle.
They refuse to work with the walk-ons because they’re not good enough.
But what about the coaches who open up their eyes, hearts and minds to the unknown, to the possibilities that lie ahead?
They’re the ones who reply “I can fix that. Not his/her fault, let’s see what we can do. We can work with that. Let’s get to work!”
They see each athlete as a blank canvas, a masterpiece waiting to come to fruition.
They view each experience as an opportunity to not just change numbers, but lives as well.
Fixed mindset coaches don’t ask questions. They go with the flow. They look to others worse than them to make themselves feel better.
Growth mindset coaches seek to understand. They demonstrate poise under adverse situations. They look to others better than them to learn and grow.
If you’re a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, there’s no doubt that you’re looking at physical attributes on recruiting visits. You’re thinking “What does this athlete have and how can he/she help our program?” But, aren’t you surprised by the few that maybe don’t catch your eye at the beginning or take a little bit longer to mature and turn out to be your MVP’s, team captains and IRON award winners?
Maybe you’re heading up a high school program where you simply don’t have the numbers to field a great team and you can’t perform cuts. More often or not, you’re going to have players that can’t get the job done for you now, but isn’t that why they call you COACH?
Or better yet, you’re the awesome parent who volunteers to coach the little league team and teach them about hard work, discipline and having fun but only play the stars of the team because we all know how much ESPN wants to highlight YOUR success with a bunch of 6-8 year olds.
Whether it’s coaching at the college, high school or even private sector level, we all have pre-conceived notions and opinions as soon as we set our eyes on our athletes. But, if we’re getting paid to DEVELOP athletes, we have to dismiss these notions and get to work, regardless of who is in the program. We should be developing and constructing the next set of all-stars and maximizing each and every athlete’s potential, both on and off the field.
Do you wish you had some extra toys or better athletes around the facility to help you write some really AWESOME programs? Do you tell yourself “If I only had A, then I could do B and C would happen?”
Well, often more times than not, the best programs are coached and written without fancy auto-regulators, accessory equipment and thoroughbred athletes.
Do you feel stuck in a position where there is no growth? Maybe you’re coaching at one of the worst ranked schools in terms of winning and you feel like if you were only at a better school with better incentives, you would coach better?
Why don’t you maximize and continue to grow as a coach regardless of where you’re blowing the whistle or coaching squat depth? Or listen to Joe Kenn and become the very best in the job you’ve got before you worry about the job you want?
If there is one piece of advice I’ve heard over and over throughout my coaching career, it is…
“Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are” (Theodore Roosevelt).
So instead of looking for a way out, search for a way into the athletes that you have the opportunity to mold and develop.
Look for bright spots along the way and illuminate the path for all to see.
And remember that we’ll never know where effort and time will take someone in their endeavors and aspirations, and that potential simply requires a little patience and persistence.
Special thanks to my nutrition coach, KSD, for the insight.
As the summer comes to an end, I can’t help but sit around and smile, reflecting on the past two months of hustling, grinding and coaching our athletes to the limit so they can be more than adequately prepared for the seasonal demands ahead. This past summer, we had the privilege of coaching and developing over 300 athletes in our 7-week seasonal program; almost three times as much as our first summer in 2012. We helped prepare over 50 incoming college freshmen for schools that range from Division I ACC to the Liberty League of Division III. We had record-breaking amounts of middle school, incoming high school freshmen and even adult athletes; all taking a shot and finding out about the RYPT experience. With the biggest staff yet, our interns and coaches have raised and set the bar to new standards for not only our company, but for our athletes as well. But yet, that’s not even close to what I’m really proud about. What I’m especially proud of is our athletes and their discovery and realization of their true potential!
In my last blog post, I touched on an aspect of coaching that we tend to hear about all too often; the transactional or “what can do you for me” style of coaching. I addressed a variety of personality types or coaching situations that were thoroughly explained by Joe Ehrmann, author of InsideOut Coaching. From misfits to saints, transactional coaches look at the immediate actions instead of long terms goals and results. From twitter updates or ESPN ticker announcements, these types of coaches and methods almost always flood our information channels and affect today’s youth.
And after a long hiatus from writing to focus on my family and business, there couldn’t be a better time to explain what I and a few others in this field are so passionate about; transformational coaching, or as I call it “coaching with a change in mind”.
You see, now is the time where our fall sport athletes and their parents reach out through twitter direct messages, emails and text messages just to say thanks. “Thanks for being great role models, thanks for pushing our children outside their comfort zone, thanks for helping them understand they are capable of so much more!” Nine times out of ten, it’s got nothing to do with a beep test score, a rep max on pull-ups or making the varsity squad as an underclassmen. It’s about them walking a little bit taller; speaking with a little bit more confidence and owning the field they are about to play on. It’s about helping them realize what it really takes to be great and to keep them moving forward in sport and life.
When working with inexperienced athletes at any level, how hard is it to improve their fitness, get them a little stronger and improve their mobility? Not very difficult. But, what about the intangibles? What about having the self-esteem to confidently walk onto a new campus and join a new team that is thousands of miles away from your comfort zone? Or the mental strength to balance a part-time job, apply to Ivy League schools and captain a repeat championship team?
We’ve all heard the rally cry of “Tough times don’t last, tough people do”, but are we teaching our kids toughness and perseverance? Are we using our platform to transform athletes of all levels, from Under-Armour All-Americans to NARPS (Non-Athletic Real People)?
Are we transforming our kids into better people and athletes? Are we helping our athletes truly understand what they’re capable of? Or are we simply blowing the whistle and running them through drills?
Transformational coaching is the anti-thesis to transactional coaching. It is the fire extinguisher to our flames, the light to our darkness, the finish to our start.
Transformational coaching is the pinnacle of winning, both in sport and life. By acting as a transformational coach, we continue to pay it forward and see the big picture without sacrificing our personal and professional morals and values. We treat our athletes how we wish to be treated because in the grand scheme of things…
How would we want to be coached?
It’s understanding that it’s ALWAYS about the athletes first. It’s doing what’s best for the athlete and team versus what’s best for you. It’s taking a set or two off the script because you know it’s not really needed that day and they could probably use a break. It’s remembering what it felt like when WE were in their shoes…
And sometimes, it’s even getting invited to their wedding or receiving a family Christmas card in the mail a few years later. It’s being the answer to the following question…
“Which coach had the biggest influence on you during your life?”
So, as you gear up for the beginning of your season or await the return of your athletes, remember the position you’re in and the power you have amongst today’s youth. Because you’ll never know which moments you create will leave not just an imprint, but an everlasting impact on an athlete’s life.
I want to especially thank Coach Joe Ehrmann for writing InsideOut Coaching and reminding me it’s OK to care…
Thanks for reading,
P.S. If you’d like to check out the influence for these last two blog posts, check out my presentation at the 2014 NSCA Coaches Conference titled “Coaching and Communicating with Today’s Youth” below.
As the weather warms up and athletes start to come home for summer break, I can’t help but smile when I hear about all the stories and events from campus the previous year. How exciting their first year at college was, the freedom of being away from their parents or how they look forward to come back home and really set the bar for the next season. While many of my colleagues in strength and conditioning are enjoying some rightfully earned time off or attending clinics and conferences these next few weeks, I am preparing for the GRIND. The subtle light breaking through my window, the never-ending saturation of sweat and constant smell of Simple Green reminds me that the show is about to begin.
But beyond the search for “bigger numbers and faster times”, what do our athletes really need this pre-season?
While we’ll do everything in our power to physically prepare our athletes for their return to campus, much of our time is spent at the beginning of the summer healing wounds of self-doubt and lack of confidence, often the result of fellow coaches and teammates failing to remember the power of their words. Some of our athletes will come home defeated, struggling to accept that fact that the coaches they met on their recruiting visit aren’t the coaches (personality wise) that they are playing for now. They’ll sit in our office, frustrated due to lack of acknowledgment, injury or the false promise of playing time. It’s up to us to change their outlook, help them through this difficult time and to continue to move forward towards self-satisfaction and peace.
It’s during this time, before or after training, we begin to explore what it is that makes them so unhappy. They begin to tell us of the text messages and the 6am punishment workouts; the verbal abuse and the head games; the ever reaching but always coming up short desire to please their coaches.
Did you ever have a coach that no matter what you did, nothing seemed to work? Maybe you got off on the wrong foot or just didn’t perform up to THEIR standards at one point?
Unfortunately, this happens a lot more than we think. First year college athlete transfer rates on the rise. Practices are being videoed and then exploited on the media and team meetings are being secretly recorded. Something has gone wrong! College athletes are no longer trusting the methods and motivational tactics that their coaches are using. Not all of these athletes are right, but unfortunately, a lot are.
Many of these coaches are referred to as what Coach Ehrmann calls “transactional coaches.” They are often associated with the “what can you do for me mindset” and display a laundry list of negative and poison producing behaviors around their athletes. These coaches are the ones who seem just interested in the end result of their team’s efforts on the scoreboard or the sweet bowl bonus at the end of the year. They get their team to “buy-in”, make them give everything they’ve got, only to take the next job as soon as it’s available.
They’re the ones who put their personal needs first and the needs of their team second. They’re looking for the quick fix, the easy way out, the “do just enough” mentality. Transactional coaches use the power of their platform to validate their personal needs for status and identity.
Are transactional coaches bad people? I don’t think so. Coaching can bring out the best in a person or the worst, and sometimes, both at the same time. As a coach, we are expected to do everything it takes to win. We are expected to get results. Unfortunately, the results and the “wins” are measured on the playing field, and not in life. Take a minute and look at yourself.
Is coaching bringing out the best or worst in you? Are you following the vicious cycle of ream, recover and repeat?
Below are different coaching personalities to watch out for as you analyze your coaching style. Are you any of these? Do you exhibit some of these traits from time to time?
The Dictator: My Way or the Highway
You don’t like it? TOO BAD.
- The Dictator allows no bend or slack in his/her ruling. There are no maybe’s, possibly’s or what if’s when it comes to communication. If you don’t like it, too bad. Go somewhere else. Talk to someone who really cares…
- The Dictator fails to individualize and empathize situations based off the person. They treat everyone equally, not fairly.
- The athlete is never right. It’s always his/her fault.
The Bully: I Dare You
Try me. Go ahead. Pull that again and watch what happens…
- The Bully instills fear and doubt into his/her athletes by assuming dominance in every aspect of coaching. Physical and mental abuse may be noted.
- Shouting, cursing and the occasional “you disgust me” or “you will never play here” can be heard once in awhile.
- The Bully manipulates minds. He/she comes across as caring at first only to slice and dice your confidence when the opportunity presents itself.
The Narcissist: It’s About Me, Not Them
I was responsible for that championship. I kept the team healthy. I am really the MVP…
- The Narcissist craves the center stage. He/she takes every opportunity to put a new highlight video on the Internet; brag about his/her program to the media and gloat about how nice the facility is, to everyone.
- The Narcissist uses personal matters that athletes confided in them to exploit and get what they want.
- The Narcissist is so preoccupied by thy self that he/she is blind to what is really going on.
The Saint: I’ll Fix That
Nobody else cares. Someone has to do it.
- The Saint feels he/she must save the world throughout the role of coaching. Everyone can be changed for the better. There are no lost souls.
- The Saint excessively empathizes with players, making sure no matter what happens, the players like them (Player’s Coach).
- The Saint often rescues players from tough situations instead of teaching them how to solve problems on their own.
The Misfit: I’m Supposed to Be Here
Just call me Coach.
- The Misfit needs to be a part of a team. He/she feels lost without belonging to something, even if it’s something they know nothing about.
- The Misfit acts out when challenged by players due to embarrassment and lack of knowledge.
- The Misfit painfully tries to satisfy a personal desire to be liked and respected by others
Unfortunately, we cannot always attribute one personality of coaching to only one coach. More appropriately, we are faced with battling a variety of different coaching styles that seem to peek their ugly heads through challenging times. And I’ll be the first one to tell you that I have had every single one of these coaching styles pop up over my career, some more than others.
When I started coaching as a graduate assistant, I felt I needed to prove my dominance and prove to my teams that I meant business and there were no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. I threw kids out of the weight room, gave cold shoulders and ignored pleas for extra help (Dictator).
When I had to fill in for my boss and took over team sessions occasionally, I acted out my “alpha-male”. I threatened, I lied, and I tried to be someone I wasn’t (Bully).
When a player of mine received extensive post-season accolades or accepted an offer to play at a prestigious institution, I looked to validate that I was responsible for that and it couldn’t of been done without me (Narcissist).
When I became a head coach for a program that struggled to build a culture of winning, I immediately felt a compassion for the players and wanted to make sure they liked me. I figured, “if they liked me, why wouldn’t they respect me?” (Saint).
When I entered what some may call the highest echelon of coaching, I made myself believe that I needed to be there and tried desperately to fit in, only to cause strain on my personal health (Misfit).
Looking back, I realized that I wasn’t just acting out various personalities; I was modeling the very same behaviors of those who impacted me along my own development as a coach. Every situation I thought of, I could point to a specific colleague, a coach, a “role model” and trace back my roots to why I was acting the way I was. Who would’ve thought an alcoholic little league coach or former lifting partner could have such an effect on my coaching style and demeanor today?
As Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich says, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” As a new parent, I’ve certainly taken a new view on what, when, how and who things are said around. We have no idea what the people we care about most will pick up and plant for later.
In my next post, I’ll explore the positive platform of transformational, not transactional coaching, and its role in developing and empowering the athletes of today to shape and mold the coaches of tomorrow.
Lately, I’ve been meeting a lot with our interns on programming and planning of training sessions. It’s something I truly enjoy and often go “off the script” when the opportunity presents itself. I get caught up in all the wow’s and woah’s of sets & reps, percentages, and sequencing of movements. To most interns, this is the meat and potatoes of coaching and program writing and they want to soak up as much as possible, because to them, this is game changing. This is what separates coaches that are hired verse those that get fired, right?
Not so much. Instead of focusing on what I call the “aftermarket products” of coaching like relative intensities, complex training and French contrast methods, I now want to prioritize the very foundation of coaching first; relationships. After a short number of years going from organization to organization as I advanced my career, there was always one absolute, one never changing pillar of performance for success; relationships. It didn’t matter if I was in the best weight room in the conference, had the smallest budget or the freshest “gear” from the equipment manager, everything came down to relationships and managing the process of building and maintaining them.
So before you ask yourself if the latest bar from EliteFts will make a difference in your next cycle (which it actually might) or if you should invest in the newest tracking software, make sure you ask yourself the following four questions from InsideOut Coaching and take the time to evaluate your role in a career that can bring so much change to the world.
WHY DO YOU COACH?
Is it because of the glitz and glamor of working with high level or professional athletes? Is it the excitement of being on the sideline of the nationally televised game of the week? Or maybe the newest Nike gear or access to amazing facilities and supplements?
Do you ever lose sight of exactly why you do, what you do? I know I have. When I became a head coach, I was so engrossed in administration, building a staff and establishing a new culture, that I forgot the very premise of why I entered this field; to make a difference in the lives of my athletes. And to me, that is through COACHING.
Now, I’m not here to tell you to get all mushy, break out the Spotify Coffee House mix and talk about your feelings with your athletes. But, I am encouraging you to take some serious time to think about why you’re in a career that requires so much. Sacrificing time with family, having the possibility of being fired due to the poor performance of 18-23 year olds and adjusting your personal and professional life around team meetings, discretionary periods and training camps. The greatest programs and coaches are not dictated by excel spreadsheets and flow-charts. Just watch how coaches and athletes interact with each other. That should be enough.
What is the driving force behind your coaching? Why do you go to bed late and get up early every morning? What is the “ALL SPARK” in your life?
WHY DO YOU COACH THE WAY YOU DO?
Have you ever thought about why you handle certain situations the way you do? If an athlete screws up, do you mother-F them in front of everyone and make them feel inferior to you and his/her teammates? Do you pace up and down the weight room shouting and screaming because that’s what your coach did? Do you dis-engage from your athlete, talk through the side of your mouth and change your voice when you address the group? Or are you YOURSELF?
For many of us, we got into coaching because someone impacted us. Someone took the time out of his/her life and imprinted his/her values onto us. Some experiences were bad and forced us to crusade against the world and try to change what went wrong thought our peewee and teenage years. For others, it was because someone made a difference. We felt connected. We felt a part of something. Essentially, we felt that somebody really understood us as people and helped us through tough times.
I challenge you to ask yourself why you do something a certain way and see if you can find the root of your behaviors, personality and/or style. If there is anything I’ve learned over my short career, it’s that you cannot be someone else! Your athletes will give their very best once you can do the same!
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO BE COACHED BY YOU?
This is truly an eye opener. Have you ever felt that no matter what you say to an athlete, he/she simply doesn’t get it? I mean, how can you not understand to bend the knees, set the hips back and do an RDL. You just do it! What’s the problem? You get so frustrated with that athlete that you write them off and move on.
Or you’ve got a walk-on doing everything he can to make the team and prove himself but because he’s not part of your “scholarship group”, you throw him to your interns or GA’s and let them deal with him.
Like many relationships in life, success really comes down to the delivery of your message. How many times have we heard “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it”? Just because we practice our craft anywhere between 6-12 hours per day does not mean our athletes, who see us anywhere from 2-8 hours PER WEEK, understand and register what we’re trying to teach them. Don’t assume they get it!
The next time you find yourself in a situation that requires more patience than usual, try to put yourself in their shoes.
- Are you explaining it simply, with passion and purpose?
- Are you communicating your expectations as clear as possible?
- Are you showing visual or audible frustration in front of them?
Side note: Make sure you check out Switch by the Heath brothers if you’re having a hard time connecting with athletes.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE AND MEASURE SUCCESS?
Lastly, how do you know if what you’re doing is working?
Is it defined by outweighing the W’s > L’s?
Is it your paycheck?
John Wooden defined success by having peace of mind, which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.
Joe Ehrmann defines success as the content of people’s character, leadership and contribution to the betterment of their families, their communities and the world around them. He recommends waiting 20 years and assessing the quality of the lives of the people you coached.
Personally, I think it’s a combination of both. Success is knowing you’ve done everything you could to teach your athletes that the lessons they learn in training with you are really lessons in life. What they do and how they do it in training will have a direct carryover to when they begin employment, start a family and advance their lives.
We all want higher power outputs, bigger 1RMs and a smaller rate of injury, but do we remember the little things during the process of chasing those statistics?
In my next post, I’ll be addressing two distinctive models of coaching, transformation and transactional, and I will explore the inner workings of each and their roles in today’s world. Hope you can check it out.
I’m not a world-renowned “expert”.
Nor am I a “highly-sought after” sports performance coach.
I don’t claim to have trained over “a dozen round 1 draft picks and hundreds of Division I athletes”.
Nor do I take the credit for “countless team and individual championships”.
I’m just a family man who has the opportunity and privilege of helping athletes reach their potential on and off the field, every single day.
And I love every second of it…
Here’s the thing. I haven’t hit the age of 30 yet and I have had the amazing journey of traveling through each field of strength and conditioning, sports performance, athletic development or whatever the latest buzz phrase is on getting kids “bigger, faster, stronger and injury resistant”. From Olympic training centers to NFL weight rooms and almost every coaching position from intern through head strength coach in Division I athletics, I was there.
I’ve been on the sidelines of “big-time” games where I couldn’t hear myself think. I’ve run out the tunnel and tripped over the smoke machine on Sunday. I’ve watched athletes do things that should be considered “impossible”. And I’ve been around a lot of great people who helped shape me into the man and coach I am today.
But something was missing. I was never completely…satisfied.
Sure, I got excited about the 1RM hang clean, the blazing fast 40 yard time and the joys and perks of working with the very best. But I knew there was more to coaching. I knew that when it was all said and done, coaching had the opportunity to change lives, not just numbers.
I tried and tried but at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like what we did was truly making enough of a difference in the lives of the athletes we coached. I mean, who really cares what you do and how you do it as long as there are more W’s than L’s, right?
Wrong. And while I know there are many great coaches and staffs who see the big picture of developing athletes as PEOPLE first, a majority of us get caught up in the immediate payoff; winning.
I get it. Winning puts food on the table. Winning makes us sleep better at night. Winning is the Holy Grail, the amoxicillin, the peanut butter to our jelly sandwich. It’s the understanding and sought after reason why we do, what we do. Who doesn’t want to WIN?
But it took me five states, five years and five different coaching positions to understand that I was missing the big picture and was too afraid to stand up for what I truly believed in. Winning wasn’t THE end to my means, it simply was ONE of the ends. And my means included more than five sets of five and repeat 110’s.
Fast forward to the fall of 2014 where I came across the book that essentially sparked the reason for this website and my responsibility to influence and inspire today’s culture of coaching and competing.
Suggested to me by one of my former interns (Gabby Gaudreault), Joe Ehrmann’s “Inside Out Coaching” was a life changer. It gave me the confidence I needed to truly stand up for what I believed in and remind people why we do what we do. It helped me realize that it really was ok to not worry about the immediate satisfaction of winning and instead look at the long-term residuals of the impact of good coaching. So, I had to ask myself:
Why was I defining success to what was going on now?
Here was a guy who had a very successful athletic career and felt empty, a void that could not be filled with more glamor and glory. No matter where he turned, the answers he was looking for were not found in the immediate and easy layer of success. It took a deep and thorough exploration of life experiences, both bad and good, to figure out the exact meaning of what he was trying to do in his life.
And after only about 10 years of coaching, have I figured it out yet?
Not even close.
But, through good times and bad, I’ve got a better understanding of what my purpose and role is with today’s athletes and coaches, and part of that is this website.
I’m not going to tell you how to do your job (as a coach).
Nor will I tell you that what I’ve done is the way it should be done.
I’m here to hopefully inspire, educate and possibly enlighten you on some of intangibles of one of the greatest services we can provide to others; coaching and serving others.
And I hope you continue to read and follow me on my journey of helping change lives, not just numbers…