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Leading is HARD! Right, Coach?

Mindset Made Simple Tip #97 - Watch or listen HERE.

Speaking topics for the annual Ohio Parks and Recreation Association Convention are due soon and the reminder popped up on my calendar this week. I speak each year on some aspect of leadership and this year I decided to talk about the fact that leading is hard.

This seminar prep combined with talking to coaches about the end of the year, end of the year evaluations and looking ahead to next season got me thinking about how hard coaching really is!

Every time our players told us they wanted to be a coach, my first thought was, “it’s not what you think it is!!!” It is WAY more than you can imagine or explain!

It is WAY more challenging, fun, exhausting, exhilarating, humbling, time-consuming, frustrating, all-consuming and fulfilling than they would ever imagine. What would you tell your players coaching is…really is?

When I was coaching softball, I thought about coaching 365 days a year. In fact, on Christmas Eve, my associate head coach called me (after I had just left her house after a Christmas Eve kids party) to ask where I thought the 2nd basemen should stand when we were in a 1st and 3rd situation on defense. I answered, said Merry Christmas, and we went on our way putting the finishing touches on our kids' presents and picturing our team running our 1st and 3rd plays.

Now I think about how to help coaches and athletes improve their mental game 365 days a year…not much has changed! THAT is how much we think about coaching as coaches!

If it was only that easy! Thinking about 1st and 3rd shifts on Christmas Eve!

It isn’t that easy.

Every year, about this time, college coaches around the country review the year behind and look to the year ahead.

It’s evaluation time, after all! Evaluations are necessary!

In fact, I urge the athletes with whom I work to do “After Action Reviews” or “Well/Better/How’s” on a regular basis. We need to evaluate, write down what went well and why learn from what we need to do differently and decide how we will make adjustments. (I can help you implement a system with your team, too!)

But it is also good to get feedback from outside sources. Who do you look to for honest evaluation? I mentioned a few weeks ago that Dr. Ziegler was great for me. In fact, I should be using her now (there is a challenge I just laid out for myself 😊)!

And then we read the anonymous evaluations. UGH!

No matter who you are. No matter how much you win. No matter how hard you try to do the right thing, someone or a few "someones" will write hurtful things about how you don’t care about X, Y or Z even though you lost more sleep throughout the year over X, Y and Z than you’d ever admit!

Truth be told, I am not a fan of anonymous evaluations, but they are a part of our culture that I don’t see going away.

Since this is the case, we must learn to deal with them…or adjust them…to help us learn and grow without undue frustration or angst (or constant rumination).

First, a small change to evaluations may go a long way, and here are my suggestions.

Tough and critical evaluations are not a surprise. We are wired to blast experiences and people when given a chance, especially when we don’t have to put our name on it.

Even when positive and negative events are of the same magnitude or happen at the same rate, the negative events have a more significant effect on us than the positive ones. Not only are the negative events/feelings more impactful, but we also have a tendency to dwell on them more often and longer than positive events and feelings.

In fact, they say it takes 6 positive things to outweigh one negative. WOW!

If we know this is the case, why not start an evaluation with questions about what went well or what happened to us or because of us that was positive? Since these are not our “go-to” thoughts (yet we know good exists), let’s help circumvent our nature and shed some light on the bright spots first!

Simple examples may be:

  1. What do you love about being a Greyhound? (Gotta love the Richmond Greyhounds, a la Ted Lasso!)

  2. In what three ways did being a part of this program help you grow this year?

  3. List three ways the program improved this year?

  4. How did you contribute to these improvements or the success of the team this year?

These types of questions help us remember that there is good in every situation AND it forces the respondent to think about their role in the overall performance of the program or relationships within it.

THEN, I suggest we limit all questions to those that relate directly to the respondent’s personal experiences. Since these are anonymous, the idea is that athletes should feel comfortable relaying any troubling information to the administration, so hearsay is unnecessary and unproductive.

Teaching and encouraging respondents to tell their own stories is empowering. There is no need to qualify it with how they think others feel. It is what it is, so let’s teach them to tell it like it is. Here are some suggestions that may get us moving in that way:

  1. Tell us about your relationship with the coaching staff.

  2. What do you need from the staff to be successful as you move through your career?

  3. What changes would you like to see to help the program move forward?

  4. What are you willing to contribute to help make these suggested changes successful?

None of these suggestions limit the respondent’s ability to air their grievances should they have them. What they do is help us circumvent our negativity bias – the gift that keeps on giving – and reflect on the whole picture since we know we are wired to hold on to the bad and blow right through the good.

“Oh, you’re just afraid of negative feedback”, I am sure someone will say! Heck, I wonder every time I send these tips who will love it or hate it and I sometimes think long and hard (probably too long and hard about reactions). But fortunately, in my 365-day thinking, reading and studying, I recently came upon a story of the Buddha and feedback.

“One sunny morning, Buddha was walking through a village in India. A man was upset with him and furiously shouted, "You have no right to teach others," he shouted. "You're as stupid as anyone else. You're nothing but a fake."

The Buddha was not bothered by these insults and listened patiently with a smile as the young man vented his anger. The Buddha’s reaction further infuriated the man and he asked, “why are you just sitting there smiling? Have you nothing to say?”

The Buddha then said, “if you want to give someone a gift, but that person chooses to refuse it, to whom would the gift ultimately belong?"

The young man replied, “well I suppose since I bought it, it would belong to me."

“Yes,” the Buddha smiled and said, "That is right. In the same way, I don’t accept your anger and criticism. It is all yours and you are the only one who becomes unhappy, not me.”

Oh, to be as resilient as Buddha!

If we can’t change the evals, if we can’t change perceptions, if we can’t change what has happened, we CAN change how we react! We can change how we feel. We can change the thoughts we allow to take up that precious “one thought at a time” space in our minds. But to do this, we need a plan!

Coaches and leaders need the same tools we are teaching our athletes. We all know this, but the value isn’t in the knowing, it’s in the doing!!!

No matter how the 2021-22 season went for you, knowing coaches the way I do, I am certain you want next year to be better! Can you think of a few adjustments in how you think could make it better?

How about beginning by reading those evals as if you were Buddha. This does not mean that you don’t need to adjust. In fact, adversity is good. It provides us with information about stuff that may not be working, and everything isn’t working, no matter how good you are!

Even if the feedback does not provide constructive information, it gives us an opportunity to work on controlling our reactions and allows us a chance to make some decisions on how we are going to manage our thoughts, feelings and actions in a productive way.

What is your refocus technique?

What is your “go-to” when you are headed down the rabbit hole of rumination? What do you do to move from victim to victor or from frustrated to ferocious?

Do you GET BIG and act differently than you feel?

Do you BREATHE BIG and use your physiology to calm your mind?

Do you flip your story and DISPUTE those negative thoughts that float around in your head?

What is your plan, Coach?

I've had the opportunity to work with numerous businesses and business leaders over the past few months on their plans, but have not shared this particular workshop with coaches until now. Join me on July 12th at 12 pm EST and let’s talk about YOUR plans in a session entitled “It Starts With You, Coach!” Register HERE.

So, if you can’t change the evaluation process (and maybe we shouldn’t) and you can’t change the outcome of the season, what can you do? You can take the time this summer to chat with your colleagues on the recruiting trail and realize that you are not alone in whatever issues may be under your skin.

You can change your reaction! And then, you can join me on June 15th at 11:00 am EST to talk about Focus and Performance and again on July 12th at 12 pm EST and get your plans set for 2022-23!

I look forward to seeing you!

Manage the moments and have a great week!


P.S. Please remember to share the links below with your athletes and colleagues. The more the merrier!

June 1 @ 8:30 pm EST - College athlete FREE workshop – Click HERE

June 15 @ 11:00 am EST - Focus and Peak Performance FREE workshop for coaches/leaders – Click HERE

July 12 @ 12:00 pm EST – It Starts with You, Coach! FREE workshop for coaches and leaders – Click HERE

Starting June 8 @ 12:00 pm EST - SSB College Athlete Summer Virtual Mental Performance Program – Daytime – Click HERE

Starting June 9 @ 9:00 pm EST - SSB College Athlete Summer Virtual Mental Performance Program – Daytime – Click HERE

Julie Jones

Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946

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