As I reach the midpoint of my first year here working full time in the States, this piece has flowed out of me and it is not like my usual pieces. It is a strange mix of gratitude, confidence, shame and pride. I guess I feel the need to take stock at this time and take a look back to appreciate where I am.
When I came out to the states this time round in June 2015, my mentality was very different. I was a few years older, wiser, better read, and generally more experienced. I was coming into this environment from a completely different frame of mind. In my first venture to the United States, I was a wide eyed and naive young adult. I had different priorities and I was unsure about my career. Now however, I have a great clarity in my thoughts, words and actions when it comes to my career.
I take great pride in my work and actually enjoy the planning, and reflection parts as well as the more obvious delivery but in my beginnings this certainly wasn’t the case. I would pay little or no attention to reflection other than some sweary ramblings in the car if things went really badly and planning was either not done at all or sometimes done on the back of old gas receipts minutes before session if I felt the need. The thing was that these sessions were often just about good enough. The kids would come and play and I would facilitate rather than coach. I just didn’t get that I should have been offering so much more. I was in it for the wrong reasons. I was chasing qualifications and trying to climb the ladder in order to work with ‘elite players’ and work at a ‘higher level’. But now in hind sight I can see that coaching to a level that was ‘good enough’, as I thought at the time, was and is actually not good enough.
I’ve come a long way since those days.
Now I strive to go above and beyond on a regular basis and love doing so. I am always looking at different ways as to how I can serve my team’s overall development by manipulating the variables under my control. This may be things that I can change with my coaching delivery, my session structure, the coaching content or even the time spent on a given topic. It may be more external things that I can introduce to give us an edge in some capacity.
More team events outside of practice?
What kind of format should it take?
How involved do I want to be?
Every detail with any decision is then scrutinized to some extent.
Did it work?
How effective was it?
I am my own worst critic but also my biggest supporter. I have no problem in keeping perspective and I can easily recognize where I have come from in a short space of time, thus allowing me to keep a positive slant on things. This ability to remain grounded and keep perspective is a huge reason why I am able to move from session to session and keep my momentum moving in the right direction.
But I don’t do these things for the appreciation, or validation from any player, parent, coaching colleague, opponent or employer. I do this because that’s what I would want out of a coach.
I have realized that as a coach you are bound by the quality of the quantity of the relationships you hold. Most important is that relationship between coach and player. It is is something that is central to the perceived success of not only the player and coach but of the team when extended across a squad. I can gladly say that I enjoy the unique nature of all of the coach-player relationships that I have ever had, good and bad and the ones I am fortunate to have today. They are at the core of what I do and I wouldn’t be the coach I am if I did not put the emphasis I do into them.
Ultimately I am here to provide a quality service. A quality service in my eyes means that any player working with the coach goes on to continue to play next season with a year behind them full of fun, teamwork, hard work, and huge learning. I am inclined to feel that any player dropping out from the team or worse yet from the game means that the coach has failed them. Sometimes there are wider issues that we cannot control that can influence these decisions but by assuming as much responsibility as possible we can control the quality of our actions and hopefully minimize any walkouts that we do not want.
Basically, if you are trying to quantify the success of a youth coach it can be done by being fairly black and white. Do not look at the trophies, semi finals and top 3 finishes. But the retention rates. But more interestingly from a coach’s perspective, will be how we got to those retention rates. That is where you will find a coach’s coaching methodology and their true core values.
Perhaps the strongest reason of all, I do what I do and allow my ‘job’ to consume me because I get great fulfillment from doing it. I am willing to invest financially at a grander scale now more than I had ever even imagined, simply because I believe in the benefits for the collective over the long term. Also, I am feeling the effects of the theory that the bigger the financial investment the bigger the emotional investment. It should not be that way some may argue but I certainly see the benefits of making financial investments both small and grand with all my players. I cannot help but become happy when they are happy.
I feel the strange paradox of being selfless is actually quite selfish. I am quite often thinking about how to improve the experience of my forty six players in my three teams and in doing so I feel a sense of calmness and tranquility mixed with energy and excitement. It’s like I am supposed to be doing this at every moment.