The true measure of a youth coach is not in how many trophies ‘they’ have won, or whether ‘they’ won their last game. The true measure of a youth coach won’t be seen for many years, but it will be seen when the player gets into high school or university. It will be seen when the player is no longer reliant on being the biggest, fastest, or strongest (which tend to equalise over the years) but in how well the player is able to read a game and make the game-changing decisions. It is seen when a player is able to be gracious in both victory and defeat. It is seen when a player supports a team mate who scored an own goal, or made a potentially confidence destroying mistake.
I started this blog with the intent of talking about performance and social identity, especially as it relates to Tourette’s Syndrome. Instead I have found myself bouncing around from mental illness to youth sport and from suicide to hope. Last week I questioned my intent and asked myself some questions about what it is I want to achieve here, as recently I have found that a lot has been about hope. I started to think about this as typically I start out each article thinking about the direction my writing will go and often find myself veering off as my thoughts take a new direction. Now, after some reflection, finally I think I have the answer. No matter what happens in life, hopelessness will destroy it. While this is true across humanity, the most instantly observable environment is sport.
When I was a kid my Grandad, knowing I loved books, rescued a book from the garbage which I am guessing was written around 1890 and wrote almost the same words inside it before he gave it to me. I still have that book, it’s called “History of England” and it sits on my bookshelf to this day. I am a bit of a bibliophile, I love books, especially old ones. The value I have on that book is beyond what most people could offer for it, yet to someone else it was literally garbage. Value is relative.
One of the (many) things I really like about my son’s coach is that there is always a take away. There are always positives, and always something to work on. Always. Even if they win every game 10-0 there is still something to improve on. This is every bit as important as working to improve when you are losing. Failing to identify ways to grow because of continual success can result in complacency and a decline in a growth mindset. The coach practices the right things to inspire confidence (high self-efficacy), and a belief that external factors are mere obstacles that can be overcome (high locus of control).
If there is something you can work on, practice it and then take it to rehearsal to see how it can work to improve the team or group. Don’t wait until a skill is needed, bring the solution before the problem arises. The worst case scenario is that you improve yourself, and that is never a bad thing.
Based on where I am right now, with my athletic kid trying to drive me to standards that will probably kill me, I am trying to evaluate how much burden is on the people at the higher level to work together to integrate the others into the team. Does development in a team sport always have to be about the game, or can we also help our kids develop by encouraging them to help develop others?
“You play football with your head, and your legs are there to help you.”
Develop the young mind, and the young legs will catch up.
Competitors are often defeated before they even enter the fray. Their opponent is bigger, stronger, faster, has more experience, is the world record holder, or any other number of factors that can sow a seed of doubt. When the doubt is watered, when the game plan is altered, when accommodation is made for the opponent, and when the opponent dictates the rules of play, the game is lost.
When things are going against you, don’t lose your focus. The biggest mind game you have to win is the one against yourself.