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September 11th, 2018

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An Exit Plan Today Will Make You a Better Coach Tomorrow

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

Jack is in line at the supermarket, waiting to pay for his bananas. He knows exactly what he is going to do as soon as he gets his change.

He has a plan.

Barb, a fifth grader, is watching the clock slowly move toward 3pm.

She has big plans when school is over.

Both Jack and Barb have what is known as an “exit plan.”

They know what they are going to do after they have finished what they are currently doing.

They know “what’s next.”

It amazes me how few coaches do.

You will leave coaching

Sooner or later every coach leaves coaching.

You will not be different.

Holding a pink slip after the first year, or with a gold-plated wristwatch after 45 years, or somewhere in between—we all leave.

Right now…just down the hall…or up the street is a coach who is getting ready to move on.

But to what?

I’ve worked with hundreds of coaches and I’ve asked many what they would do next if they were to leave their current job.

Very few knew.

Leaving on your mind

It is hard to dwell on leaving, especially if you’ve had to fight hard to get the job.

However, having leaving-on-your-mind, specifically, having an exit plan—can help you be a better coach.

It sure did me

Before I left my first coaching job I had an exit plan.

The plan was to travel to New Zealand and work as a white water raft guide.

And that is exactly what I did.

It was a great experience and one thing that helped make it amazing was that I had my exit plan in hand two years before I used it

How’d that help?

As soon as I knew the plan I starting becoming a better employee and a better coach.

An exit plan can help YOU, right now, to be a better coach. It did me. Here are three ways how.

An exit plan helps you build better relationships

You want to leave your job on good terms, right?

Sure, most people do.

They want to be liked, remembered fondly, and be able to use the employer for a good reference.

Yes, there are few folks who don’t care about those, but they are a small group.

Me? I want to leave on good terms and I bet you do too.

See, that’s one way right there having an exit plan makes you a better coach.

My plan made me realize that the relationships I had at work were critical to my success, so I became better at my end of the relationship.

It is commonly thought that a poor win/loss ratio is why most coaches find themselves out of a job. Not so—relationship issues are the number one reason.

So build positive relationships by doing things like:

  • Helping out your co-coaches and peers.
  • Jazzing up the place with your positive attitude and great work ethic.
  • Being methodical with random acts of kindness.

Do things now to build strong relationships could give your career a boost, and you’ll be a better coach because of it.

Become a student of the game

If you plan to stay in coaching, are you learning as much as you can?

Are you developing skills to take you to the next level?

Not just sport-specific skills but other critical skills such as problem-solving skills, communicating-skills, recruiting-skills.

Let’s say you are currently a college assistant coach, and you have an exit plan to become a head coach.

There is a lot to learn to make that step.

Your exit plan (knowing you want to be a head coach) should motivate you to learn as much as you can. Become a student-of-the-game, a sponge that absorbs as much as possible, and then a little bit more.

  • You learn more, you are a better coach right now.
  • You learn more, you’ll be a better coach tomorrow.
  • You learn more and you’ll be much more likely to keep that next job when you get there.

Two down, one to go …

Leave with grace

How you leave is often remembered more than what you did while you were there.

And your coaching legacy, what you leave behind, is an important part of your coaching career.

That is the third way your exit plan can help you be a better coach—grace in leaving.

Remember I told you about leaving my first coaching job?

My Dad, who had been in business for years gave me great advice he used when he changed jobs—be thankful.

When it was time to leave (according to my exit plan) I made sure that I found everyone at the school who helped me along the way and thanked them.

From bus driver to athletic director, I told them how much I appreciated their help, shook their hand, gave them a card.

How did that make me a better coach?

Well, it made be a better person, and thus a better coach.

See the connection?

To tomorrow and beyond

There is only one guarantee in coaching sports, and that is that one day you will leave the job.

It happens to every single coach.

Your decision or theirs, it doesn’t matter, that day is coming.

Don’t you want to be prepared?

The future is right outside your locker room.

That’s why it’s important you have an exit plan.

Mike Davenport is a thought leader and coaching expert. Through his work with Coaching Sports Today, and Tudor Collegiate Strategies, coaches learn the correct philosophical approach to build a great college coaching career. Contact him at mike@dantudor.com

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