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October 1st, 2018

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I’m Busting My Butt, Yet I Just Can’t Win

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

Years ago I was sitting in the locker room. Head-in-hands.

I remember saying these words out loud.

I’m Busting My Butt, Yet I Just Can’t Win

It was like fingernails being dragged down a blackboard.

I was frustrated. Confused. Couldn’t see my way ahead.

That’s when a fellow coach gave me a piece of advice I have never forgotten

I want to share it with you.

He told me:

Stop being a jerk. Figure out what ‘winning’ means for you.

I remember looking at him and thinking he was nuts.

We all know what winning is

Don’t we?

It’s thrusted on coaches that “winning” is beating the other team.

And most coaches are good with that.

But are you? I’m not.

Is it possible that winning has a different definition?

For example, I know fellow coaches who get very excited about:

  • Their team’s graduation rate
  • An alum who achieves her dream
  • A successful fundraising project
  • An athlete completing the course he never thought he could
  • Teaching the sports skills, strategies, tactics

They define winning in those terms. Yes, those coaches care what the score is when their contest is over…but it does not define winning for them.

If this sounds anything like you, then you might find the following steps helpful.

Step 1: Define winning

It’s critical you know exactly what “winning” is—for you.

You might have to go to your athletic director or supervisor to figure this out.

This is critical, because, face it, if where you work has a sole focus on the won/loss record, AND your definition of “winning” is your team’s graduation rate, then frustration looms in your future.

So take a few minutes and define “winning.”

I did, and it changed everything for me.

Step 2: Identify the pieces it takes to get to the win

After you define winning, relative to you, figure out the pieces of the puzzle you need to get you there.

For instance, in my sport of rowing there are five critical pieces to make a boat go fast:

  1. the athlete
  2. training
  3. technique
  4. equipment
  5. rigging

Without those five pieces the chances of a rowing shell being competitive are greatly reduced.

If I want to be competitive in a race, I need to have those pieces in place.

So what are you pieces? Get them out in front of you—write them down.

Step 3: Focus solely on those pieces

Be singular in your focus…laser-like.

You now know what your definition of winning is, and you know the pieces needed to take to get you there. Now go get ’em Coach.


Take action dedicated to putting the pieces in place.

That probably means you need to get off social media.

That probably means some of the things you don’t like doing you need to do.

And that also probably means you need help somewhere along the line.

Step 4: Get help

Yeah, you might be able to do this on your own.

But you probably could do it faster, cheaper, smarter, and easier with help.

It will also be a lot more fun with help.

I’d still be in that locker room feeling sorry for myself if it wasn’t for that coach.

Sometimes a buddy, friend, mentor or even a stranger can make all the difference.

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