by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today
Growing up I was surrounded by heroes.
Animated heroes were on the TV every Saturday morning.
Storybook heroes in comics and paperbacks were piled up next to my bed.
Then there were real heroes, such as my brothers…one who went to Vietnam to fight for his country and the other who went to Canada to fight for his belief against war.
This was back in the sixties and sports weren’t nearly as popular as they are now.
Then off I went to college, got knee-deep in the real world, and I forgot about my heroes.
But two things happened and all that changed.
First, I read two books, Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, and the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.
Second, I had kids, and BAM, I was immersed once again in the world of heroes—mostly animated ones.
Suddenly, I began to think about heroes—especially heroes in the Wild World of Coaching Sports.
And there are four things I’m noticing about Heroes in Coaching.
A) Hero vs Zero. There are definitely heroes in coaching.
And certainly zeroes. I’m not going to talk about the zeroes. They get enough press as it is, and to be bluntly honest, I don’t want to waste a single pixel on them, except to say, thankfully, there are many more heroes than zeroes.
So … what makes a hero-coach? Seth Godin has an interesting view of heroes:
The heroes we look up to are those that sacrificed to build schools, to overcome evil, to connect and lead—even though it didn’t necessarily help them in the short run.
Do you know of a coach, using that definition, who is a hero? I sure do:
- After a long day of work, Tracy volunteers as a coach for the local county youth basketball league. She played in high school and is now teaching/coaching for no other reason than to help others learn lessons she learned.
- Dave coaches a high-school football team because there are young men that need help
In the middle of a heated basketball contest Rob figures out a way to help an opposing player, who is recovering from a stroke, score the only point he ever would in his college career
Those are a few real examples of hero-coaches in my life. There are many more.
I could fill ten pages. You could probably fill twenty.
That brings me to the second thing I’m noticing about heroes in coaching …
B) We Don’t Celebrate Them. To clear the air, I’m not talking about coaches who win the big one.
They get a lot of advertisement already.
I’m talking about the coach who against all odds has done something exceptional while changing the life of athletes, easing suffering, giving back, and/or being selfless when she should have been selfish.
They need a parade, these hero-coaches. Alongside the hero-k-12 teachers, fire fighters, nurses, and others who give. Sometimes those folks get in a parade—but they should have their OWN parade. With marching bands. Heroes deserve parades, and bands. And all the cotton candy they can consume.
And, then there’s the third thing I’m noticing …
C) Coaches Build Heroes. I think coaches are in the profession of building heroes.
As important as it might seem for a coach to BE a hero; more importantly, coaching can be a catalyst for MAKING heroes. Here’s how:
- giving athletes opportunities to fine-tune hero skills
- opening their minds to possibilities
- helping them see their super powers
- putting them in situations that will evoke their higher nature rather than their lower
I can say that many of the athletes I’ve worked with have gone on to be heroes, like this fellow refueling his jet, on his way to Afghan:
And then there is this:
D) The Hero Scale. Here’s a lens I use to try to make sense of the coaching world:
Interesting—lately I’ve been using this scale more and more to process things happening in coaching.
This whole topic of heroes may seem silly. I get that.
However, for me, the silliness becomes a little more serious when I read this simple quote from Campbell:
A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.
That one statement is the essence of how a coach becomes a coach they will remember.
There is much more that can be said about heroes, zeroes and coaching sports. It should be said.
So what can you do with this bit of discussion? Maybe tweak your perception of you and your coaching. For instance, this image has helped me more than once, when the wheels have come off the bus …