by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com
I’ve been writing about coaching for years. Here’s the thing … being a coach never ceases to amaze me.
Everyday, as I scour the internet, talk to peers, listen to conversations, and read books, I’m amazed by what coaches say, what they do, how they do what they do, and why they do it.
Especially how they handle adversity.
These past few weeks have been no exception. We have been given a raw peek into the work of coaching sports. On the highest-visible international-stage two professional American football coaches have had the following happen to them:
- ruthlessly criticized
- accused of cheating
- accused of being stupid
- accused of lying
- and denigrated
The two coaches I’m talking about are Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks, and Bill Belichick, of the New England Patriots. Both have had every essence of …
and their abilities
dissected, analyzed and criticized.
In public. On the largest stage ever created by humans.
One coach wins a world championship, the other coach loses it based on the outcome of a split second decision. And yet … and YET … through all of this craziness, both coaches have shown the true essence of coaching — finding a way forward.
I now present you Coaches Finding A Way Forward; in three actions …
ACTION 1: Positive Is Boss
Every coach, in every sport, in every country, needs to watch the following interview. In it, Pete Carroll, interviewed by Matt Lauer, gives the audience a raw, truthful, and beautiful view finding a way forward.
You have to watch this. But before you do, think about three things:
72 hours prior, Coach Carroll had just lost the Super Bowl due to “the worst possible result of a play” (his words). A play that he called.
Immediately after that game, Matt Lauer broadcasted to the world that “Coach Carroll just called the worst play ever in the history of football.”
Imagine YOU had just lost your championship, in the last seconds, based on the results of a call you made, AND the person that is now interviewing you had literally called you an idiot. Could you even come close to being as composed, and positive as this:
Take Away — attack the insurmountable: If the play had worked, and Seattle had scored, Carroll would be called a genius and hero. Yet, he is not. He acknowledges the challenges he has faced, and the ones that are ahead, but he is adamant about the way forward being bright and positive.
ACTION 2: Cool When It’s Hot
Bill Belichick, Carroll’s opposing coach at the Super Bowl, is a man of few words — especially in the media. The two weeks leading up to the SuperBowl, Belichick was accused of cheating in his team’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. Whether he did or he did not is not the issue here.
Instead, on an enormous stage, he presented what he knows, several times. Then at another press conference he shuts down questioning. He did all that it in a manner with control, with composure, and with precision. Could you have as much control and composure as this:
The Takeaway — Stay Composed: Regardless of what Belichick said in the conference, a significant number of the audience would never believe him. Logic is that the pressure to win at such a high level of coaching is so intense that he must have cheated, because, well … because. He knows many doubt him, yet he keeps emotions checked, presents, and stays composed.
ACTION 3: Help Another!
After winning the SuperBowl, Belichick, during a radio interview on WEEI, tells the world of non-football coaches to layoff Pete Carroll — that the criticism is out of control. Here is a brief summary of his comments (from ESPN):
“There has been a lot of criticism that I don’t think is anywhere close to being deserved or founded,” Belichick said Tuesday during his weekly appearance on sports radio WEEI in Boston. “that football team is very good, very well-coached, and Pete does a great job.
“Malcolm and Brandon [Browner], on that particular play, just made a great play. I think the criticism they’ve gotten for the game is totally out of line and by a lot of people who I don’t think are anywhere near even qualified to be commenting on it.
“I wouldn’t be able to say enough about Seattle,” he said. “They’re a great football team, well-coached. They deserve so much credit for what they’ve done, and how well they’ve done it,” he said on the program.
“I know they are disappointed, as we’ve been in that spot a couple times ourselves. So the high that we feel is probably not as high as the low that they feel. But that’s a really good football team.”
(Note, I’ve tried to find the original recording, with no success. I know it’s out there. If I find it, I’ll post a link here.)
The Takeaway: The competition is on the field. Off the field coaches support each other when they need it. Until you have walked in another person’s shoes, keep your opinions to yourself. That helps everyone move forward.
What Can You And I Learn From These Actions?
We have had a great opportunity to learn from two top coaches — who have just experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Here’s what I’ve learned, relearned, and hope not to forget:
1) I’m going to repeat this mantra many times, coaching sports can be freak-show. Truly insane. And so can the reaction be to what we do. I’m going to write about this more in my next post.
2) When things seem insurmountable, there can be a way forward — as evidenced by Carroll’s positive attitude, and Belichick’s perseverance.
3) Coaching sports is akin to riding on an emotional roller coaster. A coaster that would dwarf any amusement park roller coaster in size, duration, and intensity.
4) Surround yourself with an amazing social support system — one that is there for you regardless of where you are on said emotional roller coaster.
5) YOU define who YOU are. You have the power to do that. Do NOT give others that power.
6) Class is King & Queen. Coaches need to be classy at all times, that’s how we need to act as coaches. It’s not easy. Doesn’t matter. Don’t settle for less.
7) The Knife of Hindsight cuts many ways. Few of the cuts are helpful — most are harmful.
8) As a coach, you make split second decisions that can have an incredibly long life. Coach Carroll will forever have his decision questioned, publicly and privately. Yes, its part of coaching at that level. It is also part of coaching at ANY level.
I’ve noticed when I hit publish on similar articles, I’ll get some quick feedback like “Oh, good stuff.” Or, “”Interesting!”. Ultimately, folks are saying, “You’ve got my attention for a second, but life is coming at me like a freight train, so I’m off to other stuff.”
I understand. Honestly, I do.
However, the value of the lessons these past two weeks should be held close. So here is what I suggest,
When things seem insurmountable, take a breather and consider three things: (a) why you coach, (b) what legacy do you want to leave, and (c) how would a reasonable and prudent person act in your situation. Each can help guide you on the direction ahead.
When your world of coaching suddenly gets insane, (for instance, you lose the big one, there is a terrible injury, you get fired) and it can quickly turn into an insane world without notice, stay composed. It does not matter which sport you coach. Or the level you coach. Or the gender you coach. It can still get very insane. Sanity will eventually return. You staying composed and classy will help it return sooner.
There is a way forward. There is.