by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com
I walked into my athletic director’s office and sat down. I told him I was quitting when the season was over. “I can’t coach anymore,” I whimpered.
He knew coaching was important to me — I’d been with him for five years. He shook his head. He knew I was right. It was a short conversation.
I went outside. I was shaking. I didn’t have the strength to open my car door. I walked over to the curb, sat down, and cried — like a hungry baby.
Coaching had crushed me. I couldn’t recover. My energy gone. I had stopped caring. I was a drained coach.
At that time I believed there were two types of coaches:
- those coaches who WERE drained, and
- those coaches who WOULD BE drained.
But over the years I’ve learned there’s a third type — those coaches who are too smart to be drained.
That special group of coaches have found a way to avoid the things that suck the life out of them. There’s a trick to how they do it, and I’ll share it with you in a second. But first, y’know what I mean by drained, right?
Hm … maybe not, so let me explain …
Drained coaches are so depleted they no longer acts like a reasonable and prudent people. A few examples:
- He goes ballistic at the smallest annoyance
- She mutters often, “I’m way too old for this,” and she honestly believes it
- He makes unreasonable decisions , “Whimps, it’s only a little lightning, of course we’re practicing.”
- She distances herself from the athletes, and blames them for every issue and problem
- He looks exhausted, like he hasn’t a good night sleep in weeks, because, well — he hasn’t
What’s sucked the life out of these coaches? They do too much! They are too active in the parts of coaching where they don’t need to be active.
Smart Passive Coaching
Those smart coaches I mentioned — the ones too smart to get drained, how do they do it? They use smart passive coaching. It’s a trick — actually three tricks. What they do is:
- They Automate
- They Delegate
- They Ignore
Let’s dig into each.
Trick #1: To automate, the coach creates processes that helps him increase productivity, improve efficiency, and reduce stress. There’s not much automation done in coaching. Yes, the computer can help, but not nearly as much as in other vocations.
The tricky part is creating or adapting automation from other places.
Trick #2: Delegation helps the coach redirect the things she doesn’t want to do, giving them to someone else. You might call that lazy. I call it wicked smart.
Here’s why, people don’t do well at the things they don’t like. For example, there is much of the recruiting process I struggle with. So I give that to my assistant coach who is super organized, super thoughtful, super efficient. And you know what? She does a super duper job. If I was doing her job I couldn’t even match anything she does.
The tricky part here is giving up control. Most coaches have control issues and delegating can be a challenge.
Trick #3: Ignoring means stop worrying about the things you cannot control. I coach an outdoor sport, and it’s been one of the worst winters on record. I don’t stress and strain over the weather because it is out of my control. We’ve had to make different arrangements for several of our competitions and practices but to worry about would just drive me crazy.
The tricky part is recognizing what you can and cannot control.
The Smart Passive Coach Advantage
In my first years of coaching I never automated, I never delegated, and I certainly never ignored. I paid a heavy price for not doing them — and I left coaching, swearing I’d never, ever, ever go back. That’s when I learned about smart passive coaching. I applied the tricks. And I found a new level of happiness, efficiency, and wonder as a coach.
Smart passive coaching looks different to different coaches. For example, the fringe-coach, that part-timer who coaches only four hours a week — his delegation, his automation, the things he ignores, may be small and few.
But, the full-time DI coach, with enormous pressure to win, to recruit, to retain, while not breaking any of the rules — her delegation, her automation, the things she ignores could rival that of many successful business czars.
Actions You Can (and should) Take
What do you have in your coaching workflow that you can automate, delegate, or ignore? The best way to find out is keep a log of your coaching work for a week. Put things in a broad categories such as recruiting, budgeting, transportation, practice preparation. Then look at the amount of time you spend in each category and what you are spending it on. Is there one thing in the category that you can smart passive coach?
For example, I found a great way to automate my practice preparation. I use a program called Evernote. I write up my practice sheets on a piece of paper, then I take a picture of the paper and I enter it as a new note in Evernote, with the date. I did this over the course of a year.
The following year I review and see what we had done the year before, and I have practice plans right in front of me. This saves a lot of time. Additionally, I share my Evernotes with my assistant coaches. So after I record a note, they can check Evernote before practice and they see all the details about the coming practice. That saves me time from having to explain details before practice. Also, having the information in Evernote means I don’t have 16 bulging notebooks on my shelves. By automating my practice prep using Evernote I save about 60 to 90 minutes every day.
What can you delegate? What can you can give to other people? As I mentioned, I’ve given a large part of my recruiting duties to my assistant coach, who does a wonderful job. I come in at the end of the process to have personal discussions with the athlete and family. This has saved me hours and hours each week. When I finally come to the process I come in with energy and excitement because I really like meeting people and telling them about our program and about our school.
Finally, what can you ignore? Measles outbreak? Earthquake? Budget reductions? All these things are out of your control. Adapting to them is one thing, worrying about them at 3am is quite another.
Make Your Tomorrow Better
Smart passive coaching, where you automate/delegate/ignore can do three things for you. First, it will reduce your stress. Second, it will improve your effectiveness. Third, it will increase your longevity as a coach. And as an added bonus, it might keep you from crying in a parking lot.
Smart passive coaching is what the old-timers do, what the really good coaches do, and is what you should be doing. So what do you think — you ready for it?
Here are 10 things you might be able to smart passive coach:
- have athletes set up/break down practice equipment
- recruiting letters prepared for you, such as these
- create a worksheet at beginning of week that lists all your athlete academic conflicts
- send email out on Sunday night to players, parents, staff with scheduled practices and contests
- create email/text/groupme lists to quickly connect with groups (sending out, “Practice moved to 5pm” would take 20 seconds, or less)
- use calendar program, such as Fantastical to get automated reminders of important meetings and dates
- ignore comments on social media about you or team. Not one team or coach has ever gotten better by reading negative social media comments.
- make a menu and shopping list on Sunday, and go shopping for all your meals and supplies on that day
- find the one thing you hate to do the most, and give it to someone else
- find the second thing you hate, and give that to someone else