Much of who I am, what I value and what I do are a reflection of my involvement in sports. I dedicate this post to the many coaches, who along the way taught me that: practice matters, to always “be on my toes”, to keep my chin up and it’s important to trust your teammates.
The good coaches taught me the importance of being prepared and the value of practicing. My very best coaches understood that true learning and improvement was rooted in the idea of trial and error. Our practices were always a safe place to make mistakes. (Hmmm… I wonder - would more teachers embrace and use better grading practices if they understood this sports analogy?) To further support this point, Malcom Gladwell, in his book the Outliers, argues that to master something, you need to “practice” it for at least 10,000 hours! While this may seem like overkill, I think you get the point. Today, I take this spirit of preparation, practice and risk taking with me wherever I go and whatever I do!
Be on your toes.
Sports have taught me about the importance of being “fleet of foot”. Circumstances can change quickly. In my professional life I feel that now, more than ever, I need to be ready for change. Ironically, although preparation is important in sports, game plans can change quickly. I was always taught to expect the unexpected. There were countless times that well prepared and rehearsed game plans changed within a few moments of a game starting. The good coaches always understood that ‘being on your toes’ rather than ‘digging in your heels’ made you ready for the unexpected! (I can still remember walking into our school gym, 5 months into my first year as principal, to discover our gym floor flooded!) On a day to day basis, this “be on my toes” mentality keeps me ready for the exciting demands of my job!
Trust your teammates
Having teammates that I trusted and, in turn, trusted me made me a complete athlete. I heard the following mantra constantly by my coaches: “do your job and trust your teammate to do theirs”. This is something I still value today. I have come to appreciate that I am at my best when operating within a team or community. Whether it’s within my family, school community, learning community (PLN), faith community or just with a bunch of buddies on a golf trip – I’m fully alive when in community! I accept my personal responsibilities, but it makes a difference knowing that others “have my back”.
Keep your chin up
When our team lost a game or when I made a mistake, the good coaches always told to me to “keep your chin up – you gave all you had – learn from it and move on”. This attitude has really stuck with me to this day. Recently, I watched a documentary about legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. While watching I discovered something remarkable about this iconic coach - his biggest regret in life was being quoted for that now famous statement: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”.
In the film, a long time friend of Lombardi’s recalls a conversation he had with the coach in which he (Lombardi) says:
“I wish I never said that… (Winning is the only thing). What I really believe is that if you leave every fiber of what you have on that field, at the end of the game, then you’ve won……. I never made that clear”.
Stop the presses everyone!
It was great to hear that Vince Lombardi wanted a "redo" on his original quote.
(As an aside, I find it shocking to see and hear coaches present this "winning is the only thing" attitude in amateur/school sports – if Vince Lombardi can figure it out – surely we in amateur sports can!).
Nonetheless, to each of my coaches, I would like to say “thanks coach” for the rich and enduring life lessons that you provided me through my involvement in sports!
Oh and in case I failed to mention it: Winning isn't everything – “thanks” coach Lombardi -for setting the record straight!