Many years ago, when I was just starting out as a high school coach, one of my former players tweeted that I was a “life ruiner.” It was like a punch in the gut. We’d just come off of a winning season, unquestionably the best season this program had ever had. I’d just been awarded the state high school league’s Head Coach of the Year Award.
But in the eyes of this player, I was a life ruiner. I’ve held that unintentional feedback close to me ever since. Because we can win every trophy, title, newspaper headline there is, but if there are players that don’t feel valued, a part of the success, or cared about by the coach, then we aren’t winning at all.
In our quest for streaks, wins, and awards, we can certainly come out on top and be admired as the winningest coach around. But there is no correlation to our team’s record and our success as a coach. That’s the wrong unit of measure for what we are doing out there. I’m not saying that all the players have to like me, all the parents have to like me, and everything is perfect. Im saying that the definition of coach has never been a person who creates wins. I’ve coached all over the country and I’ve never been asked my win-loss record. I’ve never been hired or fired for it. I don’t coach professional sports.
The definition of coach is someone who affects another positively – performance, mindset, belief, ability, motivation, resilience. A coach makes a person better. At no level does someone seek a coach to become miserable. Uncomfortable? YES! But if a coach takes away things like confidence, belief, vision, and the ability to perform to potential then we don’t have a coach. We don’t even have a leader. What we have, is a person with an ego problem and vision that includes the success of themselves by exploiting the ability of their player/client/etc.
At the time, when I was the “life ruiner” I wanted both. I wanted wins for myself. I wanted to prove that I was a good coach, and knew what I was doing. But I also wanted the players to be successful and share in those wins. I figured those two goals would feed into each other. Ego is a powerful beast, however. When we try to have both, ego mixes with emotions in the moment and it always wins. When ego is involved, the clash of best interests means someone has to lose. The ego can’t survive without the win, so it will always fight to come out on top.
It was when I put myself out of the equation, fully committed myself to being a service driven leader who was there for the benefit of my players, that I was able to toss ego aside and strive to become a life-enricher. Ironically, when we become that servant leader, a life enricher, who seeks the greatness in others and puts ourselves aside – we become successful as a byproduct. But the only way to learn that, was to let go, get humble, and find my greater purpose.
You can read about my story of transformation in my new Book, Confessions of an Imperfect Coach: An experiment in team culture that changed everything. CLICK HERE TO PREORDER
COMING SOON: Build a Fireproof Culture Workbook for coaches and players due out in September so your team can build and run your own season experiment!