How do I turn around a bad season? I’ve coached long enough and supported enough coaches to know the answer to that question is not just in their win-loss record. Now, if you had asked me a few years ago, I would have likely told you the solution is in the team’s culture; that is, the quality of the team’s relationship to each other, and the standards of their program.
But I’ve come to learn that our perception of team culture is nearly as relative as our perception of the team’s record. For example, two coaches can have entirely different perceptions of going above .500. For the coach who hasn’t had a winning season in five years, it’s a great success. For the coach who typically only loses a couple games a year, it may be an absolute nightmare.
I’ve also seen it in coaches with “strong cultures”. They seem to find the same amount of problems as coaches with “weak cultures”. We are all good at identifying problems! Obviously, some circumstances are more desirable than others. But regardless of our circumstances, we will always find problems, challenges, and obstacles.
If you view the season you are in as a “bad season”, then the simplest way to turn the season around is to change your perspective. Do you have a healthy or unhealthy perspective? Well, answering these three questions will tell you a lot about the health of your perspective:
- When a challenge comes up, do you see it as a problem or an opportunity?
- Do you spend the majority of your time thinking about what you can’t control or things you can control?
- Do you grade yourself on outcomes like winning and losing, player buy-in, and team enjoyment or are you grading yourself on behaviors and growth?
It’s obvious to anybody how you should answer these questions, but in reality, we may not like our honest answers. If you don’t like your answers, here are three ways to turn your season around:
- Accept Things as They Are
- Control the Controllables
- Detach Your Ego from the Results
Accept Things as They Are
In The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday equates the human inability to accept things as they are to someone being personally bothered by traffic signals. Think about it. If you are driving somewhere, and a traffic light turns red, you don’t go into a rage. You know there is going to be a slight delay, but you are still going to get to your destination.
Just like traffic lights, life sometimes says “go”, “slow down”, or “stop”. But our problem is we allow it to affect us in ways it shouldn’t. We may not be moving at the pace we want, but so much of that is outside our control.
Control the Controllables
“Wherever you go, there your choice is. One thing will stay constant [in all circumstances]: our freedom of choice, both in the small picture and the big picture. Ultimately, this is clarity. Whoever we are, wherever we are, what matters is our choices.”
—Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic
Often, coaches reach out to me, ready to do an overhaul of their culture and leadership. Sometimes, it’s needed, but typically, it starts with focusing on a small change today that will improve them by just 1%. And another small change tomorrow that will improve them by another 1%. Followed by another. And another…
If you get frustrated with the level of growth you are experiencing, then change your focus from the outcome and results to the joy of the process. Reflect and be mindful of what you do enjoy about the process, and how your work is worthwhile. Fulfillment comes from the journey, not the destination.
Detach Your Ego from the Results
“Detachment doesn’t mean not caring about outcomes and results. Winning is fun, and the quickest path to winning is attending to the little things. When the event is completed, you simply need to detach your ego from the results. Remember that you are not the result; you are so much more. When you can think this way (and many times, you can’t), you experience joy and satisfaction, as well as new personal freedom.”
—Jerry Lynch, The Spirit of the Dancing Warrior
Like I said: It’s simple; it’s just not easy. Changing your thinking takes time and training, which is why I am a huge fan of journaling. Contrary to popular belief, journaling is not spending time everyday writing down your deepest, darkest secrets; it’s just a way of retraining your thinking.
Try This: Mission Statement Success Log
- Write out your coaching mission statement (i.e., why you coach).
- Now, write down all the things you have done this season to live that mission statement out.
- Spirit of the Dancing Warrior by Dr. Jerry Lynch
- The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
- The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday