My Coaching Crisis

4 Minute Read or Listen

“I saw the transactional coaches: the kind of coaches who use players as tools to meet their personal needs for validation, status, and identity. They held their power over us to elicit the response they wanted.” –Joe Ehrmann, Inside-Out Coaching

Early on in coaching I was pretty quick to set some goals about what I wanted to achieve. Goals like wining a certain number of games each season and the championship by a certain year.  But I never gave any thought to who I wanted to be as a coach and how I wanted to be remembered.

The reality is the majority of us fall into coaching and we do so without much thought for the type of coach we want to be. Without being intentional in this process we can quickly to take on a coaching identity that finds it’s value in what we achieve rather than who we are. And those coaches, whether they realize it or not, are about serving themselves, not the people they lead.

Who Am I?

Now I know this can be a rather cliché question to ask and it reminds me of the film Zoolander, which is one of my favorite comedies. The film is about a male model’s fall from being the top male model of the year to being the runner-up, and his struggle with this very question.

Like this male model Derek Zoolander, the reality is that we often only ask this question in the face of a great challenge! Just think of the great coaches from our favorite sports films: Coach Carter, Norman Dayle (Hoosiers), Coach Boone (Remember the Titans), and even Gordon Bombay (The Mighty Ducks). All of them had to ask the question “Who am I?” as they faced various challenges.

Whether or not you are facing a great challenge in coaching like these coaches did, or like I did many years ago, we all could benefit by asking ourselves this question!

It sounds a lot like a question we would ask while climbing a mountain or meditating on a rock. Except, it isn’t. Though I often ask this question while sitting on my front porch in the morning with a cup of coffee, or on my three-mile runs, some of the most critical moments come when I am faced with a challenge.

Clarifying our identity and knowing who we are in coaching is critical. The good news is mountains, quiet lakes, and temples are only optional—not necessary—for answering this question!

Reflective Inside Process

“A clear, well-defined philosophy gives you the guidelines and boundaries that keep you on track.”

—Pete Carrol

Recently, in Episode 38 of Coaching Culture, co-host Nate Sanderson discussed Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll’s story in his book, Win Forever. Pete took a year off after coaching at the New England Patriots to figure out “who he was” as a coach. A year later he interviewed for his job at USC. Afterwards Carroll said, “I knew that I had just presented who I was as a person and a football coach in a comprehensive and completely authentic way for the first time in my life.” Carroll would get the job and go on to create an amazing team culture at USC, and then with the Seattle Seahawks.

None of us can afford to take a year off in life to “find ourselves” like Pete Carroll. Still, before people get into coaching, they need to take some time to reflect on what type of coach they want to be. This is important because when we fail to intentionally reflect on this, we center our behaviors and heart on winning and losing. The joy of winning is fleeting, and the pain of losing is consuming if we don’t know who we are as coaches.

But when we have an identity shaped by who we are, not what we achieve, we experience a more lasting joy and sense of fulfillment in coaching. Our legacy will be measured by something far more important the number of wins, championships, or banners. It will be measured by how we served others.

Check out Episode 38 of Coaching Culture for some practical ways to start to answer this question!

-J.P. Nerbun

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