The Angry Coach: Who are you?

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I'm pretty good friends with a very successful coach who will remain nameless. Part of the reason for this guy's success is the fact that he's one of the most competitive individuals I've ever met in my life. He's not competitive like me, though, in terms of pulling temper tantrums and flipping over the checkerboard when he loses. You beat him, he wants to play again. And again. And again. And again, until he figures out the game well enough to beat you, which is something, to this point in his life, he's proven to be able to do more often than not.

Everything is a competition to this guy. Even in a basic email exchange, he has to get the better of you. To some people this is probably grating. To me, it's funny, and it's also a valuable lesson in realizing that it pays to be "on" and paying full attention at all times.

I got him yesterday, though, meaning I "won" an email exchange. I dropped a rather obscure reference, and when he "got" it, I accused him of Googling it, at which point he took the time to explain to me why he knew this reference and what he knew about it. Now, in order for him to "win," he should have just said "Go f--k yourself" or ignored my response. Instead, he felt the need to prove himself. And yeah, this is something really small and stupid in the form of an email exchange, but it got me thinking in terms of coaching.

When I first started out, I would tell a kid to do something, and when he asked for my rationale, I'd say, "Because I did X, Y, and Z on the field during my career, and sacked so-and-so on TV, and you should listen to me." Lots of coaches are guilty of this. In my case, in both coaching and life, I needed to wear that rationale on my sleeve. Every kid needed to know who I was before I told them to do something. It wasn't about how much I could squat right there at that moment. It was about what I could do five years ago. It wasn't about what the skill or tactic I was teaching on the field would do for them, it was, "Listen to me because I played."

Yeah, dude, you played 15 years ago (talking to my dumbass self here). What the f--k do you remember about what it feels like to be on a field?

That attitude translated to my personal life, too. I used to walk around justifying shit to people based on what I did, or used to do anyway, for a living. I acted like I had a lifetime pass for whatever the f--k I wanted to do simply because I did something halfway decent for the world once upon a time.

I'm as patriotic an American as anyone, but the Europeans have one thing right, at least in their interpersonal dealings. When you meet someone in most of Europe for the first time, the question they're asking themselves isn't "What do you do?" like it is here. It's "Who are you?" You don't need to vomit out a whole list of accomplishments for people to give you the right to breathe their oxygen. You just have to be someone.

That's something else I've been focusing on this year as a coach, and it pertains to the "Just Win" philosophy. Instead of taking a new kid and reading off a whole resume of what I've done in my life and how many league championships we've won, I've been concentrating on teaching them the shit they need to improve and making my reputation with them that way. The first part of that wears off after a while, and to a kid, you are who you are now -- and what you did years ago on some obscure football field somewhere doesn't mean jack shit to them. You could hold every record in the book, but if you're teaching them techniques that don't get them showing improvement, they're going to tune your ass out, and fast.

So, who are you now? Are you teaching kids to get faster because you ran a 4.5 20 years ago? Or can you go out and run with your kids? Are you teaching them to get strong because you benched 500 in 1998? Or can you get on a bench and demonstrate something so they know you have a working knowledge of what you're talking about? Are you giving your kids a list of your own achievements? Or are you teaching them shit they can take on the field and win games with?

More importantly, are you acting like a dick to your friends, family, coworkers or significant other because you think you're important enough to have a right to? Or is who you are, right now at this moment, the most important thing?

If you're a coach, try this. Your kids will pick up on it immediately, and you'll be pleased with your results.

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