The First Eight Months

TAGS: Donald Day, motivation, strength and conditioning, coaching

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The semester is coming to an end as I write this article. With this comes much reflection and evaluation: Staff evaluations, my own evaluations, evaluations from the athletic department, and evaluations from our sport coaches and athletes. With all the reflection, it’s hard not to sit back and consider my own personal journey these last few months since I’ve assumed the director role. I think of things I’ve learned, impacts I’ve had, mistakes I’ve made, and lessons for the future. I’d like to share those thoughts with you.

No One Wants to Follow a Machine

This was something I often thought about prior to assuming my current role. I would spend nights thinking about what the standards were going to be, how I was going to set them, how I would run the department, and much more. With this, I often referred back to my readings on leadership and John Maxwell’s Daily Leadership Devotional. A thing that kept reoccurring was the fact that people want to follow a genuine person. “Genuine” means real in my eyes. There are a lot of leaders that set the example of “I make no mistakes and am perfect.” To me, this puts a strain on your staff because you set a standard of impossible perfection.


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Perfection is an unrealistic expectation for anyone. I’d rather set the standard of being real. I want my staff, athletes, peers, and anyone else I encounter to know that I am real. Real in that I acknowledge my faults and that no one is perfect. The standard doesn’t change, but I cultivate an atmosphere of growth rather than one of destination.

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X and O’s are Great, but People are Better

I learned this a long time ago, but it was really reinforced these last few months. I am realizing more than anything that it’s not what you know, but how you do it. And when I say “how you do it,” I am referring to how you make relationships with your athletes. I’m proficient in the development of sports performance, but what makes me great is the ability to bring greatness out of others and the ability to get a group of people to commit to a goal.

In terms of training athletes, my best work has been done with athletes that I’ve built great relationships with. Having a great program is irrelevant, but having a group of athletes that love you and would do anything you say is the best reward. When athletes will run through a wall for you, everything else is secondary.

Growth is a Constant

Growth isn’t easy. I consider myself a very self-reflective person. As much as I do reflect, I also find that I must force myself out of bad habits. Some of my habits may not be a detriment to me now, but will be as I grow in my current position. It’s not easy to change bad habits, nor is it easy to balance what makes you great with what may harm your potential. That’s why it’s important to focus on being just a little bit better each and every day than you were yesterday. If you do that, then the good potential will separate from the detrimental.

You’re Never Fully Prepared

You will never be fully prepared to be a director. Every situation is different and comes with its own set of challenges. Your last situation may have had similar challenges, but no two places are the same. All you can rely on is your council, your intuition, and you prior experiences to help you make the best decision when it comes to meeting these challenges.

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You have to set yourself up for success by surrounding yourself with good council who are going to be real with you. You can’t have yes men, you can’t have people who don’t fit the culture you want, and you HAVE to listen to everyone in your circle. Listening is different than hearing. There are people in my close, close inner circle I will hear, but I must be sure to listen, too, in order to evaluate every situation from every possible angle. Once I gather the information, the people I hear help me narrow what’s important, urgent and non sensical. Then, I formulate my plan. It’s very dangerous to become the mad king and very dangerous to ignore the advice of your council. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything they, but you should analyze the information you receive from them.

Enjoy the Process

Being a director has been an eye-opening process. I have learned much about myself and the areas I need to grow in. I have found stuff out about myself from a personal level as well as a performance level. As painful as growth and change is at the age of 29, it’s necessary. Things that don’t evolve, don’t survive.


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I have also built long lasting relationships with my community, my athletes, my co-workers, and my staff and have seen tremendous growth out of this department in the last eight months. The key is to keep this growth trending towards the right direction and not taking a step backward. This is achieved by sticking to the morals that are our backbone, yet expanding on the day-to-day operations that will push us forward. The first time I did this, I looked and saw how many “problems” I was facing. Now, I realize I don’t have any problems, I have challenges. Challenges excite me because when I come out on the other side, I’ve grown from them. Challenges bring opportunities and problems only bring solutions or more problems.

I wake up every day excited to go to work. This is the most passionate I’ve been about being a strength coach in a very long time. Far too often, I’ve found myself wishing away my time in exchange for something more. I’ve wished away seasons for new job opportunities, challenges that I should’ve stayed in, and bad years for good years. I don’t find myself doing that anymore. I’m living in the moment, thanking God for each and every day (both the good and the bad), and am grateful for the vast field of opportunity in front of me.

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