I don’t feel comfortable sharing their names as I have not asked for parental permission. Nor would I ask because these people have definitely suffered enough. In my almost twenty years of coaching, I’ve lost no less than five former players to suicide, drugs/alcohol and avoidable accidents. This may not be statistically significant to some but it is something that I carry with me always. In the eyes of many, the job of a coach is to direct an individual or group in technique and tactics in order to win a particular contest.
While this may encapsulate what coaching is for some, I can define coaching in one word: PROGRESS! When broken down to the molecular level, this is what coaches should be striving for. The progress of an individual or a group in not only their sport of choice but also as people. At some levels, progress is measured by winning and it should be. Professional athletes and coaches are in the business of competition/entertainment. Their business model is dependent upon the sale of tickets, jerseys, food, etc. and winning is a key ingredient in that equation. The problem is that the base blocks of the pyramid are not supposed to look like to the top block or “pyramidion”. Basically 99% of all soccer played in the world is either true recreation or competitive recreation. The previous statement will probably stick in the craw of many people but this fact should be embraced rather than lamented.
Recreation is the main reason that athletics came to be. The battlefield was given up for the athletic field, where defeat did not mean death. Therefore the “vanquished” could improve and RECREATE themselves into a better version. Progress as an athlete meant facing your shortcomings. That self-analysis is a skill that overflows into everyday life. Recognizing one’s own weaknesses is not weakness. It is actually strength because it allows the individual the possibility of progress. Pain + Reflection = Progress is a formula coined by Ray Dalio (Bridgewater Associates). In it lies the secret that so many of us continually overlook. Failure is a key component to progress. Those who are unwilling or unable to see their own faults cannot hope to move past them. Since coaching is about progress and failure is a necessary ingredient to progress, then winning can’t be the point.
Having lost so many former players, I know all too well that the results of today’s game matter little compared to the results of a lifetime. The point is not to win the game but rather to have a dynasty of days that have been won by moving forward. So take the long term view with yourself and those that you care about. Decide that short term wins that lead to long term loss are not in your game plan. Recreate yourself regularly and recognize that the only person that you’re competing with is you.
Have great day!