As the off season approaches and clinics will be filled with X’s and O’s, I would like to to move back to step one in the world of coaching. With the new year approaching, the yearly resolutions are waiting in our minds. Many of us are making pledges for various reasons and results, but what kind do coaches make? Better than that what drives you? I believe in our job market we have to look at some reflection, but also the future. Where is our core? How do we find renewal?
I happened to see a twitter post recently of Coach Nick Saban, during a practice session coaching drills. Here is a man who is arguably the most successful coaches in modern day football. He has been doing this for so long, that he could easily take a step back and release, but instead he looked like a first year coach grinding it out. I have read numerous times about Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was driven back the fact he remembered his childhood. He had a great fear of losing that drove him. Others like Tom Landry who was said to be an “engineer” type coach, who was so detail oriented that some players said you had to really embrace what he was teaching, to play in his flex defense. No matter what type of coach or situation you are in, the “grind” of coaching can take its toll on all of us. What is at the core of the “grind?”
Through years of coaching we can fall into ruts, instead of blazing the trail when we first entered coaching. The drive and determination can easily fade not intentionally, but through circumstance and instances. To not sound trivial or even comical, the Rocky movie series can be applied into what I will be discussing in this post. We all know the story how the character trained hard and beat the odds, won the title, but then after he experienced the “good life,” the character lost his way. He had to regain the “eye of the tiger.” Basically what once made us feel safe is actually driving us insane.
So what gets us back to a hungry person who has the “eye of the tiger?”
In the psychological word the term “triggers” is used to define things that instantly change our behavior. I really think this should be looked at deeper in our profession. These triggers can be positive and negative in the direction they lead us. They lead some people to depression and some to driven to success. The off season can be a great time to reflect on what set of triggers had the greatest impact on your past season. Which set got the highest percentage of your presentation as a coach? At your core what do you really want to discard?
Fear is probably the number one trigger, because of its positive and negative presence.
You may be driven by fear. As many have said Coach Bryant had a fear of losing, and this was his drive. Fear can also be a negative trigger. Fear can cause us to curl up and hide in our corner, not allowing us to clearly focus on what reality is. Fear is something that is at the depths of every coaches mind, but we must learn how to change it into a positive, such as the fear of being fearful. Being confident in your product, and driven to succeed, and overcoming the fear of failure. Many of us struggle with the fear of being on a stage when it is just us standing there for the world to see, but in reality that is the world of a coach. This is tremendously harder to do than just typing words onto a screen, but we have to understand’ this is reality. We are called to this position to place our product out their for everyone to examine. The biggest obstacle is our players can adapt these same triggers, and become a reflection. Early in my career I was fortunate enough that my Sunday School teacher was also a coach. He coached on several state championship teams, and coached at a place that had sent numerous players to the NFL, won national titles, and had a large expectation for winning. I was interested in learning how these great teams found their trigger, because I was coaching a team that needed an identity and a change of idea. He gave me one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever received, and it had zero to do with x’s and o’s. He said, “when something goes wrong in a game, you have to see if your team is gonna bow their neck and be a bulldog, or if they are gonna hang their heads and find an excuse.” That hit me hard because really it had a lot to do with my presentation. Trying to get a team to turn the corner, or even to fight through adversity had to do with what was their trigger during these times. It was up to me to teach them how to handle this fear in a positive manner. By positive I mean solutions for these situations that can equate to results. I had to prepare their minds as well as their football bodies and IQ’s. I was not the direct trigger for them, but I had to train their minds to get the trigger of the bulldog mentality. But before I could get this message across to them, I had to clear the debris that was hindering me from getting results I wanted.
I think the greatest coaches in any sport have a great handle on these triggers. They know how to deter the ones that negatively influence their instruction. If you really think about the great coaches, they seem to never change their approach, it remains the same year in and year out. This is the core of their success. The same basic approach outside of X’s and O’s happens annually regardless of what is happening during the game. Some might “boil” this down to the word focus, but it is much deeper than that. In order to focus, your psychological mind must have a target. The next reaction is triggering the foundation that allows you to hit the target you have focused on. This can only occur when you are clear of any negative obstacle that may hinder you from reaching it. This takes some time, reflection, motivation, and the constant grind to stay away from the negative triggers that hinder us. Motivation has to be renewed daily, just like taking a bath renews our cleanliness. It is a constant fight that is a psychological one and not a physical one.
Never Forget About Your Passion
We must hold onto the trigger that once propelled us into this profession, that made us sharp in the day to day grind. Find the focus of our targets, by clearing away all of the negative debris that stands in our way. This will allow us to trigger and propel us to the target we spend every year grinding toward.
Written by: Coach Patrick Taylor
Offensive Coordinator North Surry High School Toast NC