Perspective is a beautiful thing.
Perspective can help us see something in a brand new way. It can give us the ability to realize we need to make an adjustment. What it can't do, on it's own, is implement the change. For that we need more.
We need a process for our perspective.
Sometimes that process is specifics based on a plan we fully understand.
Sometimes that process is walking in faith based on a plan God has called us to,
that we are yet to fully understand.
Both are valid.
I want to hit on the latter today. The moment that seems way bigger than anything we can tackle. What do we do as leaders when we are faced with those moments?
Do you remember the time when the Israelites came face to face with a situation that was WAY bigger than themselves?
Joshua 3 tells the story.
Every person in camp was given a simple instruction. Follow the guys in charge when you see them move. If you do, you'll see what you need to do. And just to make sure it's interesting...this is what they are told..."You've never been on this road before". We're about to see why that is an understatement! Joshua looked at his leaders and said "...step out before the people."
Have you ever been there as a leader?
You know in your heart you are being called to "step out and lead" differently than ever before.
You also know that is feels like you have more questions than answers.
So what do you do next?
We have a choice...
Stand on the edge of the river bank, or jump in.
That is exactly where the priests who were carrying the Chest of the Covenant found themselves in Joshua 3. Standing in the midst of unknown, in front of the God of the Universe...calling them to do something that seemed crazy.
Jump in...and stay in!
"When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the Chest of God, Master of all the earth, touch the Jordan's water, the flow of water will be stopped-the water coming from upstream will pile up in a heap. And that's what happened."
And when they obeyed?
"And there they stood; those priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground. Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot."
I love it!
The process seemed crazy, outside of faith in what God was calling them to.
The perspective to walk in to the situation differently would not have been possible, outside of their willingness to trust God obediently.
If you are in leadership for longer than 5 minutes, at some point you too will be called to stand in the middle, on behalf of those who are following you. The priests took the first step in, stayed in the middle until everyone had crossed, and were the last ones to walk out.
In first...in the middle of the challenge...out last.
That's solid leadership.
"...so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God's rescuing hand is,
and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always." (That is the last verse of Joshua 4)
That's solid stuff.
That's solid leadership.
That's our opportunity as coaches.
That's our opportunity as leaders.
Where is God asking you to stand today?
What situation do you need to stand in the middle of today?
First in, last out.
One last thought...
What challenge are you wiling to stand in the middle of,
so that someone else can receive the miracle they are in need of?
The fact that playing time is seen as the holy grail of progress, success, and self-worth for athletes is a problem. Before you shake your head so hard you fall out of your chair and hurt yourself on the way to the floor, I'd ask you to take a little literary walk with me.
I've been coaching for almost 20 years, at almost every level from little kids to college. I'm a former collegiate athlete. And none of that makes me an expert. I simply want to share a vantage point that some may not have seen or heard, having not spent this much time inside the world where the coaches and players navigate life together.
However many are in a match pales in comparison to the ones outside that I, as a coach, see as the most valuable ones. The ones easily overlooked, undervalued, and tossed aside in our rush to dwell on, overvalue, and count the ones in games.
Practice minutes. Car rides to and from practices, games, and tournament minutes. Passing in the halls at school and exchanging a smile with a teammate minutes. Sleepover minutes. Cookout minutes. Pool party minutes. Hanging out between tournament games under a tent to cool off minutes. Hugs from mom and dad after a tough team loss minutes. High fives from those same people after a huge win minutes. Text from a friend asking how your game went minutes.
The list of minutes could go on for...well...more minutes than we have here.
What concerns me most today, is a trend I have seen in the past few years.
Counting minutes in games, and missing moments because of it.
Teaching our kids how to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Teaching our kids to celebrate a moment bigger than their preference.
Teaching our kids to approach life with a servant's heart.
Teaching our kids that giving their all is success, in and of itself.
I'll stop short of offering the perfect answer, because I don't have one. I'm far from perfect as a coach. What I do know is I care about every kid I've ever coached like they are my own children. My heart leaps for them with joy in the happy moments, and breaks for them when I see tears on their face. I've choked up trying to tell them how proud of them I am, and I'm not ashamed in the least about that.
It's our choice which minutes our kids will remember.
The ones that we complain in front of our kids about how they should get more "play time".
Or...the ones where we affirm what a group of kids have achieved together.
One last thought...when we aren't sure where to start, so that we can set the example we want.
What if car rides have more to do with affirmation of what the team accomplished, rather than frustration over preference-driven expectations?
I don't see playing time when I look at the kids on my team.
I see an opportunity to create a platform they can stand on together, arm-in-arm.
I see an opportunity to build something bigger than any one individual.
I see an opportunity to help them discover WHO they are, so that they will know WHAT to do.
Not just on the field...but in life.
Thanks for the ear tonight.
Thanks for caring about your kids enough to give them the gift of playing team sports.
Thanks for hearing out a coach that wants the best for all of our kids.
I've been there as a parent.
And maybe...if we get to know one another...I can share that story with you too, someday.
It's what makes me a better coach.
Knowing that I, too, needed to hear, learn and apply this in my own life.
And ever since?
The car rides are a whole lot more fun.
The highest level of excellence, requires the highest level of sacrifice.
As coaches we all want the same results.
To get to the top requires something that many want, but a vast majority are unwilling to give.
As you prepare for pre-season, I'd encourage you to think as much about what you, your staff, and your program are willing to give up, as you are about what you are going to keep doing. Working harder, being more disciplined, communicating better...are all things that are incredibly important within the construct of a successful team. Getting to the point where those desires become daily habits is another story. It's take more than having the best of intentions. It means having a plan that is intentionally implemented.
To get to the destination we want,
means we'll have to give up some baggage we don't need.
And if that means you need to put measures in place to hold yourself accountable, that isn't a sign of weakness...it's another marker that you are a high-level leader...creating a rock-solid culture of greatness...sold out to your vision every single day.
Every program is different.
Every staff is different.
Every group of student-athletes is different.
The ones that succeed on the field, in the classroom, and in their community this year will be the ones who can identify the things they are willing to go without, so that they can double their focus on the things they need.
Keep kicking in the direction of your calling,
sold out to your vision on the way!
If you've coached soccer for longer than five minutes, at some point you've felt the sting of a loss.
Yesterday was one of those days for a travel team I help coach. I had an amazing father's day weekend with my family. The highlight was our year-end tournament, at which we made the championship game. It's extra special for me because my daughter happens to be on the team as well. It's time we get to share experiencing the game we both love.
When the final whistle blew, the scoreboard said 1-0, but not in our favor. We had played exceptionally well, with a lot of quality chances to finish. It was just one of those games where we couldn't push the ball over that little white line at the end of the field. You know, the days that feel like there is cellophane over the goal? One of those days.
As our players began to walk off the field towards us, eyes started to water. And it was in that moment, and many others like it, that we...as coaches...have a tremendous opportunity.
It's not easy.
We can't change the result.
But we can focus on what truly matters most.
Use the platform of a tough loss, to gain perspective.
I've started reading the book of Esther again. I'm reading it in the "Message Version". In the introduction section of the book, Eugene Peterson says something that I think is incredibly profound.
"The Book of Esther opens a window on this world of violence directed, whether openly or covertly, against God and God's people. The perspective it provides transcends the occasion that provoked it, a nasty scheme to massacre all the exiled Jews who lived in the vast expanse of fifth-century B.C. Persia."
I know it's Monday morning...and I don't mean to get super-deep on you...but I needed to share that with you so that you had context of what I am going to say next.
As coaches, we deal with wins and losses on the field. But what we are truly charged with goes way beyond that. From on the field, to in the classroom, to in the community locally and globally. We are charged with raising up leaders of the next generation. Part of raising up leaders, is helping them understand how to navigate the times when the scoreboard isn't in our favor, the exam results were less than favorable, and the events that take place around us that are nothing short of tragic and deeply hurtful.
The shootings in Charleston, SC recently speak to the last part of what I just mentioned.
So how do we do it?
How do we raise up leaders,
when adversity hits us in the emotional mouth?
On the field yesterday, we told our players how proud of them we were. We lost the game, but the perspective of how they played mattered more than one outcome on one day. Because how they played is creating who they are. Who they are drips into more of their life, than 60 minutes on a soccer field.
In the classroom, we can help them focus on the task at hand as the breeding ground for the opportunities in their future.
And in our communities, we can help them lead as the leaders in Charleston, SC are leading today. My heart is burdened for the families who lost loved ones. And I can't help but notice the incredible stance they are taking in response to what happened.
Love. Forgiveness. Grace.
As coaches, we get enamored with records and results.
Sometimes we have to slow down long enough
to realize why we are really here.
The perspective "it" provides transcends the occasion that provoked it."
it = a loss of any kind.
transcend = to rise above the hurt
the occasion = in a moment
The perspective a loss of any kind provides,
allows us to rise above the hurt in a moment.
And before I leave, please know I am in no way comparing the events in Charleston, SC to the loss of a soccer match. What I am saying is that the honor we have as coaches to shape the hearts and minds of the next generation shows up everywhere.
On the field, In the classroom. In our communities.
To build on something that hurts today,
so that people know the only one who can bridge that gap for them.
After all...I can't think of anyone who used the platform of a loss any better.
What does it really mean to be a "team"?
To build something greater than us, requires a non-negotiable move to make an investment.
An investment requires a deposit,
and a deposit requires a sacrifice.
We have to do without a part of us, so that it can bring a greater return outside of us.
Is there a risk in investment?
So how do we reconcile the risk? How do we calculate if it's worth it to be that vulnerable?
When we invest in a person, or a team, how do we trust it's the right decision?
Here's the thing...
We weren't called to pre-determine the outcome, just invest in the relationship(s).
Outcomes known ahead of time remove the strength that the journey provides on the way.
Jesus offers us a relationship with him, knowing full well we will let him down at some point. Think about that for a minute. He knows it will happen, and he still does it freely.
If he can do that for us, who are we not to do that for one another?
We are hard-wired to do life as a part of something much larger than ourselves.
When we do?
Victory is sweeter.
Defeat is more bearable.
Questions have answers.
Grief has company.
Adversity has support.
The list goes from being a personal point of pain, to becoming a collective opportunity.
The upcoming season is just around the corner.
What is your intentional plan to invest in the relationships on your team?
Every relationship that is authentic, starts with a deposit.
That is a sacrifice worth making.
Brett W. Gould
Photos used under Creative Commons from White & Blue Review, toolmantim, kstepanoff