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Dear Santa: A Coach’s Christmas Wish

I thought it might be appropriate during this joyous holiday season to pause and take a moment to do some reflection. This post marks a temporary suspension of the A Coach's Dozen: 13 Beliefs of Good Coaches that series will resume next week.

I have always tried to add a personal touch to everything I do. I think it is just part of my nature of wanting to bring a unique twist to whatever I am doing. This has been true in my family life, my approach to education, even how I would cut the grass on my baseball field, and especially how I have attempted to approach my work as a coaching scientist. For that reason, I have made a point of asking the coaches I work with a simple but very personal question: “What do you want other coaches to say about you?” Not too long ago I asked that question to a man I have always considered one of my coaching mentors. His response was equally personal and simple, “I want coaches to say my team is well coached.”

Those words, well coached, haunted me for weeks after that conversation. Each time I would meet another coach and asked how they hoped others would describe them, I would hear my mentor’s words ringing in my ears—well coached. No matter how that current conversation ended, my mind would return to the idea of well coached. At first, I couldn’t shake the weird feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Slowly, I began to wrap my mind around why those words haunted me. I came to appreciate that the idea of well coached is the ultimate compliment a coach can receive, especially from a peer. It means you were able to infect a group of athletes with the same passion you have for a sport. It means you passed on your experiences, your love, your life to others. Good coaches know well coached when they see it. Over time I also came to realized why those words troubled me. I realized I had never heard those words said about one of my teams. Sure, in my twenty-five plus years as an interscholastic coach I could recall times when my teams were described as talented, good, sound, smart, even disciplined. But never well coached.

That realization hurt at first. My instinct was to justify. I tried to reason with my ego. I made a mental list of all the bad breaks, bad hops, and bad situations I had to endure during my career. After a while, after I got over myself, I came to understand it was actually the quest, my quest, for the compliment of well coached that had brought me to where I am today—my present. My present includes, twenty-five years of service as a teacher, countless seasons as a coach, a PhD graduate, a husband, a father, the list goes on and on. My search for the meaning of well coached is why I am who I am today.

Accepting my present has allowed me to view my past with clearer eyes. My newfound awareness can be separated into two thoughts; I understand now a lot more about authentic coaching and what it means to have a well coached team, and second, I understand my quest for well coached is not over. Coaching is a complex puzzle, and despite my own ego, the puzzle is not solved.

A great poet once said, “In certain circumstances truth is a joining of opposites, if we want to know that truth, we must learn to embrace the opposites as one.” The truths I have come to understand are this: Authentic coaching is personal. It connects our inner soul and our outer actions together as one. Authentic coaching is a decision-making process in which coaches attempt to build success through a trueness to their beliefs. No coach can truly find success until they first understand what they believe—what they stand for. Coaching is a paradox.

My wish for you this holiday season is this; peace, passion, and joy. I hope you have peace and find some time to reflect on your present. I want you to remember the passion that brought you to where you are today. And lastly, I trust that someday you will experience the joy of knowing… you coached them well.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

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