You don't have time NOT to reflect

written by Erica Quam

It's important to take time at the end of the season to reflect on what actually happened. Look at the BIG picture...in reverse.   

Take a step back from your team and consciously think about what went well, what didn't go well, and what can you do differently in the future.  This is an essential part of growth - for yourself as a coach and for your program.  

Why is reflection important?

If you don't take time to look back, you'll often end up making the same mistakes - year after year.  You'll miss patterns that came up during the season that you may recognize when you take the time and space to look back. Although it may be much easier to put the past behind you and keep charging forward - don't skip out on this important step!

Reflection allows you to learn and evolve. It helps you to gather information, get ideas, and keeps you committed to a process of growth and discovery.  Reflection gives you a greater level of awareness and insight into how you can improve.

Why is reflection so hard?

Reflecting back can be difficult because most coaches I know are very driven and often focused on the next steps...constantly raising the bar a little higher, looking forward, & moving ahead.

Looking back can be so hard - because as coaches, we are emotionally invested in the results of our athletes and our teams. We may look back and see the potential in people who haven't yet recognized it in themselves. We may see injuries that happened to key players who were unable to contribute at the level we predicted at the beginning of the season. That can be hard!  

At the end of a long season, most coaches are just tired. Then the focus is ONLY on what did NOT go well...what your team struggled with or lacked, and what you don't want to have happen again. 

The problem with this is...what you focus on expands.  So, it's equally important - when you look back - to remember what went well, what you want to do again, and what you want to make sure you incorporate the next season.

Take time to reflect

Be gentle with yourself - if your energy is tapped out and this is a hard thing for you to do - acknowledge that!

Allow yourself some time to do this. Don't force it. You have to make some time to unplug. Go get a massage, go for a drive, or do something in an effort to take care of yourself. 

Schedule a day away from the office. Change your surroundings. Get into a space where you are comfortable, not in a hurry, and can allow yourself to look back.

Where do I start?

I encourage the coaches I work with to reflect back on three simple questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn't go well?
  3. What can you differently?

Always begin with what went well. Allow yourself time to make a list of everything that you accomplished during the season. Write all the things that you considered to be a success - no matter how big or small they may may seem.

From the activity you led at the team retreat to that one athlete who finally came into your office to talk to you...make a big list. Write it all down. When you stop writing...give yourself 5 more minutes to think of a few more things.

Next, when you look back at what didn't go well, avoid the temptation to get triggered or hooked. Look back objectively...with curiosity. Look back with a fresh perspective. Have an intention behind this exercise...an intention of growth and development.  Then make your list.

Finally, look at what you can do differently. This applies to both lists. When you've had a great season, it's easy to try and recreate that success the next season - by doing many of the same things. When you've had a challenging year it's typical to try and implement a ton of changes - so that nothing "feels" like the year before.  

When you are in a good space you will really know and connect with what you can do differently. You will be able to tap into your intuition and inner wisdom.  Answer from that space.

Reflect...more often!

And, you don't have to save this until the end of the season. Try it at the end of the month, the end of the week, or even at some level at the end of each day.  You may be surprised at how much time and energy you save reacting to things once you have taken the time to reflect.

Share your reflections in the comments below!