5 Reminders From My 1st Year As A Head Coach

I still remember my very first day of work at Washington State University. I was a 26 year old first-year head coach.

I showed up in my boss's office on July 1st, 2002 at 8am, sharp - my backpack on, large mug of coffee in hand, ready to hit the ground running.

I was eager, wide-eyed and terrified - all at the same time.

My boss welcomed me in and then handed off to her assistant…who gave me keys to my office and a brief checklist - to set up email, schedule an HR orientation, and other 'new person' logistics. 

I walked into my dark new office that had blank walls , an empty desk, and a big ugly orange cabinet.

I didn't even have a computer yet. So, I sat there for a few minutes and just stared forward.

"Well, now what, Quam?," I asked myself. "What have you gotten yourself into?"

Here are 5 reminders I now share with new head coaches to support them through this transition:

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3 Different Ways To Look At Leadership That Will Help Every Single Athlete On Your Team

One thing I hear from coaches all the time is that their team is struggling due to a lack of leadership on their team.

I ask them specifically what they mean.

They often talk about team captains who aren't doing their job "because they're afraid to hold people accountable" or a few of their seniors have "checked out...just biding their time until they’re done."

"Okay," I respond..."so, what about the rest of your team? What's the leadership like on the rest of your team?

This question usually stumps them. Because most coaches are only thinking about their team captains or seniors when they think about leadership.

And sure...it's a legitimate place to start.

If you define a leader as someone who has influence then your team captains and your senior class probably have a lot of influence on your team. And as all coaches know their influence is not always positive!

Before you throw in the towel and chalk it up to a 'lack of leadership', let's look at leadership from a different angle.

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Three Ways To Close the Perception Gap On Your Team

Tawnya's team was struggling.

Her team returned to campus after a long training camp. Classes had just started back.

It's always been an odd time for her team, yet this year felt especially strange. Her team felt disconnected.

Yet, when she talked to her team captains about it, they totally brushed it off and assured her everything was going 'just fine'.

"You're making things up...we're all good coach," said one of her senior athletes convincingly.

After practice, she pulled one of her freshmen aside to ask her how things were going and got a totally different story.

SOMETHING’S UP

When "something's up" on your team...you know it.

You may not know the WHAT or the WHY…yet if you're intuitive, you definitely know the 'feeling' you get.

One of the hardest things to deal with as a coach is when you know something's wrong and your team denies it...until it's too late and everything blows up...at the most un-opportune time.

What can you do when you ‘feel’ that something’s up?

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WARNING: Now You've Chosen Your Word-of-the-Year

Last week, I wrote about choosing a word-of-the-year. This week I want to get real with you.

Setting an intention should come with a WARNING.

It’s not what most people talk about.

All you hear about is the excitement of the New Year.

If you examine things a little closer, .the first thing you might notice are the things you DON'T want to come up. 

Which may lead you to question your intention. 

You may think things like...

  • "That didn’t work...again."

  • "Maybe there’s something wrong with me."

  • “I guess I chose the wrong word.”

It takes a little more trust and faith to see your intention through.

My coach uses the analogy of a gardener. 

You've just planted a seed for the new year.

When you plant a seed, you don’t get flowers shooting up out of the right away.

Growth takes time.

The first thing that comes up when you plant a seed is all the dirt.

So, look out! 

Pay attention to things unlike your word that come your way…especially during these first few months of the year. 

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Gratitude For Your Most Challenging Athletes

Challenging athletes are usually the one's who get most of your attention, take most of your time, and drain most of your energy. 

They can leave you exhausted - while whittling away at your passion and inspiration. Just when you think you've got your team moving together in the right direction...another issue surfaces and drama escalates.

(You probably have someone in mind...right? Your blood pressure may be elevating just by reading this...)

Your other athletes sense your frustration. They're most likely fed up with the whole situation too. 

They don't know what to say to you...and they're definitely not sure how to handle their teammate.

This vicious cycle will not only keep your team stuck...it will widen the gap between where you are and where you wanna go.

You didn't sign up for this. You just wanna coach!!!! Is that too much to ask????

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Do you make space for level three conversations?

It was day 2 of a 3 day competition. Samantha (Sam) walked over to her friend, Tonya - who coached at a different school - as both of their teams were stretching and warming up.

Tonya asks, "How are you?"

Sam responds (knowing she'd have to get back to her athletes in a matter of minutes), "I'm doing (she paused)...good I guess." 

In reality, she wasn't doing well...and Tonya knew at least some of the background. 

In April, they had been to the same coaching summit and had one of the most pivotal conversations of Sam's coaching career so far.

She hadn't realized how much her and Tonya had in common - until they actually had a chance to talk.

Both been through similar challenges that year with their head coach. Both had been at a crossroads - with decisions they needed to make about a next step along their coaching journey.

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