Even Coaches Need Permission

written by Erica Quam

Brené Brown (one of my favorite authors & researchers) has what I call a regular 'permission slip practice.' She carries slips of paper in her pockets for things she needs to give herself permission to do.

When she met Oprah for the first time, she allowed herself 'to be giddy and excited.' As a researcher, she struggled to be herself and show this goofier side...until she gave herself permission. Then, she had a blast! No one cared that she didn't 'fit the mold' of a researcher.

How can coaches use permission slips

There are a lot of unwritten expectations that come with a coaching career. Maybe they stem from your previous experiences as an athlete - what you saw your coaches do. They can come from experiences as a young coach - what your mentors taught you. They also come from outside pressures - what your athletes, administration, or even your alum think you "should do".

1. First, let go of uncontrollables

Coaches face plenty of judgement and criticism today. There are message boards where people can anonymously slander with no responsibility over the harsh words they write. We can't control anyone else. We can only control how we respond.

2. Next, focus on the controllables

Coaches can be hard on themselves. Some set unrealistic expectations and high standards of doing it all and doing it perfectly...finishing one thing and launching into the next...without ever acknowledging accomplishments. That may be the culture. Yet you are in charge of how you operate in this crazy world. You can be different.

3. Then, examine your own expectations

Take a look at what you expect of yourself. Make a list. Then get clear on why you have this expectation. Instead of following what others have done, figure out if that's the way you need to do it. Be open to saying no. Be willing to let things go.

Try a different approach. Play. Be curious. Question things. Learn, grow, and evolve. 

4. Finally, give yourself permission

Change can be scary. Give yourself permission to do something different. 

  • Delegate to get something off your plate
  • Spend less attention on an athlete who depletes your energy
  • Turn your phone off when you go home at night
  • Read something fun
  • Go home without finishing your to-do list
  • Be fully present with your family
As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
— Marianne Williamson

Self Care 

Coach can get busy, overwhelmed, and consumed by the constant stress of the season. This week, give yourself permission to do ONE THING to take better care of yourself. 

Once you open yourself up to new possibilities you may find new and better ways of doing things. You may find time where you didn't believe time existed by a simple shift of perspective. 

Model self care for your athletes. Be vulnerable enough to tell them what you're doing for yourself and why. You become a better leader when you become a better you. Your athletes will be the first to see it!

Do your athletes need permission?

Try this with your team. What do your athletes need to give themselves permission to do? Have them write out their own permission slips and share with a partner. Come back and share their thoughts and aha's as a big group. This simple activity can give you a lot of information as a coach!


What's one thing you'll give yourself permission to do this week? Share it in the comments below.