Small Success is BIG

written by Erica Quam


This week I’m working with group of coaches at a Women's Coaching Summit in Bellingham.

Part of what’s so great about the summit is taking the opportunity to celebrate all of the many accomplishments, insights, and ah-ha’s these coaches have had over the past year.

When coaches sit down to write these things down, their list may not look like what you'd expect. 

That's because it takes some work to recognize the value in your work as a coach.

Coaches are hard on their athletes...and even harder on themselves! 

It takes a little more digging and a deeper level of awareness to see all the ways you're actually learning, growing, and expanding.


The things that matter the most aren't necessarily the typical things that you might expect people to high-five or fist-pump about.

Things that make your list of accomplishments may be things you'd hardly ever think to celebrate at all.

That's why this kind of work is so important!!!

True success isn’t as much about the big things that show up in a press release for everyone else to read.

Your success as a coach is about the hundreds of moments you have over the course of the season that you may not think of or give yourself credit for…

Like when an assistant coach I worked with was struggling to connect with her head coach.  She had some amazing insight into what the team really needed...and he never seemed to listen to her ideas. She finally got up the courage to have a conversation with him to ask for more responsibility. He agreed she could lead the team-building for the next season and would dedicate at least one hour a week of their practice time.

Or the head coach who decided to change her approach to the way she was working with her assistant coach. She realized she was communicating with him the way she likes...instead of finding out his needs so that he could understand what she was asking him to do.  Now, she can actually delegate...and get more off her plate instead of being bitter and just doing things herself. 

Or the coach who sat down with her athlete who had just lost a childhood friend to simply be there for her and listen to what she was going through.


Success is about small choices you make every single moment.

It’s typical (and tempting) to limit your definition of success to things other people would acknowledge and give you a high five for:

  • "The Win Over Your Rival!"

  • “Undefeated!”

  • “Winning Record!”

  • "Best recruiting class ever!"

  • “NCAA Champions!”

  • "Coach of the year!"

And sometimes you can get trapped by big milestones. Maybe you want and expect recognition from others. When you don't get enough acknowledgement, or another coach gets more acknowledgement, it’s easy to compare and end up resentful.

Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.
— John Wooden

Maybe you don't acknowledge the little things because you don't think you've earned a celebration. You don't write it down if it's not good enough. I’ve seen coaches gloss right over accomplishments and raise the bar even higher - so any potential momentum gets lost…and they’ve already move on.

What can you acknowledge right now that you're happy about or proud of?

  • Getting on the treadmill for 20 minutes when your team is on the road.

  • Resisting the temptation to check your email…every single minute.

  • Having that hard conversation with your boss when you have no idea about the outcome.

  • Staying around after practice to connect with an athlete who seems a little "off".

  • Giving yourself permission to do something just for you - and not feel guilty about it.


Small success doesn't appear on the scoreboard.

Small success isn't breaking news on SportsCenter.

Small success is just you and your relationship with your choices - one decision at a time. 

From the outside success may seem uneventful or even boring. What matters is your ability to recognize the small steps you are making - little by little, and bit by bit.

Here's my question: What small success will you acknowledge yourself for today?