Don’t Lose Your Minds!

Coaches, please don’t lose your minds now that your seasons have finished.  I’m saying this preemptively since this is the time of the year that coaches come the closest to completely freaking out about the season.

Last year at about this time, I talked about the significance of winter sports in North Dakota and how winter sports are viewed in our state.  For that post, I tailored my message more towards parents and community members.  This time, I’m focusing on coaches.

As a coach, here’s what happens after the final game of the season:
Scenario 1 – Your team finishes as the state champs.  This triggers a sense of accomplishment and relief…immediately followed by a sense of panic because someone will expect the same result next year.  Because of that, you start leaning on your returning kids to get in the weight room, start open gyms, sign up for summer camps, etc. etc.
Scenario 2 – Your team made the state tournament but just missed being the state champs.  After consoling the kids for whatever tough loss just occurred, you point out how close they were to gold.  Because of that, you start leaning on your returning kids to get in the weight room, start open gyms, sign up for summer camps, etc. etc.
Scenario 3 – Your team loses out of an advancing tournament, but overall, you over-achieved this year.  This triggers that same sense of accomplishment and relief as in Scenario 1…immediately followed by the thought that you could have done better.  Because of that, you start leaning on your returning kids to get in the weight room, start open gyms, sign up for summer camps, etc. etc.
Scenario 4 – Your team loses out of a tournament, and you performed pretty much to expectations for the year.  After congratulating your kids for doing exactly what you had hoped to do this year, you raise the bar for them for next year.  Because of that, you start leaning on your returning kids to get in the weight room, start open gyms, sign up for summer camps, etc. etc.
Scenario 5 – Your team under-performed this year.  For whatever reason, you couldn’t get things going, nothing seemed to go right, and the whole season felt like a grind.  Because of that, you vow that it won’t happen again next year, challenge your returning kids, then start leaning on them to get in the weight room, start open gyms, sign up for summer camps, etc. etc.

Of course, while this is going on, there are several other things happening as well.
– Spring coaches, who have been salivating about their upcoming seasons for two months, immediately contact the kids about starting their open gyms on Monday.
– Summer club coaches, who feel like they’ve patiently waited long enough, start distributing information about registration, try-outs, practices, and games, and remind the kids about how important they feel their club programs are towards the development and improvement of the kid’s ability.
– Fall coaches, who have finally put away last season and are looking forward to next season, immediately contact the kids about getting in the weight room or starting off season camps.
– The parents, who just finished following their kids around for the longest season of the year (many of whom who did the same in the fall), would like to have their kids at home for a bit before getting started with whatever is next.
– The KIDS, who just finished the longest season of the year, would really like to take a few days off before doing the next thing – whether that’s a spring sport (which is preferred!), off season training, or something else.  It may come as a surprise to many that most kids have hobbies, interests, friends, etc. outside of athletics that they largely ignore during the season.

Now, balance all of that with something I’ve said before: winning is a by-product of many, many, (MANY) different things.  In my district, I had 11 varsity teams competing this winter – 4 of which are still going but will be done by the end of next week.  All of those teams fit into one of those 5 scenarios at the top of the post, but here’s the catch: I don’t honestly believe that those teams would have finished much differently had the kids started off-season stuff earlier or more intensely than they actually did last spring.

I had teams that finished as high as 2nd at the state tournament, and I had teams that finished the year towards the bottom of the pack.  All of those finishes were affected by factors much greater than their spring workout regime: genetic ability, decision making, injury, illness, social problems, etc.  Beyond that, sometimes kids are on, and sometimes kids are off.  (And sometimes kids are really, really on – like the goalie that beat our boys’ team.  We put 40 shots on him, and he saved almost all of them…he probably also saved his weekly allowance, all plastic bottles for recycling, and a kitten from a tree that night.)

I’m not suggesting that we abandon all attempts at getting better for next year; I’m just saying that it’s ok to give the kids some time off.  We don’t need to keep our foot on the gas pedal for the whole year.

– For kids in spring sports – let the spring sports’ coaches have them.  They don’t need additional pressure from the fall, winter, or club coaches.  HOWEVER,
– Spring coaches – give them a little time to breath and rest.  If they just finished a season on Saturday, they may need a little time to come down from that season before they can be expected to be full go for the next sport.  Their absence from open gyms for a while will be just fine…their taking a week off isn’t going to change where your team finishes this spring.
– For kids not in spring sports – why the heck aren’t they in a spring sport?!?  Let’s find them something they can do.
– For kids not in spring sports (attempt #2) – strength, agility, and flexibility training is a good thing for everyone.  Let them rest for a while, then get them in the weight room (preferably with someone who knows what he/she is doing).

In short, coaches, keep your season in perspective.  Give yourself some time to process the season as a whole before deciding what steps to take for next season, and give the kids a little bit of time to be kids.

What did I get right?  What did I get wrong?  Let me know via email, comment, Facebook, or Twitter!


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