20 September 2009

winning takes more than skills

It's been way too long since I last wrote, and I have no real excuse, other than I like to describe my life as too busy to actually get this done. However, in the last few days, I've been really ill (that sick in bed kind of ill, not the "you have cancer" kind of ill- at least not yet) and have been in miserable shape. My internal thermometer has been all off, and sometimes i was really hot and sometimes, i was really cold. Never really had anything like that happen to me, to the point where I had some calls to the Holy Man Upstairs, and just begged that whatever was causing the pain would stop, but unfortunately, it was the body destroyer version of the Entergizer Bunny, it just kept going and going and going...but at one point in time, I do remember saying I would write more if I could get out of bed and not feel like dying. Well, today was better than yesterday (which, physically, was one of the 10 worst days of my life), so after I made myself something to eat after a long period of fasting (not religious based or anything, I just couldn't process food), sat down and decided to watch some football, something I don't get a chance to do very often, based on my job, which if we're successful, means I'm usually preoccupied on Sundays...

I'm in the Bay Area, and have been here for the last 5 years, which means I've been in essentailly an NFL Black Hole, with the Raiders and Niners playing the kind of football that makes you really angry because the NFL has that fucked off rule that forces you to watch local games. Enter Tom Cable, an NFL coach that smooth knocked the fuck out of one of his own coaches, and Mike Singletary, an NFL Hall of Famer with a don't-fuck-with-me-or-i'll-fucking-kill-you mindset. Neither of these teams are vastly different insofar as personnel, but they both have instilled a new brand of accountability in their teams that make them believe they can win. They both have a no-nonsense approach to, well, everything, and they firmly believe that the best way to win a football game is tied to one's toughness, and they go out there KNOWING there won't be a team out there more willing to punch someone in the mouth than they will be. And these have been two of the most destitute programs in the NFL for the last 5 years Niners haven't been good since Mariucci, and the Raiders skill's left with Chucky). Talk all you want about skilled position players, but there's just something to be said for a good coach...

...when i first was involved any competitive activity, I was under the impression a good coach was someone with some vast amount of knowledge on the thing I need to learn, and so, naturally, I assumed that was the most important thing. But, as I began to get better at different activities in life, I began to realize the things I found in all good coaches were consistent, and not at all what I expected to be. But when it was all said and done, the overarching theme in all good coaches is twofold:

1) All good coaches understand the success and failure of their competitors is something you can help with, but ultimately is in their hands. This is the cross to bear of many coaches. I know one coach in particular, is a tireless worker, a excellent strategist and understands the ins and outs of the game like no other. However, for reasons I have never figured out, he seems incapable of producing winners- and for a long time, I couldn't figure out why, until recently. His students never figure out how to think on their own. They're really prepared if things proceed exactly as they have planned, but when things go awry, they are never really prepared to react well enough to win. Part of teaching is knowing how to teach people to excel in less than optimal situations, and when we spend too much time trying to catch fish for our kids, we sometimes forget to teach them to fish, which lets them eat for a lifetime.

2) Good coaches know that most of what coaching is pure motivation. Anyone that questions this just needs to look at the University of Washington this weekend. Last season, the University of Washington was one of the worst football teams in the NCAA last season, losing all of their football games last season (I will put this caveat: they quit on Ty Willingham last season, independently of getting really hurt- and the team on the field is who would have played for Willingham is they had been healthy). But when you quit on the coach, you need to bring in some new blood, and that's what they did with Steve Sarkesian, the offensive coordinator for USC, and he brought in a new culture of winning (for Seattle, who hasn't been good for quite some time). Making someone believe they can win is most of the battle. Once people believe they have the chance to win, it can happen. I was thinking back to a team that was debating when I was coaching in the upper midwest, and this small school with no real history of success went to, and cleared at the National Debate Tournament. There are tons of people, whose singular goal is to clear at the NDT and they never get it done. Their coach, who could be seen as a nice guy by some, was a lot of things, but nobody would ever confuse him with an excellent strategist, which is crucial to clearing at the NDT. They had a couple of things they were really good at, but for the most part they went in with the belief they could beat anyone, and with that confidence, they were able to excel. The ability to motivate people to success it actually more important to success than the tangible skills necessary to succeed. It's really hard to do well if you don't believe you can, even with mad skills, and you can succeed in a world where your skills aren't at their best if you have confidence in your ability to succeed.

There are a ton of other characteristics necessary to be a good coach, like the ability to listen, recognizing strengths and weaknesses, strategy, work, etc. But If you can motivate, and realize that, at the end, it's their ability to execute that really matters and to not take that power out of their hands, you'll find yourself doing the things that will facilitate greatness.

The next post is about strip clubs.

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