The Coaching Trap

By January 30, 2015 No Comments

No matter what sport it is, the season is long. That’s because you’re always working towards something (preseason workouts, film study, weights, practice planning, meetings, etc.) It can become mentally and physically grueling, especially if you fall into The Coaching Trap. This is easy to fall into and almost everyone does at some point. What is it? Let’s discuss.

The Coaching Trap occurs when we as coaches begin to compare ourselves. We compare ourselves to other coaches, schools, programs, and levels of play. A few years ago I fell into this trap myself. I was in my second year as the varsity girls head coach at our high school and it was the first time I had a team with a losing record as a coach. Although we had a difficult schedule and internal conflicts amongst players, I still let the record bother me. I remember hearing a story on the radio about the late, great Rick Majerus. The columnist mentioned that he had never had a losing record as a coach (actually he only had one during his illustrious career). Anyways, somehow I began comparing myself to him, and thinking I was not a good coach because our record was a few games below .500. I believe this trap and fixed mindset happens to us all. So what do we do?

The truth is we all have different players, schedules, and circumstances that we’re dealing with and we’re only beating ourselves up once we start to compare. Real success as Coach Wooden states, “Comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” If you are giving your absolute best to help your team be the best it can be, that is success. We’re all not fortunate enough to pick our rosters each season. The vast majority of high school coaches must work with what’s walking the halls and cannot recruit players. You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken ______. We’re setting ourselves up for failure if we constantly compare ourselves and our success to other coaches, programs, and levels.


Here are three ways to avoid The Coaching Trap. First, develop an attitude of gratitude. Although it may seem difficult at times, be grateful for the opportunity to coach and influence young lives. You should be coaching because you love the game and want to help others, not to pile up wins. Wins are a by-product. By having a grateful mindset you will come to appreciate all the great things coaching brings into your life. Secondly, teach the game. It’s the best part. Helping players improve steadily is what it’s all about. I enjoy practices just as much, if not more, than the games themselves. Coaches are teachers. Through sport we can teach more than the game. Our ultimate goal should be to help our players become better people on and off the court. Thirdly, celebrate success and stop to smell the roses. The season may seem especially long if the team is not winning, but don’t let that be the sole measurement of success. Instead of focusing on the total amount of wins, focus on individual and group improvement. If players and the team are progressing, you’re on the right track. Evaluate if players are becoming better leaders, teammates, and people on and off the court; if they are, you’re on the right track. Never forget that culture matters. If players and coaches still enjoy being there every day and are continuing to work hard, you’re having success.

Coaching success is all about growth and learning. If you continue to improve your ability to lead and coach every day and every year, you will find success. Always remember, it’s about the players, not about us as coaches. Trust the process and teach it to your athletes. Success will find you.

Remember, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it. If you solely measure success on wins and loses you’ll drive yourself insane.

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!

Coach Elmendorf is available to speak with your team, group, organization. Message him for details.