What Does Working Mean?

By August 10, 2012 8 Comments

How do we define success? Most people would define it using a monetary amount. Why? The answer is rather simple. As a society we have come to measure success based on money and possessions. By nature we as humans are competitive and today we want more. We want a higher income, we want more clothes, cars, bigger house, toys, and most importantly we want others to view us as being successful. We compete with our neighbors and friends. Somehow having more than our peers gives us a sense of accomplishment. This mindset relates directly to what I see taking place in coaching athletics across our country today.

The great coach George Raveling has said, “We have become intoxicated by working for the sake of working.” I could not agree more with Coach’s thoughts. I see this all around me in the world of coaching, especially in football. In coaching, how do we measure success? Most would say wins and loses. From the time I was a player to my time now as coach (which is not long, 12 years), the culture of high school athletics and coaching seems to have shifted.  Today’s coaches work just to work.

It seems as if coaches are doing things just to make it appear as if they are outworking their opponents. Where does this come from? I believe it comes from our country’s passion with the modern NFL. A popular topic of discussion is how NFL coaches work 18-20 hour days, sleep on office cots, and rarely spend evenings at home with their family. I believe we can correlate this to a trickle down effect at the high school and youth levels. Coaches want personal glory rather than what is best for kids. They view themselves through the lenses of others rather than through inner peace. Coaches let their own ambitions get in the way of what the true goals should be.

As a high school coach I see other coaches trying to run a collegiate type of program at the high school level. This is not isolated to one school, program, county, or state.  This is a national trend, which is alarming. Some programs in football and basketball forget that these are kids and sometimes they need to be just be kids. Football for example, has become a six-day a week job for kids. Saturday morning film and lifting sessions are now the norm. Oftentimes teams will have a Sunday walk through or, at the least, coaches will leave their families for a couple of hours to game plan. This is a sharp contrast to what I experienced in my high school playing days.  Our team only had weekend practices before playoff games, which were played on Mondays and Wednesdays. We were 30-5 during my sophomore through senior years, and went 12-1 during my senior year. This is proof that you do not have to do “work” just to work to have success as many coaches today do.

Fortunately, it does not have to be this way. I have a rule with my teams: don’t complain unless you can present two possible solutions. So here are solutions and goals that should be taught and emphasized within our programs. First and foremost you must have a philosophy that you absolutely believe in. This will allow you to narrow your focus, have clear goals and expectations. It must be people oriented since you are dealing with people on a daily basis. Secondly coaches need to be role models. They need to model how they want their athletes to behave. Our society desperately needs positive male role models and many of our athletes need father figures in their lives. What does it say to them if we cut out precious family time on weekends to put in more time at school to get that win next week? Does this make us good husbands, wives, fathers, or mothers? Our families and our children suffer as a result. Our athletes need to see and know that our families are most important to us, because in the long run we should care more about who they become as fathers/husbands and mothers /wives than who they are now as athletes. Coaches need to focus on creating a positive culture that is organized, detailed, fundamentally sound, with a collective buy in from all coaches and athletes in the program. When this occurs a powerful chemistry is developed that permeates throughout a program and into its community. Winning will no doubt follow.

Many great resources are available for coaches today. Using social media, such as Twitter, is extremely valuable if used properly. One resource available that I strongly recommend is PCA, Positive Coaching Alliance. You can find them at http://www.positivecoach.org and follow them @PositiveCoachUS

It is sad to see many coaches today have their priorities out of whack. In the end we will not be judged by how many wins and losses we accumulate. Rather it will be by the number of lives we have influenced. Our number one goal should be to positively impact the lives of our students and athletes. If we keep this in mind, have a clear philosophy, and are positive role models, winning will take care of itself. Always remember, kids do not care what you know until they know that you care.

As always, be a RGP (really good person) today!

This blog will start off as a weekly blog. In it I will discuss issues in the world of education and athletics. Feel free to post comments for discussion to my blog. Thank you for reading!

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Rhonda says:

    Great job Kyle! I couldn’t agree more. And I loved that you used the word “chemistry” in your blog. 🙂

  • Cheryl says:

    Well said! I can tell you’ve been doing a lot of reading. Seems to have paid off!

  • Jeremy Elmendorf says:

    Very well written and wonderful thoughts. I feel like the issues you are discussing are relevant to the corporate world as well. Many corporations have a culture where number of hours worked equates to your personal ‘success’. Couldn’t agree more with your thoughts and looking forward to reading next week.

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks, Jeremy! Great point about the corporate world. Quantity does not always equal quality!

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thank you Cheryl. I appreciate the feedback!

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks Rhonda! Just trying to incorporate the best of all worlds, especially the best science class:)

  • William R says:

    Love that you have a rule for having 2 solutions for complaints, I wish others would adopt that thought process. Good job, it was an interesting read! Definitely agree that the balancing act of our work life and family life is out of whack as a society.

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for the comment Bill. What is the point of getting to the top if you have no one to share it with?

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