Coaching Styles

The Coach, the Ego and the Team

I’m being uncomfortably honest here.

I hate to lose.

I love to win.

There I said it. I got it out of the way. I’m a coach not a player so there’s only so much I can do from the sidelines. I can prepare my team everyday at practice but I can’t get out there with them on the field. And, even if I could, that certainly would not guarantee a win. After all, I’m approaching 50 and even though I stay in shape, I haven’t played competitive lacrosse in 25 years! So, as coaches, how do we balance the desire to have a winning season with the desire to create a fulfilling experience for our athletes … win OR lose? For me, the answer can be found in my head, in my ego. What do I mean by that and what the heck is the ego anyway?

Often times we associate the ego with conceit. Sure that’s part of it, but it’s only one half. The other half of the ego is that part that tells us “you stink”. Yes, that’s right, part of your ego will take whatever evidence it can find to inform you that you are absolutely splendid, while the other half is secretly hoping the world won’t find out that you’re actually a fraud. Ok so perhaps I am being overly dramatic here, and maybe even making too simple something that Freud spent a great deal of his professional life exploring.

shutterstock_337171907In sports, the ego can play dirty tricks on us if we allow it. I would say that a naturally competitive disposition has the potential to take us to extremes. Some coaches want to win at all costs, while others have mastered the ability to consistently put their athletes first.  And perhaps all of us can be either one at a given point. The problem arises when an inaccurate or overly positive image of our self takes over. It’s natural for our ego to hold onto this exceptional persona and do whatever it takes to find additional evidence to support it. I suppose the question here is, do we want to win for ourselves or for the kids? And if we don’t win or if we lose miserably, do make our athletes pay for it through our brutal analysis of the game? Winning feeds the positive self-esteem while losing can feed the negative self-esteem yet neither is true or authentic where the ego is concerned.

There are times when I know my own ego has camped out on the wrong side and I’ve shifted the focus from the kids and shifted the emphasis on me. I know when I’ve done this because I feel unsettled and, quite frankly, a bit desperate.  If I’m really paying attention to what’s going on I can redirect my focus on the right things and remind myself that the team is not about me at all. In the end, in most situations, they’re not losing because of me, but they’re not winning because of me either.

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