Read for motivation. Just as the right song can push you through a challenging obstacle, the right book or article can sharpen your focus. Until I read Season of Life, by Jeffrey Marx, I wasn’t sure how to show my players how much I cared about them. Just when I thought there would never be another book as inspirational as Season of Life, Joe Ehrmann, the subject of Season of Life, released InSideOut Coaching. Coach Ehrmann challenges coaches to develop a coaching philosophy based on the following questions:
1. Why do I coach?
2. Why do I coach the way I do?
3. What does it feel like to be coached by me?
4. How do I define success?
From philosophy to practice. Rather than putting the book down and reverting back to old habits, coaches and athletes (just take the above questions and change “coach” to “compete”) can share their developed philosophies. A covenant is a great way to put philosophy into committed practice. I learned this technique from Carol Hotchkiss at the Durango Institute a few years ago, and found it a bit easier to digest than a “contract.” The definition has been adapted to fit coaching and training:
COVENANT: a contract of agreement between the [institution/program], parents, and [athletes] that supports the mission and objectives of the [institution/program], respects the commitment and investment of the parents, and honors the potential and integrity of each [athlete]. (The Durango Institute)
In my role as a youth coach, I could use Ehrmann’s questions to establish the program’s philosophy, then have players, parents, and assistant coaches provide their expectations and obligations to each other. So a player submits a covenant to parents and coaches; parents submit a covenant to their son and coaches; coaches submit a covenant to players and parents.
A covenant provides clear expectations and transparency from all involved. In my experience as a coach, I found sharing my coaching philosophy along with the covenants improved player and parent buy-in, provided me more autonomy with the school, and shifted focus from wins and losses to embracing each season as a unique experience.
Writing as mental floss. Once a coach or athlete finds clarity in why they coach or compete, there are still the other parts of your lives that clutter your brains. So how do we clear our minds for competition? Combined with meditation and mindfulness practices, stream of consciousness writing, or Proprioceptive Writing, will bring focus, lift burdens, and resolve conflicts. You can write to remove mental obstacles that negatively impact performance.
Tips for Stream-of-Consciousness Writing.
1. Establish clear rules or guidelines. These may include no rules or time limits.
2. Know your space & audience (journal, team, class, presentation)
3. Use model texts (Season of Life; InSideOut Coaching)
4. Find a routine — create a habit
5. Do something with it (read it, mark it up, share it, hide it, throw it away, don’t send it!)
“Sometimes you’re the statue, and sometimes you’re the pigeon.” Coaches often use the cliche that there is always someone faster, smarter, stronger. That the competition is always finding ways to defeat you. As athletes find success, thinking like a novice can keep them from being “the statue.” Reading for inspiration and writing for drive encourages reflection and pushes athletes and coaches into a novice’s mindset. As novices: we dig in, cling to mentors, take risks, and strive to improve.
The True Athlete Project is committed to learning from all True Athletes. If you have a book or piece of writing that has inspired you, or a writing prompt to share, please share with us by submitting your experience here!
By Tim Chakwin, True Athlete Project Member, Dean of Residential Life and English professor at The McCallie School, Co-Founder of Chattanooga Lacrosse, Lacrosse Coach, Father of two energetic young athletes!