N is for Never
N is for Never. Never is easily defined. It means "on no occasion," "at no point in the past or future," and "not at all." Never is another simple word with profound reach. At no point in the past or future spans a long, long time. There is an ironically flexible saying that starts, "Never in a hundred years." Well, if you're really going with "never," you're putting much longer than one hundred years on the line. For the blog, something I'd like to discuss the word never in coaching and sports.
"Great players never show bad body language." "It's never okay to make a mental mistake." "The grind never stops." When we speak in terms of such absolutes, we better be VERY confident in what we are saying. In the three preceding statements, none would hold true. There have been plenty of great athletes who have shown bad body language. Novak Djokavic is one who comes to mind. He appears mad in between many points, games, and sets. Few would argue against him being great. Now, I'm not saying that is what makes him great. It's possible he is great in spite of his bad body language. Nevertheless, he is a great player who shows bad body language. The statement about mental mistakes is unfair. If we allow for the understanding that physical mistakes will be made, how can we then expect mental perfection? Major League Baseball players have forgotten the number of outs, thrown to the wrong base, and missed signs. If we know that creating an environment where athletes are not afraid to make mistakes because it allows for freedom to play, then the mental part of the equation has to be considered part of the environment as well. Expecting perfection is unfair. The final statement is easy too. People need breaks of some duration physically and mentally. Even professional athletes take time to decompress and recover. What's particularly concerning is the young age when the expectation is to grind and work every day on their sport. Much has been written about youth sports burnout and the need to take time off to do other things. I will just say I agree with both and think sometimes we lose perspective of who and why we are coaching. If you're coaching youth baseball, coach youth baseball. If you're coaching high school football, do that. Forgetting our role and clientele can be detrimental to the experience for all.
In conclusion, I'd like to just caution you again with absolutes like "Always" and "Never." There are few in life (death, taxes, etc.) and few in sports as well. It only takes one time to disprove an absolute, and they create unrealistic expectations for your athletes. While many need to learn accountability for actions, understanding they aren't supposed to be perfect is a lesson many need as well. Let's help them to learn it rather than accidentally work against them.
N is for Never SOTD: Rick Astley- Never Gonna Give You Up
If you never heard of the "Rick Rolled" sensation, you are missing out. Please do yourself a favor and Google it. Also, I'd say my dance style is 25% Rick Astley.