Yesterday was game day #2 for the two developing high performance teams that I coach. It was not a great day. Hah! That’s a big fat understatement. The two teams lost by a combined score of 15-1. It’s really hard to put those first two sentences together – high performance and losing 15-1 – in a way that can be taken seriously right now.
Both teams had solid starts. They played very positively and gave you the feeling that everything was going to be just fine. And then something happened. Defensively, both teams struggled with opponents who played direct and had some very good athletes to get on the end of those forward balls. And, despite the scores, both teams continued to work hard trying to follow the game plan right up to the end.
Does that really matter though?
Seriously, 15-1. That’s all that needs to be said to discount anything else positive that I might be able to say about yesterday.
At the end of the second game I felt overwhelmed. Anger, sadness, desperation, frustration. Any other emotion I’d already experienced through the course of the two games. I was spent.
On the drive home I expected to be more analytical about it all. I normally would have been. I must have been in shock because I started to feel it later on that evening when I went for a walk with my wife. It would hit me like a hot flash – a crashing wave of pure guilt and anxiety that would leave me feeling almost dizzy then disappear as quickly as it came.
I woke up early this morning and it was the first thought to enter my mind. So I got up and started to write this blog. In those moments of reckoning it became very clear what the issue was.
Both teams I treat with the same philosophy. Therefore I train both the same. Both teams lost big yesterday and made many of the same mistakes. The club head coach that I report to said something similar. The feedback he was going to pass on to me was to be pretty much the same between the two teams. Also, both teams lost their opening league game by a score of 2-0 and in copy cat fashion that day too. It’s clear to see the pattern.
This is my fault and mine alone to bear.
“A gentleman is one who doesn’t and can’t forgive himself for a self-committed mistake even if others forget it and the self-criticism is a mark of his right attitude towards life.” – Anuj Somany
I’ve come into this organization with a less than traditional approach to coaching. It’s a style that has required significant adjustment by players and parents. Given the push back that said approach usually entails, that in itself would have been enough on the plates of most normal coaches for a single season.
But not me. Nope. No way.
I then went and created a game philosophy of colossal idealistic proportions. One built on controlling the game, attacking constantly and scoring goals.
“I am trying to do two things: dare to be a radical and not a fool, which is a matter of no small difficulty.” – James A. Garfield
Well, if that seems utterly laughable to me right now, I can only imagine what the parents think of it all. With the amount of money and time that they’ve already committed to have their daughters’ as part of this program, I can envisage how upset and disappointed they must be.
Disillusioned. That’s the word.
So what else is there to say? Not much. Although this quote reminds me of something I should have said and never did.
“I give you my word that we will put in an effort. I don’t know if we’ll win, but we’ll persist. Put on your seat belts, because we’re going to have fun”. – Pep Guardiola (Presentation by the new coach of FC Barçelona 2008/09 to the fans)
Yep, the only guarantee that a coach should make is that there is no guarantee.
So what else is there to do?
Persist. A radical idea when it works is amazing. A radical idea when it fails, fails in epic proportions. That I know to be true (less than 24 hours ago). As a heretic coach, I know what I do is valuable but not always is that value felt in the short-term. Unfortunately, a common story for my coaching over the last few years is that people have appreciated that value more once I’ve moved on. For that reason, I hope that those around me recognize the choice I’ve made in the name of development. I choose an approach that I know will have long-term benefits to the players I work with even if it doesn’t give me the short-term plaudits to stroke my own ego.
I will continue to evaluate myself and look to see what I can do better. What I can tweak. Otherwise, I will stay the course – have the strength of conviction and belief to be true to long-term development in the way that I can best deliver it. I know there will be moments still to come where we can all be proud of the lofty ideals that have been set forth. Just not today.
I own this mess. I got us into it. I will get us out of it.
Next post Saturday, May 30th.