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Ordinary People Taking Action
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It’s interesting how we are quick to praise or criticize coaches of athletes, yet all agree it’s a necessary role. Yet, in the business world, we are slow to hire or truly appreciate the value of coaches. Don’t get me wrong, just like in sports, there are strong professional and executive coaches – ones that deserve praise – and there are those who are worthy of criticism. The key is to note the strengths of each coach as an individual and find one that fits your style and your needs.
I have spent the last nine days straight on the sidelines watching sports – and therefore coaches – as my son competed in two basketball tournaments and a regional soccer tournament. As I think about the importance of coaching, my son’s soccer coach comes to mind. This has everything to do with business coaching but bear with me while I lay some context around this last week of U14 soccer.
My son’s team was the wildcard pick from Washington State for the Regional President’s Cup. They were the tournament champions last year – and this year, they lost the championship game 4-5 after PK’s. They were sad to lose the game – and then beyond excited to receive the wildcard spot. While the team was making back-to-back appearances, they were the underdog going into the tournament and were in a hard bracket. They knew there would be challenges ahead.
Now for the recap. The first game against Nevada, they lost. The second game against Oregon, they won. In their third game in pool play, they were up against the #5 team in the US, Southern California. The team knew that the odds of advancing in the tournament were slim. The vibe of the team was mellow. It’s in these situations that I find myself really watching athletic coaches. I am a believer that everything that happens in the game is applicable to corporate life – that coaches are shaping our children’s reactions to situations that will occur in their future professional lives.
Back to the tournament. The boys took the field and the game against Southern California was underway. They came out strong. The team hadn’t looked as cohesive during the two earlier games but today something was different – they were connecting and playing together. The players who weren’t fighting for it were on the bench – it seemed. But the team they were playing against was better, faster, bigger, and our team was clearly being outplayed. It didn’t take long for those of us on the sidelines to realize this game wasn’t going to end in our favor. Sure enough, it was 0-5 at half time.
The boys huddled with the coach and then came back out for the second half. It was 95 degrees which is super-hot for anyone, but especially for our boys from Washington State. They were being beat and as time passed, it was clear that Southern California would take the win. Although the parents seemed to know what fate had in store, the boys kept playing – kept trying. Then, something magical happened. Our team scored a goal. Our team scored a goal against a team who definitely didn’t want to be scored against – and our team would keep Southern California from having their third shutout of pool play. Our team was excited – our parents were ecstatic. The game ended with a score of 1-6. Our team scored the last goal. No, we didn’t win, but after knowing they were probably going to be outplayed, that final goal was very meaningful to our boys, and they were very excited.
I later learned from coach that before the game, he’d talked to the boys about moments. He acknowledged the daunting challenge that they faced and got the boys to agree to stick together, never to stop fighting for each moment. The idea was that if the boys could connect enough moments they would be able to walk off the field with their heads held high and their hearts full of pride, knowing they’d given everything they had on the field.
How does this apply to a corporate environment? Well, although there is technically no scorekeeping in business, we all experience our champion career moments, our underdog moments, and our comeback moments. These moments can span weeks or months. A good coach can be that consistent presence, guiding you during those critical periods in your career, so that whatever the situation, you can always make the most of your game. Maybe even score that final goal - and always to support you in fighting for your moment.