According to Webster.com success is a favorable or desired outcome. It is something that is measurable and usually an end result. But what if the outcome really wasn’t what it was all about? OR, maybe the outcome is the most important thing. Sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we put too much emphasis on something that may not really be all that important. But there are those sometimes, when we get it right. Even when we guessed. It’s about how we got there. And why.
A good coach sets goals. A great coach understands why every failure is critical to achieving them. What if there were a roadmap to get to the pinnacle, a laid out path to follow that would ensure success? What if that road came with failure along the way? Would you still go down it, even if you had to fail to get there? Some say yes, of course. Knowing what’s at the end is a no brainer. But what if you could never be certain, you just had to believe that it could happen, and you may hit some pretty big obstacles on the way? Would you still walk down that path?
We want so badly to say yes, but so often we stop JUST short of the finish line, and we don’t even know it. As coaches we change courses, we get a bigger ship, we throw away the map when we need it most. It’s like a player in a slump who most often tries to change things at the plate their very next at bat, when the most critical thing to do in that case is to keep things consistent.
If this is your off season, what are you looking to change or make better next year? Maybe this is the height of your season and you need to remind yourself and your team what path you are walking down. Sometimes, taking out the map is a good way to do that. Unfold it and look at the big picture. Yes, goals are good… but what good are they if you don’t check in to see if you ever meet them? The most successful people in life don’t just set goals, they recognize when they are not on the path anymore, and they reassess when necessary. Can goals change? Of course. What served you last season may not serve you this year. The players may have changed, your team is different in talent, chemistry and makeup and you have to understand all over again what you are capable of.
It starts by asking yourself what you want. What are you capable of? Not every team can win a championship. And success isn’t always about the trophy. We had the privilege of watching a lot of great softball teams compete for a national title this season at every level. Every year every team will fall short except one. Is the only successful team the one who wins? I would say no. Emphatically, no.
Find what serves you. Find what makes the most of your team. Maybe it’s playing as one, finding true chemistry, getting over the mental errors that will satisfy your checklist this year. Maybe it’s watching your pitcher master a new pitch. Maybe it’s watching that one kid who you knew could, actually have a breakout year. Maybe it’s changing a life. And maybe, it has nothing to do with outcome or the game of softball at all. I have the privilege of working with a lot of softball players in a lot of softball programs. I am amazed at some of the talent I see, but more importantly amazed at the desire to excel, a desire to improve and a desire to find their best in every situation. Helping them do so makes them feel successful beyond measure.
The last few weeks I have talked a client through a boyfriend issue, helped calm the nerves of one preparing to give a high school graduation speech and asked an 11 year old what their favorite ice cream is. This thing we call the mental game is so much bigger than the sport we coach. When we can define what we want to accomplish in these young athlete’s lives, we define success. And most often, it’s the only goal that really matters in the end.
So carry on in teaching the peel drop, helping your slapper keep her shoulder in a little longer, and making sure your slowest kid gets good arm pump when she runs. Don’t lose sight of what we are here to do. Just remember the rest of who she is. And celebrate all the victories. In helping them define success, we inevitably define it for ourselves.