As the coach, you should rarely be the one to do any of the actual work. It’s your job to line things up so someone else can do what needs to be done. It’s your role to scaffold the situation so that the team or athlete can follow a path that moves them toward their desired outcome. But you have to resist the urge to do any of the actual work or overly influence the situation.
Coaching is like doing a puzzle with a small child. (Wow, I really hope I don’t insult my athletes with this metaphor). If you’ve ever done a 30-piece puzzle with a toddler, then you’ve obviously had the feeling of knowing which piece to grab, how to orient it, and even what the next three pieces should be.
But it’s not about you doing the puzzle…it’s about the toddler. So you spend your time not actually doing the puzzle, but flipping over pieces, drawing some attention to ones that fit, or even spinning them into better orientation to see the connections. You may also enlist another toddler or older sibling to keep it exciting and interesting.
But what it will never be is picking up the pieces and building the puzzle for him/her. It’s their job to struggle, repeatedly. It’s your job to keep it fun when it gets frustrating. It’s your job to celebrate when they get a piece in place. It’s your job to ignore their requests to do it for them or to make it easy. It’s a puzzle, it’s supposed to be a challenge.
Yes, they are likely 100% unaware of the scaffolding that you are providing. If you’re doing it well, then they can’t sense it. However, they will always be able to see where you aren’t making it easier and they may even get frustrated at you for it…deal with it, it’s not about you. That’s parenting coaching.
Please, don’t think for one second that I look at only my athletes as small children…because in reality I look at every one of us as a small child. It’s all relative. I’m positive that my older, more veteran coaching mentors see me in this perspective. As I struggle or wrestle with a puzzle that they solved 15-years ago, they ask me questions and orient my pieces. They see my path forward, but they let me struggle and help me find it myself. We’re all just toddlers looking for the right puzzle piece.
Ok, so that was a really long intro. I’m supposed to be thanking Frank Scheck right now. In a way, I have been. What does all this have to do with Frank Scheck? It has everything to do with the man. Because Frank was more than an integral piece in the puzzle that was this team. Frank was something that I, at times, was unable to be. Frank made us laugh. Trust me, this is a difficult, yet critical ingredient for a team to possess. To a team, laughter is a glue. Its a balm. It’s a performance enhancing drug. Remove it and a team starts to take things too seriously. Sport becomes toiling work, practice becomes drudgery, and the joy is lost. And without joy, there is no passion.
Sadly, Frank never got to actualize his full potential. Not for a lack of effort or fight on his part. Illness claimed his senior year of HS. A poorly landed hurdle hop led to a broken ankle and a lost first year of college. And a shoulder injury stole the end of his junior campaign. But Frank doubled down and went to work. Rehabbed his shoulder over the summer. Worked with his coach to figure out why it happened and put the time in to address the weakness.
The outcomes were big PR’s in every indoor throw for Frank. Given that Frank was focusing primarily on the discus and the hammer throughout winter for our NESCAC team run, seeing PR’s in the SP and WT were foretelling of big things for the spring season. A spring season that would never be.
People who know me, know that I’ll always need a Frank. As a competitor, I tend to be the hood-up, headphones-on introvert. I admit that I don’t tell a lot of jokes at my team meetings. If there is laughter, it’s probably at one of my failed mixed metaphors. Frank fills a hole in my coaching that I find very difficult to fill myself – playfulness. And I’m grateful to him for it.
But we should all pause and think about it for a second. Because you might be under the impression that what I’m talking about here is not a big task. Or that it’s an inconsequential role. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I’ll 100% agree, it is easy to be a clown. A clown is a distraction. A clown doesn’t work. Some teams have them. We do not. Frank is no clown.
Frank did work. Frank battled for PR’s and he wanted this team to be as could as it could be. Frank had fire. He’d get pissed when the discus kept dropping 10cm off his goal. He’d do deep TFRRS dives into the NESCAC lists to keep himself motivated by what his competition was throwing.
But he balanced his fire and drive with humor and relaxation. Everyone’s passion comes in different forms. And every team needs those individuals who can carry their passion and their humor in the same place. Personally, I have yet to master that skill. And although I have no use for clowns, I have every need for Franks.
Frank Scheck – for rounding out my weaknesses, for never letting hard work become drudgery, for 12 seasons with a W on your chest, for never being complacent when you knew you could make it fly father – I thank you.