What do you do if you’re an athlete playing for a tough coach? While it may seem like your options are limitless, the reality is that this situation is like all tough experiences we face in life and leaves us with two viable options: We can either change our thinking and find ways to constructively deal with the circumstances presented, or we can decide that we are not interested and/or capable of changing our thinking, and therefore must change our situation.
A number of athletes I have worked with over the years have told me about the stress they experience playing for a tough coach, and oftentimes I witness them go through unnecessary and prolonged anxiety spending wasteful time trying to change the coach. While it is certainly true that coaches are not right 100% of the time, coaches, like all leaders, are tasked with the job of getting the most from their team in the ways they think will work best. Players, therefore, are expected to fall in line and work with the coach by accepting his or her coaching philosophy and team goals. While this compliance might be difficult for some athletes, it is a common expectation when athletes sign up to be part of the team.
Change thinking before changing situations
Rather than spending unnecessary time and energy trying to change the coach’s way of doing things, it makes far more sense to first try and modify your own thoughts and beliefs so that they can be more in line with the coach. More simply, try to trust the coach and let him or her do what they were hired to do. Keep an open mind, listen closely to details, and ask questions when appropriate — oftentimes simply taking this kind of approach ends up solving potential problems.
While it might not be easy to change your thinking in favor of the coach’s philosophy, it is possible, and it’s almost always the best way to go when trying to find your place within a team. If, however, you feel you are just too far apart from the coach’s way of thinking you can always entertain option #2….
The layman definition of insanity is doing the dame thing yet expecting different results. In situations where you feel as though you can no longer adapt your thinking and philosophy to the coach, then it may be time to give serious thought to the idea of taking your game elsewhere. Leaving a team is certainly not ideal, but hoping a coach will change to your liking is extremely unlikely. If you have exhausted all efforts to modify your thinking and feel you simply cannot conform to the coach and team, then changing scenes is a move to consider.
Please note that the general advice here is to only use a change of scenery as a last resort, and that the first move should always be to find ways to work successfully with the coach (even if this is challenging to do). It’s also discouraged to try and continually “work the coach” to your way of thinking — not only is this inappropriate, it’s also not fair to teammates.
Playing for a tough coach is a common experience for athletes, but the push-pull between players and coaches is not always a bad thing — and rarely a reason to quit a team. In most cases the tension experienced by players can be worked through by taking on an open mind, and committing to playing by the coach’s philosophies and ideas. What is not advised is to try and change the coach, or engage in passive-aggressive measures designed to manipulate situations and/or disrupt the team.