Put Me In, Coach
Coaching calls people to be their best, to continually improve, to pull themselves forward, to be held accountable.
~Renovate or Die, Bob Farr and Kay Kotan
My wife and I started watching Ted Lasso on AppleTV. I know, we’re a little behind on the times. But, for those who are also behind, Ted Lasso is an American college football coach who gets hired to coach a soccer team in England, despite the fact that he has absolutely no soccer experience.
Early in the first episode, I was getting some serious Major League vibes from the owner, and that suspicion gets confirmed later on. However, what the owner didn’t count on was 1) how incredibly likeable Ted Lasso actually is, and 2) the fact that a great coach is about more than X’s and O’s.
Ted has an overly optimistic attitude, no matter what seems to be going on, which goes really well with his “aw shucks” personality. And when both of these combine, Ted has a way of winning over even his harshest critics and toughest to reach players. Ted demonstrates that coaching is fundamentally about bringing out the best in players. Sure, strategy and knowledge of the game are great, but if you can’t reach your players, you aren’t going to get too far in the long run.
I remember several years ago, the Chicago Cubs were in a serious rebuilding mode. They were awful. For three years in a row, they lost more than 90 games and finished last in the division. But in 2015, they made a move that had me, as a St. Louis Cardinals fan, saying, “They’re going to win the Series in the next five years.” They hired Joe Maddon as their manager.
Maddon had been managing the Tampa Bay Rays with some pretty good success, especially given the fact that the Rays weren’t (and still aren’t) financially invested in the team. They consistently have a payroll in the bottom third of the league. And yet, they put together good seasons year after year.
Maddon is known to have some quirks as a manager. He has pulled some zany stuff through the years. And he has always gotten results. Why? Because a good coach can bring out the best in his players. That’s what he did. That’s why I believed he would lead the Cubs to the World Series. And that’s exactly what he did. They won it all in 2016. As a Cardinal fan, I still couldn’t root for them, but I certainly could respect the historic nature of their win.
If you are a coach, or if you are in the position to be coached, remember this. Coaching is not all about the wins and losses. It’s not all about the strategy or game management. It’s about bringing out the best in the players you have. Make that your goal, and you’ll do great work.