February 24, 2010
As we continue our series on failure, the above picture captures the sickening emotion Holland’s Sven Kramer experienced after his coach told him his was disqualified from a speed skating competition at the 2010 Olympics. Being the world-record holder in the 10,000 meters, Kramer was considered a favorite in this event. But a gold medal was not to be. Kramer was disqualified because he crossed over into another skating lane when he was not supposed to. How devastating to lose a gold medal because of a preventable mistake!
The interesting sidelight in this saga is that Kramer was ultimately not responsible for this mistake. His coach had gotten confused in the lap count and told Kramer to switch lanes at the improper time. The skaters alternate lanes at certain intervals to level the skating distance of an oval track with inner and outer lanes. Kramer’s coach, Gerard Kembers, told press corp members after the race that his “world collapsed” and that “this is the worst moment of my career.” The decision and direction of this coach cost an athlete an ultimate prize.
As coaches, we shoulder the responsibility that our words/influence have on the athletes with whom we work. In this instance we see where words have a negative effect. Trust between team members and the coach is imperative if the coach is to be effective, but that trust can be broken or “doubted.” Sven Kramer has been slow to blame others for mistakes that have occurred during his racing career, but this Olympics has changed that. His coach is to blame for this critical mistake. We leave these last two images for you to dwell on as powerful reminders of a coach’s influence on today’s athlete–for good or for bad.
February 18, 2010
As we have watched the Olympics these past few days, we have seen moments of great triumph and also moments of utter devastation. From the ultimate high to the lowest point of an athletic career, a glimpse into the competititve desire of the human soul has been shown to the world. Coinciding with these events, the Nashville, TN media carried the story of a very different kind of low today. This low in most minds can be stated as “a great loss.” A 14 year-old soccer player died at practice doing wind sprints. Now that low brings a whole different perspectitive to the word “loss.” Similar to the young luge athlete at the Olympics losing his life, here is a situation where our viewpoint of life becomes finite. The death of a member of a team personalizes the main reason to exist as a team. It is in times of deep conflict and struggle that you must remain as a team, both on the mountain and also in the valley. A great “team” even though they may struggle with it can process a “great” loss. As a coach, we must constantly guard against exalting competition where it becomes one’s God and it does not allow for the lows of life to help build character in each individual life. We love the scent of victory and ascending the podium but character is built in the valleys of our daily walk.
February 15, 2010
The podium at the Olympics is a place where rewards collide with accomplishments. There is nothing like it. As an olympic athlete, reaching the podium and having a medal placed around your neck becomes a place of recognition that few rarely attain. The fulfillment of years of sacrifice culminates in your name and country going into the record books for the ages. But what is the cost of getting to that pinnacle? For some, just getting to the podium is not enough; it must be the highest spot-the gold medal spot-to be considered a success. As we have approached the area of failing as a coach and an athlete, we must examine the cost of failure and what it means for one’s future endeavors and challenges in life. Dealing with the failure of one moment, especially at the Olympics, can be paralyzing to a world-class athlete. The bitterness of defeat can leave a bad taste that can last forever. A radio broadcast from Feb 8, 1992 caught our attention. The link below leads you to the page where it is archived. Listen to the perspective of previous Olympians, and, as a coach, consider once more the cost of setting the podium as the ultimate goal and the possibility of disappointing circumstances that keep that goal out of reach.
Select the link below, and then select the radio broadcast number 2 about Olympic disappointments on the page. You need about 7.5 minutes to listen to it in its entirety.
February 13, 2010
Imagine being Nodar Kumaritashvili’s coach! Nodar is the young luge athlete from the Republic of Georgia who was involved in a fatal accident at the 2010 Winter Olympics yesterday. How would you process these moments during your life? As we have thought about failure, the above picture has caught our attention such as it is similar in posture to previous posts. It does not represent failure as much as grief and shock. One young athlete with so much enthusiasm for doing well at the world’s greatest sports venue has his life taken from him. This picture portrays his father, David Kumaritashvili, sharing a private moment with Nodar’s friends outside his home in Georgia. What would you say to them? What answers can a coach, who is supposed to have all the answers for his/her athletes, give during a tragic event like this? It is at these moments that a coach does not have the answers but must trust in the ONE who does. As finite beings, we are limited in our knowledge and understanding, but, in this kind of difficult circumstance, answers do not come through having knowledge; instead, these are moments of truth when we must trust instead of trying to have an “answer.” Not discounting knowledge of our sport, let’s also be coaches who live out our faith so that we can be there for our athletes in times of tragedy and loss.
January 25, 2010
From the New York Times this last weekend:
“Ryan turned one of the N.F.L.’s most clandestine operations into an open book. The Jets collapsed at the end of 2008 in part because of the tense atmosphere. Ryan changed that, changed a culture, changed the way people felt about coming to work.”
This comment from a media source caught our attention in that the last part of it is what every coach would love to see happen on their team. When your players want to come to practice, 2-a-days, the games, the meetings, the PR functions, the press conferences, etc., that says something. It does not matter what level you coach at. When your team “wants to come to work” it says something about you as a leader. To motivate people to follow a vision takes those individuals buying into what one believes in and as a coach, inspiring a team has to start in your heart and then be transferred to your players. To play as a team requires a total collective buyout and not just a few team members. One of Rex Ryan’s former players, Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens was quoted as saying that Rex had the heart of a father. Your leadership as a coach has to begin with caring more about the player than the plays he makes. Otherwise you prostitue the player and he becomes just an object to your own selfish motives. When you care about someone, then you can lead them somewhere.
January 23, 2010
A coach’s schedule is so demanding that priorities must dictate how that individual uses his or her time to meet all the demands of life. In trying to become more informed about the 2010 NFL final four football coaches, we read about Coach Jim Caldwell, and realized that he is a man who cares about people. He is known to talk to everyone in the locker room about everything from physical ailments to family details. When a coach takes time to talk to every person associated with that team, you might wonder if they will be a winning coach. The proof is in the pudding with the Indy Colts this year under Caldwell’s leadership. He also is quite a reader and constantly seeking to draw on the wisdom of others. Books are a mainstay of the content in his office. Reading about sleep habits, jet lag, and how probability theory affects one’s life are just some of the areas that Caldwell desires knowledge about. One of the main things that caught our attention though was that Jim Caldwell reads his Bible first thing when he arrives at the office every morning between 5 and 6 am. This truly tells us that his priorities are in proper order. A coach who begins his day like this with a demanding schedule that comes with being in this profession has disciplined his or her life to be a person of character. That may explain why resting players for the playoffs and seeking a berth in the Superbowl were bigger issues than having a chance at a perfect season. Criticism reigned down on him for making that decision but truly he was sticking with his plan for the bigger picture. Coach Caldwell’s example to us should cause us to evaluate our priorities for every day and set out to change our personal lives in order to be successful as an individual of character.