Today the high school team I coach lost. 3-5. Yet if you look at the way the other team acted compared to ours after the game, you would have thought we won. And really we did win-where it counts.
One of the greatest feelings as a coach, or a manager, or a boss, is to see improvement in your team. To see creativity in the way they solve problems. To see them work together. Essentially, to see them function WITHOUT your help. As a coach you want nothing better than to know that if you took yourself out of the equation on game day they would play just as well. In my view, that means you’re doing your job where it counts- in the prep work.
I saw that leadership emerge from them today. I saw a freshman player step up on the wing. I saw a junior who puts her heart into the program score for the first time this season. I saw a player use her one touches to get through three defenders. I saw an elusive corner that became a great goal by our center. I saw my injured captain going after the ball for the first time in weeks. I saw a team score twice in two minutes.
If you look at the team that walked off the field today and the same team from early September…it is night and day. If you look at the amount of yelling I do from the sidelines from September to today…it is night and day (and a whole lot quieter). I saw a team I’m sure the parent’s didn’t know was possible at Madeira a few years ago. Heck, a team I wouldn’t have believed possible when I started with them two years ago.
Did they make mistakes? Of course. Were players off their angles, out of position and let their feet get in the way? Absolutely. Did players panic and pass right back to the other team after a hard fought tackle? Several times. Was I peppering the cold air with screams of ”Watch your FEET” and “Come on LADIES! Composure!” from the sideline? Probably.
The good news is, you can work on all the technical stuff, you can work on how to effectively reverse tackle while trailing a player (hint, it doesn’t involve just sticking your stick in front of the player and hoping for the best). You can work on protecting your feet, finding the pass, seeing the angle. What is much harder to fix is that intangible tenacity needed to keep playing when you’re down. The ability to shake off the mistakes and move forward.
A great New York Times article “What if the Secret to Success is Failure” writes about research on educational leadership and predictors of success. The researcher “noticed” that “people who accomplished great things…often combined a passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take.” You know what she called that trait? GRIT. You know what I call that? My team today.
Although my team did not win today, we are getting a taste of the RIGHT kind of failure, the kind that ultimately leads to success. It may take more “losses” like these, but we are on our way, and not just on the field. A success beyond the game. Beyond the stick.