A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a coaches conference with some of the strength and conditioning coaches who work for the Utah Jazz. As part of Mark McKnown‘s presentation, we watched film of Gordon Hayward from when he started with the Jazz, to his more recent highlights and accomplishments. The audience all beamed at the wonderful success of elite coaches ability to make a good player so much better. What a shining example of what a good coach can do! I remember thinking as I left the conference, that one day I too would be THAT GOOD of a coach that I would have athletes like Hayward. Because when you can create those kinds of results with your athletes, they could never leave you. Right?
In my own career I have always struggled on a personal level when a personal training client or an athlete needs to move on. Sometimes life gets in the way, they either get pregnant, move, experience a life changing event, etc. Those things I can understand and don’t take personally. The things I do struggle with is when a client switches coaches. A year or so ago I was talking to another local coach colleague of mine, Sandy Hancock, about this very issue. Since she has been in this business so much longer than I have, I asked her “Sandy, how do you reconcile your hurt feelings when a client gets a different coach? It hurts so much and I take it as a personal failure. I know that they are making the decision that is best for them, but I feel like such a failure!”. Sandy replied with something along the lines of “It always bothers me when they do that too. You invest so much of yourself and you care about them so much. So of course it is going to hurt because you are a good trainer and you care. What you need to do is focus on the positive and keep moving on.”. I have taken Sandy’s advice to heart, but whenever someone graduates or moves on, I still feel a little pit inside. I still think about people I trained with my first business back in 2011. I think about the triathletes I worked with on their swimming from back in 2008. Since I am always growing and learning in my profession, it is hard to not reflect back and think about what I could have done differently to help them reach their goals more efficiently.
I am reading the most amazing book right now. Mindset was recommended to me after my first visit with my sports psychologist Riley Jensen. Riley is part of the headstrong consulting team lead by Nicole Detling, PHD, CC-AASP. The same team of coaches that work with the Winter Olympic athletes. ANYWAYS, this book goes over two main themes; the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. In summary, a fixed mindset person will see setbacks as a personal failure. Breakups brand them as damaged goods because there must be something wrong with them. Losing a game makes them an utter failure as an athlete. Deals not working out in business has them second guessing themselves and their chosen profession. Then there is the growth mindset individuals. Breakups, sport losses, and bad business deals alike are all learning opportunities. Instead of outside circumstances affecting their internal opinion of themselves, the keep healthy boundaries between their self esteem, and their perceived success. (If you have trouble with boundaries, you should read another one of my favorite books to help you in that area)
So when an athlete switches teams or coaches, we have to opportunity to self evaluate. If we take an honest look at ourselves and see that we could have done something better, then we have the responsibility to take that action. Things like your pricing, location, or different goals are out of your control. Sometimes clients move, or their budget changes. Sometimes their goals change! You could be the best powerlifting coach in the world, but if they want to do a triathlon, then you won’t be much help anymore. Just because you have rapport with someone, doesn’t mean you own them or that they owe you anything. If the athlete from the above scenario were to stick with the powerlifting coach, but their heart wanted to do triathlons. This would be comparable to couples who stay in a bad relationship just because they have history together.
I think we all need to cut Gordon Hayward some slack. From my limited understanding, he made the move to help him win more championships and a pay increase. The point of this blog post is to bring to light some perspective. Change is tough, especially if you have history with someone/ something. I can’t imagine how hard it will be for him to say goodbye to his teammates and coaches who I am sure he is very close to. I think we can all take this as a lesson on moving on. Blaming yourself or others is not a healthy way to cope with loss. This would be the fixed mindset approach. Blaming your “idiot ex”, or branding yourself as “unlovable” for a breakup is not healthy. Recognize that that the relationship was not offering one or both of you what you needed and move on. Fans bashing Hayward or others for his decision to leave is not doing any good for anyone. The healthiest thing you can do is recognize his decision as the best one for him, he doesn’t owe anyone anything, and move on. You can be the most educated, highest paid, experienced, and sought after coach in the world, but at the end of the day, we are all growing and improving. Change is painful and beautiful. The best we can do is learn from it and try to be better going forward.