It was 2:00 am last night, or technically this morning, when my latest round of sleeplessness hit. I had fallen asleep hard, probably because standing in ninety minutes of relentless 50-degree rain for an emotional conference loss had worn me out. For whatever reason, I went from soundly sleeping to stick-straight awake and then my coaching mind began to whirl.
What got me out of bed was the thought that the parkas I had been washing and drying needed to be shuffled to make room for the next load. I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep without taking care of that unremarkable coaching chore, but I knew getting up would simply fuel the smoldering fire of thoughts I had managed to shut down before falling asleep.
You see, there are a million things that can keep a coach awake at night, and 999,999 of them are not X’s and O’s.
At least it’s that way for me.
I thought about the game, for sure, but the thought-loop that gained speed in my head was whether the three players who didn’t get on the field should have. Was I right in my assessment that our starting 11 and the couple off the bench were executing well, maintaining their energy, and providing what we needed to stay competitive? The answer I kept coming back to was yes.
Then I made the disastrous decision to entertain the other thoughts that can gain more momentum. The thoughts that consider the game from the players’ perspective or from the perspective of their parents. I’d hate me too.
Some coaches are better at not caring whether a kid fully understands his/her role or wanting to guide the walk through what can be confusing and painful. I’ve never been able to turn off the empathetic perspective, and to be honest, it’s actually pretty miraculous I’ve stayed in coaching so long. I think I keep coming back because the deep-seated passion I carry to have a positive impact outweighs the difficulties. I get straight to work to problem-solve for how I could possibly provide something positive when I know how hurt and angry folks might be because of decisions I make for the team.
I managed to set the game-time decision thoughts aside, and then the business of coaching crept in.
My late-night coaching mind considers all the pieces I want to put gently into place for the families and athletes I coach. I think about finishing the laundry, touching base with all the kids, getting communication out to parents (and grandparents) who send regular emails and texts looking for clarification and information, wondering how to carve out time to tag game film, following up with grade sheets that are coming in, planning the next practice, checking the weather forecast, updating stats, assigning ball kids for our next game, evaluating refs, thinking about the upcoming celebrations for seniors, planning the off-season, checking in with our strength and conditioning coach, wondering whether I’m mentoring well enough the young coach(es) who are part of my staff, and acknowledging that I am still not able to do all of it as well as I would like. It’s a busy time of thinking.
So, how do I get back to sleep?
I fall back to sleep, eventually, because I let the other thinking loop expand in my mind. The better thoughts contain assured confidence.
I am sure, I love these athletes.
I am sure, I am doing the best I can.
I am sure, I will continue to get better.
I am sure, I will show up with as much love as I have to give them.
I am sure, I’ll get over the losses, past the frustrations, and through the moments they hate me.
And, I am sure, I will know when I no longer have something to offer them.
Until then, I gladly accept the sleepless nights, the long to-do lists and the purpose-filled life of a tired, but passionate coach.
Copyright Meagan Frank 2019
The Team Adult Playbook