love and discipline
When I look back on my years as a young athlete, there are two distinct types of memories that come to mind. First are the memories of my teammates and the life-long friendships I now have as a result of the comradery we developed in the trenches. Second are the memories of my coaches. The men who poured into me for weeks on end, ultimately making me a better person, not just a better athlete.
The coaches who stood out for me are those who demonstrated two key ingredients – love and discipline. In that order.
Unfortunately, many young athletes today would rather have the love of their coach, minus the discipline. They’d rather be coddled and praised, instead of corrected and humbled.
The delicate psyche of today’s youth has made it increasingly difficult for coaches to discipline their players. In fact, some have lost their jobs because of their strict discipline policies.
As someone who trains athletes in the area of mental toughness, one of the comments I often hear is, “My coach doesn’t like me.” Not surprisingly, a large majority of the athletes who utter these words are the recipients of some sort of disciplinary action by their coach.
Considering the fact that my own daughter says this to me on occasion, I can certainly empathize with the statement. However, what young people often fail to understand is the distinct difference between a coach disliking a set of behaviors and disliking the person demonstrating the behaviors.
A coach may dislike an athlete’s lack of effort, yet still love the person demonstrating the behavior.
A coach may dislike an athlete’s body language, yet still love the person demonstrating the behavior.
A coach may dislike an athlete’s dishonesty, yet still love the person demonstrating the behavior.
A coach may dislike an athlete’s attempt to cut corners, yet still love the person demonstrating the behavior.
As I mentioned, great coaches operate from a place of love for their athletes. However, what’s often lost in the equation is the fact that discipline is always a natural byproduct of love. In other words, with love comes discipline. Not a discipline that’s meant to manipulate or coerce, but rather a discipline that’s meant to shape and grow. It can be painful or uncomfortable at times, yet it remains rooted in love. This is where the term tough love comes into play.
When a coach disciplines an athlete and they feel discomfort, they can move in one of two directions with regard to their inner dialogue.
They can say, “Because this hurts and it’s uncomfortable, my coach must not like me.” Or they can say, “Because this hurts and it’s uncomfortable, I trust that my coach is using this to make me better.”
I encourage athletes to choose the latter.
If you’d like to learn more about Mike’s mental toughness training for athletes, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.