I recently received a standing ovation at the end of a two-hour athlete session. While I’m going to accept that the ovation was for me--because the expression of gratitude makes me smile--in actuality, I believe the honor of an ovation is better suited going to the participants.
The 12 young men in this session, between the ages of 15-20 years, are all elite hockey players. For most of their careers they’ve heard coaches express how they need to ‘work harder’, ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re not putting in enough effort’ and “push harder--run of the mill coach lingo.
True to my sensibilities as an atypical coach, I do NOT believe these athletes need to work harder or be pushed. Why would I want to break down a man who, each day demonstrates he already has all the answers within himself to be the best man he can possibly be? This innate wisdom is exactly what creates the best hockey players on earth.
The way I see it, I don’t want to get in the way of this magnificent energy. Rather, as a coach, I realize I actually need to get out of the way. In our sessions. I encourage each individual to express his full creativity and contribute to what we do. As a result, each begins to trust, inspire, create and invest personally into each session.
What was the ovation for?
Everything. The fact that two hours went by and none of us knew it. That we all thought we had just started 15 minutes ago. That we had fun, lots and lots of fun! That while we laughed, we were also productive and came up with new programs.
The result was, in addition to the fun we all had, everyone set new personal records in the back squat. Robby almost hit 400lbs (just 5lbs short), Sam hit 365, Ethan 365, Jack 265 below parallel. Jack’s progress from day 1, makes this squat below parallel a hard-earned achievement!
Each one of these men, the very ones a typical coach would browbeat, are my heroes. They come in at 6 AM during the school year. They come in during their holiday breaks. They support each other. They cry when they need to cry. They laugh when they feel like laughing. They’ve put their personal visions on the board at Superb Health for all to see because they’re comfortable with recognizing their own vulnerability. Rather than deny that vulnerability, they look at it straight on, and they find their strength.
So yeah, although my ego likes the idea that the standing ovation was for me, in my book, they are rightfully applauding themselves and their accomplishments. They are, each and every one of them, good enough to do this work for themselves. My role is to be a mentor who empowers them to believe in who they already are-- powerful, focused, creative and talented men.