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Controling The Coaching Ego

I went to a Rugby game last night. One coach substituted all his players and got smoked. What struck me about this game is that Rugby was kind of easy to watch and enjoy since many people in the stands did not know the rules, kind of like volleyball. But that changed this year. Parents were yelling at the referee. One coach said openly that he could not believe how much the ref was getting paid for this game.
            After the game I heard one coach talking about how upset he was that the other team had run up the score. Now, this guy I like. He’s class. He plays a lot of kids and doesn’t yell much. A lot of positive reinforcement to his players makes it fun for them.
            What he said struck me. He was upset with the other coach running up the score against his second stringers. It was mentioned to him that that was part of life and he did the right thing. You can’t control what the other team or coach does. Yelling and complaining about the referee or what the other coach does just strengthens the message that it is outside forces that control you, not intrinsic ones. The coach needed to take a step back and realize that this was just another game in the season.
            By complaining openly about what the other coach did he actually starts to let the other coach influence his behavior, which in turn makes it ok for his players and coaches to act poorly.
            Here’s my story. A long time ago when I was coaching college hockey, we got our clocks cleaned in a 19-2 loss. After the first period the score was 7-0. Their best player already had 3 goals and 2 assists. The coach continued to play his best players.
            It got to be pretty bad and lopsided. I kept telling my guys to keep their cool and don’t retaliate. If a player did retaliate, I benched him, immediately.
            After the game was over I went to the line and shook hands. When one of our players complained about running up the score I told him we should have played better, and that we put ourselves into this position.
            They beat us, and by how much and how they did it, was not of our concern.
            They were coming to our rink next season, and I began to plan. I noticed that the top four scorers from his team that game had either graduated or where ineligible for our rematch. The whole week before we played them again I told my players we would be concentrating on taking the body in practice every day, multiple times a day, and in different drills. I explained that even though we practiced this, it was the mindset that we were trying to teach. It was a commitment to play the game at its most basic fundamental level as well as its highest, all at the same time.
            Before the game I gave a brief speech to the teams that was one minute long. At the end of the speech I told them, body, body, body. Don’t worry or even think about the score. We won 4-0. During the game, the coach was complaining constantly to the referees about our hitting. His team got 17 minor penalties, 2 misconducts, and one ejection. In the hand shake line after the game he told me that his team got hosed by the refs, that they were my refs, and that he had gotten “homered”.
            Again, I said nothing. Back in the lockeroom after the game, the only thing I said to my players is, “That’s how you do it.”
            Interesting note: the other coach and I had a mutual friend we were both very close to. This friend was another coach in the league. He called me and asked about our game. I asked why he hadn’t called me after the 19-2 shellacking. He did not have an answer.
            Payback was delivered so as not to alert anyone as to what I had done. It was better for this coach to wonder what had happened, and to blame the officials, instead of worrying about what we did. I let sleeping dogs lie.

Written by : VJS