When you work with high school players you end up saying good bye to most of them when they graduate. Some will continue in college and we get a chance to work together in the summer for a year or two. But most are wrapping up their formal competition. Last Fall a couple of our guys had the wonderful experience of winning a section championship and being major contributors on a team that went to the semi-finals of the State High School Tournament. Those aren’t the kinds of results you can promise to anyone. Too many things have to happen that are beyond a player’s or coach’s control. But, they’re fun and rewarding when they do.
I’ve thought about them a lot over the last few months. For the past three years at this point we would have been shifting into the club season training mode and getting a glimpse at the results of some of the off season work. Neither one will be continuing in college so we aren’t training together this season. And, in their absence I have been reflecting on what I learned through my work with them. Of the many things a few stand out. Some are new, but most are a renewed and deeper understanding of things that we as coaches know and sometimes forget.
1. They grow up … Someone once said the best way to help a thirteen year old jump higher is to let him turn 14. Young athletes are a work in progress, constantly maturing and developing. A big part of coaching them is to recognize and cooperate with that process and not get in the way.
2. Things happen in their own time… We get in our own way with “shoulds”, thinking someone should be able to do something or should be at a certain level. We worked on speed with small, steady improvements for a long time and then in what seemed like a day – the time dropped like a rock. The strength, power, mechanics all came together and I think they even surprised themselves.
3. The whole person is growing … These guys have not only matured physically, but mentally, emotionally and socially as well. Our training sessions more and more became conversations as their awareness of their body and their health grew and their capacity to communicate and reflect on those things did as well. This is the goal – to increase the capacity of the whole person not just their speed or strength.
4. Things take time … My mom told me that once and it’s one of the best pieces of advise I ever got. We laugh about where they were when they started and where they’ve come. They started as slow, skinny freshman who weren’t very strong. They didn’t go from 5.6 forties to 4.8 in six weeks. They showed up, worked hard and stayed with it.
5. There are no straight lines… some seasons everything seemed to unfold according to plan and the results were great. Other times, not so much. Injuries slowed them both down late last summer as they were finishing the club season and getting ready for high school. We adjusted, focused on getting healthy and trusted the big base they had already built would be there to draw on when the season started. It was.
6. They enrolled in the process not a program. This is huge because so often we look for a workout or a program to add or fix something. Development is the steady unfolding and discovery of potential. It is person centered and goal focused. It works the way growing anything works; organically, over time, with in a supportive climate. These guys were in it for the long haul, committed to making the journey and were lucky enough to arrive at a destination that none of us would have predicted when it began.
There’s a new batch, several actually, that are enrolled in the process. New stories and new process already unfolding. Thanks to those seniors who allowed me to share and contribute to the journey. I will miss them. Good luck and come back often.