So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Coach Don Corleone Meets Coach Donna Reed

I recently wrote about the need for honesty between athlete & coach. Really, the relationship between athlete & coach is not much different than between friends, family members or lovers. Honest interaction is essential. Nobody wants to associate with a dishonest person, even if they are blood relatives...some families are more rigid about honest & ethical behavior than others. But sometimes, even in the tightest of families, small variances may - & often do - exist.

My father & my (late) uncle both worked for many years in law enforcement, encountering many of my contemporaries during their late adolescence & on into adulthood...occasionally I heard the "war stories" from my father; sometimes I heard them from my buddies. While my father & my uncle both worked to enforce the law, they differed in one aspect: My uncle was a "black-and-white" kind of person, whereas my father often saw in shades of gray...at least until the vulgarities began to fly.I know they disagreed on many fronts during their time together in this existence, but there still was a clearly understood truth: They were definitely family.

I have to (sheepishly) admit I lean more toward my uncle's "black-and-white" worldview when it comes to the issue of honest communication between athlete & coach. The "shades of gray" side I picked up from my father comes to the fore when I look at approaches to training; some come out a tad more gray than others. But, since every athlete is an experiment of one, the training approaches are gray none the less. So, what is the goal of a coach? During a discussion between three well-known triathlon coaches in the summer of 2007, one considered the goal of a coach to "enable athletes to make decisions for themselves." The three considered the ideal coaching scenario to serve in an active, hands-on role in training the athlete for one year. After a year, the athlete could work more on their own. The coach would then serve as a support rather than a crutch.

I like the idea of being a hands-off coach for an athlete after a year or two. But, like almost every other idea, it's not quite so smooth or comfortable when the reality arrives. Most people are not good at communicating the "why" when it comes time to leave, mostly because they don't like the conflict or wounded feelings which follow. Makes perfect sense to me; because the departures & separations have been traditionally more permanent than temporal I'm the type of person who hates goodbyes of any sort. Even my mother considers me the kind of person who would rather have everyone as my friend. Keep your friends close & your enemies list short.
Every so often I get to listen to what I like to call "Exercises in Conflict Resolution." My wife works as upper management for a small company & often has to deal with uncomfortable business issues. When she tells me her intended response, or drafts a written communication I often advise her to be more like Don (Michael) Corleone (in The Godfather) & less like Donna Reed (in It's A Wonderful Life). Think about how each have dealt with a sticky situation...


Donna Reed: [trapped naked in a bush] Shame on you! I'll tell your mother!
Jimmy Stewart: [thoughtfully] My mother's way up on the corner there.
Reed: I'll call the police.
Stewart: They're way downtown. Anyway, they'd be on my side.



Corleone: Where does it say that you can't kill a cop?
Hagen: Come on, Mikey...
Corleone: Tom, wait a minute....I'm talking about a...crooked cop who got mixed up in the rackets & got what was coming to him....
[Hagen nods]
Corleone: And the newspapers might like a story like that.
Hagen: They might, they just might.
Corleone: [to Sonny] It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business.So, you have the choice of emotionally responding to conflict, and hope the antagonist responds in a rational manner. Or you can emotionally detach yourself from what might be described as an unsavory response to a conflict...


But, clear & honest communication between athlete & coach can head off potential conflicts at the pass. It's strictly business.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the words of Don Corleone "keep your friends close and your enemies closer"