In the Disney movie McFarland, USA: Championship Run, the story of a Latino high school cross country is told through the eyes of the coach, played by Kevin Costner, who the boys dub “Blanco” because of his name, Mr. White.
In true Disney fashion, Blanco does it all in the movie, from rising out or his own checkered past to getting the most out of every kid on the team and inspiring the community to support them on their road to the state meet. This is the first weekend that the film is available on DVD. It’s worth renting, as I reported in my previous post, Rent–and Run!.
Did you ever have a Blanco in your life? A coach who made a difference to you and helped shape you into the athlete you were then and the person you are now?
What I define as great coach is one who gets more than more. By that I mean, a good coach gets more from you than you could get by yourself. But a great coach gets even more– more than others ever expected of you and sometimes more than you even knew was there.
Here’s 3 traits that I’ve found in the great coaches that I’ve worked with in a variety of sports.
1. Establish the Framework for Practice – This is sometimes thought of as instilling discipline. But to me, it’s so much more than that. A good coach can try to keep discipline with a firm hand, cracking down on behaviors destructive to the team. But a great coach pragmatically builds your tolerance for practice by giving you a self-building path. She isn’t forcing you to behave or work, she is showing you how to build a pyramid, by laying before you the blocks of useful training that you put on top of each other to lift yourself up to the pinnacle.
It’s not about discipline, it’s about establishing work habits that result in a better you.
2. Inspire You to Keep Going – Any sporting activity provides a few opportunities for success, and a huge assortment of places to quit or fall short of applying yourself. Teams and players that win big usually display winning habits all the way through their training– not just in some fairytale clutch ending. In McFarland USA, whatever success the team gets isn’t because it gets lucky, or because all of a sudden they believe in themselves and decide to run harder. Their championship run builds day-by-day as they grow into their own power as athletes. This happens, in part, because of their own work habits, and in part, because Blanco has an unwavering belief in them and a willingness to share that vision in grand terms. That vision carries them when doubts and fatigue and circumstance threaten to have them settle for less.
It’s not just believing in yourself — that’s merely self esteem, which is necessary but not sufficient. It’s believing in the work that will transform you into a champion. Then doing it.
3. Teach You Something You Don’t Know – An athlete who works hard in a structured, motivated way has a great advantage over the competitors that don’t work as hard. But that’s hardly enough. Most athletes work very, very, hard. Competitions involve great tests of skill and strategy– and if you are only in better shape, but can’t execute the maneuvers of your sport, you can only go so far. This often plays itself out in youth athletics when a player grows up faster than his peers and physically dominates them along the way. But tide turns when the peers catch up, because they have played for years as scrappy underdogs, learning the little ways to get better when they are at a physical disadvantage. The late-blooming athlete then can coordinate his new physical self and apply this skill with tremendous success, where the early-bloomer finds it too late to build those skills that are suddenly necessary. A great coach teaches the skills and strategy of the game at every opportunity, whether they are needed at that moment or not.
A good coach helps you practice. But keep in mind, practice does NOT make perfect. Practice makes permanent. If what you are practicing is fundamentally flawed, it’s not really helping you. A great coach makes sure that what you are making permanent are the skills you need for winning.
Who’s your Blanco? What did they do that helped you get more than more?