A letter to our peers,
We are in the midst of challenging times. We are all battling with family concerns, personal health concerns, possible financial worries, and on top of that, as coaches, we are worrying about our teams, our players, our coaching lives.
As Greg went for his morning bike ride in this new reality, he started to think of his coaching friends in Wisconsin who should be starting a new spring season. He rode by the park that his high school team practiced on this winter, only to find all of the goals pushed together and COVID-19 warnings posted throughout the park. No one is playing right now.
For those that played in the fall or winter, we are grateful that you were able to have your season. Both of us finished our last season in fantastic fashion! Our teams were both close-knit families with cultures that we were proud to be a part of! Both accomplished remarkable things and made us proud to be coaches. Even more so, now, we are incredibly grateful for the journey we took and for the chances we were given. We were able to have a memorable post-season awards banquet, at which we shared funny stories, presented goofy awards, and recognized excellence. Most importantly, we continued connections with our athletes.
Those coaches that play in the spring have not had such luxuries. Most of them began tryouts, made tough decisions, and began the hard “pre-season work,” only to abruptly face the incredibly unprecedented news. We all quickly learned our schools would be closing for unknown amounts of time. Some are still hoping to return, while other states are already closed for the remainder of the school year. Campuses are closed and there will be no in-person contact with students or student-athletes.
This is devastating to those athletes, especially seniors, that were looking forward to a “Season of Significance.” Social media is full of emotional stories and an outpouring of affection for our current seniors. But, how does a coach who thrives on maintaining connections with student-athletes and helping them to become better people continue to impact students’ lives? We must remember that although some things are out of our control, it is our response to those things that define us as individuals and as leaders.
We urge you to be the voice of reason for your players. Do not allow the postponement or cancellation of games to be the end of your season. Your season of significance is just beginning. If your season was in the fall or winter, consider this time as your most important period of “off-season training.” Reach out to your players, keep them connected and engaged with each other as much as possible. There are many ways to teach your players things and stay engaged with them. This is a chance to allow them to grow as leaders and as people. Find an online conferencing platform, come up with challenges for them to engage in. I have seen examples of challenges that incorporate physical, technical and mental abilities. We recently shared a free 21-day leadership program playbook (Thank you, Lead ‘Em Up – contact us if you would like access) that is a fantastic way to allow your team to grow. Many associations are offering free online courses (teams are encouraging players to take the Grassroots soccer courses for tactical knowledge, and official associations are offering clinics and lessons on the rules of the game). Now is also a great time to work on your own communication skills as well as those of the team.
Now is not the time to feel sorry for ourselves, it is the time to show why we are coaches. It is time to model strong leadership. It is time to show empathy to our players that are struggling. For some it is just a missed season, for others, it could be the loss of a loved one.
It is a new world for us all. Instead of 5:30 a.m. workouts, going to school and teaching gym classes from 7:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., we both now get up and sit in front of a computer for hours trying to teach PE online. But in that void, there is a chance to grow and develop new skills. A chance to reach others, and to give back to the game we love. After all, isn’t that why we are coaches?
Greg is thankful that he lives in Florida right now, the weather is great, and the pool is nice. Howie is busy teaching his kids that 40 degrees and cloudy is not too cold to throw a baseball, ride a bike, or take a hike. Most importantly, we are both thankful that we have our health and our families to lean on and to learn from. We both have communicated with our student-athletes and have fostered those connections during this uncertain and trying time. We hope you can do the same.
Life right now is much like a ship sailing in uncharted waters. We don’t really know where we are going, nor what to expect as we try to get there. Some of you are equipped to handle this new course, despite the uncertainty, while others are struggling. We encourage you during this time to remember that it may be one of your athletes that may be struggling. Throw out a life vest, help them get connected. We encourage you to be grateful as well, think of the positives that you can take from every day. Use your voice and your leadership to help your school and your community get through this.
We will be back on the pitch soon!
Keep on Kickin’
Coach Winkler & Coach Putterman