Are you a coach, a friend, a social worker, or all three?
Recently I had a visit from a man who started coaching job not far from where I live. One of his responsibilities involved working with pitchers, in addition to other things. I’m not sure how he got my name, but, nevertheless as a practical matter we had a short meeting and traded subjects.
As we talked about pitching specific coaching, the meeting occupied more and more time about dealing with personnel matters - you know, dealing with people, especially the player’s pool.
Some of the topics that took up a lot of our time were:
- How do you deal with a player who looks to you as a father figure?
- How do you deal with a player that has no home environment whatsoever?
- How do you deal with a player that doesn’t have money to eat?
- How do you deal with a player that wears the same clothes all the time?
- How do you deal with a player that can’t handle rejection?
- How do you deal with a player that’s a loner, won’t mix?
- How do you deal with a homeless player?
- How do you deal with a player with a drug problem, drinking problem, a gambling problem?
- How do you deal with a player that bucks you every inch of the way?
I don’t have the space here to elaborate on everything that we covered, nor am I an expert on offering advice on such matters. But, I offered some suggestions that this man found helpful, hence my offering those suggestions here.
First off, we as coaches have priorities. The first being, knowing our field (vocation) in the sport that we’re making a living in. Second, knowing how to utilized the human resources at our command is next. And third, combining the first and second given the level of competition to maximize the efforts of number one and two… Now mixed in with these priorities, are a host of agendas, formal and not, that govern our work - and that governs us, all the same time. It’s no easy matter itemizing when and where, even, how and how much.
But one thing is for sure, we have limitations to our specialty. We have limitations do to our professional competency, training, education, playing environment, dictated or assumed responsibilities, governing policies and mandates, and a lot of other things that can change in a heartbeat because of legal and social concerns.
Now I know the last paragraph was a mouthful, but it is necessary to understand the limitations of a coach - as a person with just as many feelings, being sensitive to the human experience, and naturally wanting to reach out and help those that seem to need it. But, therein is a minefield of problems that can unload on you without even realizing it. Without the right kind of backing, without the right kind of specialized training and education - not to mention experience, in the specific area of social and human behavior, your just asking for trouble.
Look at it this way, the personnel that cross your path will come from all walks of life - some good, some not so good. Now unless your very intimate with this population pool in general, some of this personnel will confront you with life styles, their personalities and other things that’ll tug at your heart strings big time and without any advanced warning. And if the coaching job wasn’t hard enough, you’ll see a constant stream of these people and their problems day in and day out. If the following is part of your job description - Social Worker, Human Needs Specialist, Adolescent Counselor, Parole Officer, then I assume your well aware of what I’m referring to.
I should mention that those of us in the coaching profession have made it our life’s work because we have a certain sense of humanity, and we care about those that we interact with - but there are professional as well as realistic boundaries that we must adhere to. Step outside of those boundaries and we can become immersed in a quagmire of conflicts and upheavals that seem to have no end.
So, be concerned and proactive to the human frailties around you. Use the policies in place to guide your ethical and professional obligations as a coach in the sport that you’ve chosen as a life’s work. Don’t be all things to all people - that’s not what you’re qualified for. No policies in place to guide you? There must be a reason, long before you got to that place in time - and at that location. Itemize those reasons if you can, then govern yourself. Just be very careful of being a torch carrier for things outside your realm of influence and control.
There’s so much more to this topic than I have space and time for. Just be very careful of taking on too much in the compassion department.