Tough Duty, All In

Make a plan. Adjust the plan. Expect the unexpected. Win the mind game. Win the heart game. The rest will take care of itself.
That’s the essence of coaching and competing. It’s true in a normal year, but it’s no secret that this year is nowhere close to normal.
That said…
“Our coaches are all in,” said Karen Doxey, Collegiate’s director of athletics. “They’re teaching in a totally different way. They’ve adapted quickly. Our kids have been super-responsive. Anything we’ve asked, they’ve done. It’s our job as coaches to stay motivated and keep kids motivated. We’ve had to change what we normally do and keep what we’re doing exciting and competitive”
Here’re a few lessons from COVID, gleaned from Collegiate coaches, that Doxey passed along as we move into what would have been the competitive phase of the fall season under different circumstances.

  • Temperature checks, social distancing, hand sanitizing, and mask wearing are new for everyone. What was unprecedented in summer open gyms and pre-season practice now seems routine, a tribute the willingness of all involved to buy in to guidelines that keep everyone safe.
  • Energy, enthusiasm, effort, and positivity reign. Those you can control, even when there’s faint hope of competing against other schools later this fall.
  • Coaches and athletes strive for competitive excellence. That lofty goal has assumed a different appearance. If you can’t compete, you can still have a team experience. Anybody who’s been involved with athletics will tell you that it’s the togetherness, camaraderie, and the shared moments they remember.
  • Student leaders have stepped into the breach. They’ve set the tone. They’ve promoted morale. Whether it’s lifting teammates’ spirit on a tough day or reminding them that there are rules to follow for everyone’s wellbeing, their role is as important as ever.
  • Everything takes time, especially as you learn new routines, run new plays, and perform new drills. That’s in a good year. This is a pandemic.  The changes require not just more physical energy but psychic energy as well. Step back when necessary. Take a deep breath. Avoid overload.
  • Coaching is connecting. Body language speaks volumes. Think about this: A mask severely limits facial expressions. It conceals frowns. That might be all right. It conceals smiles. That’s not all right. It can garble speech and make words difficult to discern. That’s not all right either. It’s a fact of this new life. That’s why awareness of tone, volume, and inflection is so important.
  • Now let’s up the ante. A coach wearing a mask and sunglasses removes expression altogether. It’s always important, even in normal times, to remove sunglasses with addressing individuals or teams in order to make eye contact. Never have both verbal and non-verbal communication been more important.
We’re all in this new adventure together. Patience is key. Flexibility is a must. Adjusting on the fly is paramount. So far, so good. By maintaining a glass-half-full, whatever-it-takes attitude, we’ll emerge better at the end of the road, even if that road is devious and rocky and fraught with perils, even if the scenery is different from that to which we’re accustomed, and even if we don’t know exactly what awaits when we get there.
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” said Doxey of the manner in which coaches and athletes have managed their new reality. “We’re competitors. We want to compete. At the same time, we really have some balance. We really want the kids to have a good experience.
“It’ll be weird when we do come back because we’ll be starting another new normal. It’ll probably be, Wow! I can’t believe all we had to do. But we have such passionate coaches who are willing to do anything to make it happen.”