Why The Grass Might Not Be Greener

If you are finding success working with a coach, should you leave to work with another coach?

I believe most are answering the question with a big fat NO. However, this happens on a regular basis from youth and junior levels, all the way up to World Class athletics. We experience it from a private sector lens, but it even happens from team sports, track clubs, etc.

The biggest goal, and the best way to determine success with an athlete, is performance and most importantly, performance in competition. The best way for a coach to keep his/her job is to win.  And to win, the athlete(s) must perform well. Now, we know a lot goes into athletes winning or losing, performing at a high level or not, but right or wrong this dictates whether a coach is good at his/her job.

What if the athlete is having great success, yet still decides to leave their current coach and pursue another?  Is there something wrong with that? No and yeah. Of course, as an athlete you have the freedom to do whatever you want, unless you are professional athlete under contract. Maybe a coaching change, or in our case a facility change, will do the athlete good. More times than not, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe there may come a point in time where an athlete may have to seek out options if their current coach can only take them to certain level. By no means should an athlete sacrifice their complete athletic endeavor because a coach can’t take them to the next level. Coaches need to be responsible as well, put their ego aside, and know when it is time for an athlete to seek another coach whom can help them achieve their full potential.

The problem most young athletes and parents don’t realize is the success the athlete might be having currently is because of the belief system put in place in the current coaching situation. When we are speaking about younger athletes (junior age: high school and early college), they are successful because the athlete believes in the coach at the time and most importantly the coach believes in the athlete. You can’t have success unless you have a belief system and I think this is something that has begun to fade today.  Everyone wants quick success and wants it all handed to them. This goes for athletes wanting performance success, as well as coaches wanting notoriety, but it all must start with a belief system and struggle.

Some of the most successful people in the world have been through some of the toughest struggles. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something as catastrophic as death or disease, but they must’ve overcome something. I have never met a successful person that has everything handed to them and he/she didn’t have to fight for success. Athletes and coaches alike should endure struggles and most importantly believe in their system and they will have a greater chance at success.

We see athletes make a coaching change, program change, or facility change and they may not have the success they were hoping for, why? There are a lot of answers to this question and most of them can be true. Maybe the new coach tries to change things too fast, or the athlete is resistant to changes or maybe the relationship isn’t there. Relationships are probably the most powerful tool when working with athletes, especially developing athletes. I feel relationships and belief in one another go hand and hand. Sometimes it goes beyond winning, losing, or setting a personal record. Great performances usually come as a subset of a good player-coach relationship.

No one really knows why an athlete would leave a current coach if they were having success, other than the athlete themselves. Sometimes it is uncontrollable variables, but if you are having success, don’t be quick to jump to another coach because you think, or he/she tells you they can get you better.

A perfect example of this is Usain Bolt’s Coach, Glen Mills. Glen Mills was a teacher and club coach before training the greatest sprinter of all time. Now, we know Usain Bolt is a phenomenon we may only see in a lifetime, but it also had to come down to a belief system and relationship between him and his coach. Maybe Coach Mills can’t spit out all the fancy methodology, but he was the perfect coach for Bolt. Does Bolt have the same success if he leaves Mills for a more revered, established coach? We don’t know for sure, but when there is belief, and a great relationship put in place I would be hard pressed to think it’s smart to leave for a “grass is greener approach.”

This thought process came to me as listened to a podcast earlier with Stu McMillan and it resonated deeply. This is just something I have been thinking about and hopefully bring some light to the subject. The moral of my thoughts is:

For an athlete/team to have success, they first must believe in themselves, their coach, the system, their teammates. You can have all the other bells and whistles but without a belief system, the chances of success greatly diminish.