Short Sighted Vision
By Dan Bauer

When you live in Wisconsin your entire life, you are expected to grow up to be a fan of the Green Bay Packers. My grandfathers were Packer fans and so was my dad; it is an innate birthright that a few lost souls choose to relinquish. The Packer legacy is woven into the fabric of life here. As a kid I cried and as a young adult I pouted when they lost.

Every fan base believes they are the most loyal and passionate of all the rest. In Wisconsin, significant news about the Packers takes priority over everything. Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers could have run for governor and won by a landslide. So when they recently selected a quarterback, Jordan Love, in the first round of the NFL draft, it sent an 8.0 earthquake of shock through the state. Only the “stay at home” order kept fans from jumping from their rooftops.

Fans, unlike general managers and coaches, are rabidly focused on winning. Their vision is narrowly fixated on the now and nobody wants to wait or rebuild. It reminded me of a quote from former Packer head coach Mike McCarthy who said, “Something that I think gets lost is we really try and stay focused on building a championship program, not just trying to build one championship team.”

I loved Mike McCarthy as coach of the Packers and was sad to see him go. He was a builder of men and always focused on the overall development of his program and his players. He was the caretaker of the Packer fortune for the better part of thirteen years. None of the armchair quarterbacks or internet general managers out there really have any concept of the depth of preparation and volume of factors that go into every decision made at this level.

As I observed the statewide and national media quake of panic, despair and rage generated by the Love draft selection, I flashed back to my early days of coaching. It was a time when I was selfishly motivated by winning and emotionally unprepared to deal with defeat. As I regretfully recollect those memories, I now realize that I was a classic 1st Dimension coach. My energy was spent on the physical development of my players and making sure everyone witnessed my disdain for losing. It wasn’t until years later, after an official told me that none of the crew would come ask me for their checks after a game we lost, that my past behavior really hit home.

For years I used winning to define my success as a coach. The legendary Dean Smith was right when he said, “If you make winning games a life or death proposition, you’re going to have problems. For one thing you’ll be dead a lot.” It put me on a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows that sucked the life out me. It was unsustainable, as the winning could never quite outweigh the burden of losing.

All through that phase of my coaching career I had a heavy emphasis on character development. My rules demanded accountability on and off the ice and we frequently explored all the virtues of the 2nd and 3rd dimensions of the 3D framework. But there was one crucial piece missing. I had been indoctrinated in the old school belief that head coaches kept a wall up between their players. We had to be one part scary and one part distant. True to the Herb Brooks line in the movie Miracle, “I’ll be your coach, I won’t be your friend,” I once subscribed to that creed.

Maybe it was just part of the learning curve that most of us who grew up the “Lombardi Era” had to discover for ourselves. It wasn’t until I began to tear down that wall did I really find the true enjoyment of coaching. I believe my programs have always developed character and taught life lessons, but missing out on the relationships I should have been building with my players in those early years will be a lifelong regret. The realization of the value of connecting to my players on a more personal level also helped me better connect to my family. As coaches when we allow ourselves to be consumed by a singular goal like winning, we fail to develop the whole player and build a culture that teaches so much more than how to win. We selfishly deny our players and parents the real value of the athletic experience. Committing yourself and your program to the structure of the 3D Coaching blueprint will enhance your passion for coaching and guide you to the real rewards you may be missing.

If you asked me thirty years ago what my number one coaching goal was, the answer would have been spontaneous and short: win. Today, drawing from an enormous wealth of experience and education that I have since acquired, my answer would have nothing to do with winning. While my answer would still be spontaneous, it would not be short. It would encompass the expanse of a panoramic camera lens and center on building a specifically defined team culture. It would mirror the framework of the extensive 3D Coaching curriculum. As Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said about his shocking draft choice, “I had to weigh the short term with the long term.”

Impactful team building is not about short term victories, but about building a long term sustainable culture. We all benefit when that environment we create teaches life lessons and builds high character young men and women. Similar to an NFL draft, you may not see the impact of your decisions until a few years later. But sometimes the results are immediate.

I recently received a text from a former player. In my recent exit letter to her I expressed my regret in not being back to coach and watch her senior season unfold next winter. She responded;

“I got your letter in the mail and have been thinking about my school hockey season a lot. I can’t say I’ll really be looking forward to my senior year because you won’t be there, and things will never be the same. School hockey was my favorite thing ever because I had such a great coach and team. I never really had a coach who cared and worked with me as much as you did and am so grateful that I had that opportunity.”

That is why I am still coaching and I wouldn’t trade a note like that for any victory, game puck, or championship trophy. Priceless, you bet. 

If you have never taken the 3D journey, you can sample the 3D Coaching training for free at www.becomea3dcoach.com.

Dan Bauer is a free-lance writer, retired teacher & hockey coach in Wausau, WI. You can contact him at drbauer13@gmail.com

1 thought on “Short Sighted Vision”

  1. This is perfectly applicable for coaches here in Mozambique also, and I’ll be sharing it with my group here. Thanks!

    Reply

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