Coaching to perfection

My oldest son, a junior in high school, got his first taste of coaching this year. He coached 9-12 year olds in indoor soccer over the winter months. I was especially proud of him and it reminded me that I started coaching youth sports when I was 15 years old. It was an incredible learning experience for me and formed the foundation for many of my leadership beliefs.

My son must have learned a thing or two from his coaching experience because he is already giving me leadership advice. The other night, as I was lamenting a loss by the soccer team (13 year olds) that I coach, my son gave me this shot of advice. “Dad, you see, you’re upset about the loss because you are coaching to win. I coach to perfection.” What he was telling me was that the goal should not be just to win the game, but to play as well as you possibly can. The kid coaches for a few months and all of a sudden he imparts words of wisdom like he’s John Wooden!

Well, after giving it some thought I realize he has a point. As leaders, we are taught to focus on achieving our goals – getting the sale, gaining market share, improving the bottom line, beating the competition. But if we just strive for the goal, is that enough? Do we set the bar too low if we just set out to achieve a goal? Or rather, should we strive for perfection? Should the goal be to do everything to the absolute best of our abilities, regardless of the predetermined quantifiable goal?

Now I know that perfection is not attainable. But putting forth our best effort is possible. And although it may not lead to perfection, it may get us further than the goals we set. Goals are important to provide us with focus and direction. But they can also be limiting if we stop and rest when we achieve them. Leading to perfection helps us to push beyond our goals and to achieve even greater heights because the focus is on maximizing the performance of our team, not simply achieving a goal.

The other lesson from this story is, of course, that we are never too old or experienced to learn new things. I’ve been involved in youth sports for over 30 years and yet I learned a great idea from a brand new coach. So open up our minds to newness and to change. That may be the place to start our journey to perfection.

Thanks for reading,
Jim

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