Coaches and GPS Systems: Navigating our players to success

What do you do when you need to drive somewhere and you’re not exactly sure how to get there? Simple: You pull out your GPS, punch in the address of your destination, and let it do the work for you.

You’re going to get a couple of different routes, information on which one is quickest, and an estimated time of arrival based on traffic, conditions, and proximity. It doesn’t actually drive the car for you, but it gives you clear information on exactly where you need to go in seconds.

So consider this: Have you ever thought of coaches as human GPS systems?

Just think about it. When we pull out our GPS, we know where we want to go. We’re just not really sure how to get there. Our players are no different. They all have visions for starting on their high school teams, playing collegiately, or getting drafted. They know exactly what they want to punch into the GPS. They just need directions that tell them how to get there. That’s where you come in as a coach: You have the foresight to build out the right plan so they can make it to their destination in time.

How you get there is a different story.

If you’ve ever traveled somewhere new, you know just how easy it is to get distracted, veer off course, miss an exit, or take a wrong turn. Your athletes are going to go through the same exact thing. If you have a good GPS, these small mistakes don’t become catastrophic. Within seconds, you get a recalibrated route and a new set of directions designed to get you back on track as quickly as possible. If your players ever take a wrong turn – and they will – treat it just like a GPS would: Expect it, recognize it, and redesign your plan so you’re still on track to reach your destination in time.

We’ll never prevent our players from taking a wrong turn here or there, but we can always get them re-routed quicker than they ever will on their own.

We’ll never prevent our players from making mistakes along their journey, but we can always get them re-routed quicker than they ever will on their own. This is critical. The most precious resource we’ll ever have is our time. Those moments where our players get lost going down a long winding road will teach them some of the best lessons they’ll ever learn. They just can’t bring those lessons to fruition if they never make it back to the interstate.

On a final thought, always remember who’s driving the car: The player. We can’t drive the car for our players and we ever should. They need to take ownership of their experience and make decisions for themselves. We just have to make sure they don’t make any uninformed decisions. Their journey to get to where they want to go is going to take a ton of time, traverse a lot of different roads, and will need some re-calibrating along the way. If you wouldn’t want to make such a trip without your GPS, we shouldn’t let our players do the same.

It will be the most important one of their life.

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