My whole sports experience changed when Coach Neal (his real name) came to my high school. In spite of the fact that I had been formed into an anxious, and ineffective athlete, Coach Neal saw through it all to something good. He was kind to me when I blew it. He explained things when I didn’t understand. He was helpful when my anxiety got the best of me and I didn’t perform in a drill he knew I could do.
You would think I would have immediately flourished in this new environment. The truth is, I still struggled for the simple reason that I was suspicious of Coach Neal. I thought, “This guy must be just like Coach Layton. He doesn’t mean what he says. I’m going to have to do 10 times better in this drill than the other guys just to get the coach’s attention and get in the game. I don’t care how much he says he trusts me, I don’t buy it.” Due to my previous toxic experience with one coach I now had a hard time enjoying the good thing I had with my new coach. So my soccer skills didn’t improve all that much.
I don’t know how Coach Neal had the patience to endure the many night-time phones calls with me encouraging me not to quit, to keep working at it, to believe he really believed in me. It took some time, and quite a few conversations but I slowly began to see that Coach Neal wasn’t Coach Layton. He was a very different kind of coach and as I figured that out, things began to change. My soccer transformation required that I have an accurate understanding of who my new coach really was as a man and as a coach. Once I began to have an accurate understanding of who Coach Neal was, I then had to do two very important things. First, I had to reprogram how I related to my coach. Second, I had to allow the reality of the relationship I had with my coach to change how I lived in that relationship and affect how I functioned as an athlete under his care. As I slowly began to believe in him, and believe in his belief in me, I began to improve as a player. Soccer became enjoyable again. I was able to perform the way I used to and then some. It took more than one season to do it, but Coach Neal was able to not only transform me but transformed an entire toxically ineffective soccer team into a team that contended for the league championship. Who are the “Coach Neal” people in your life?