In 1991 UCLA offered their head gymnastics coaching position to a dancer/choreographer who had never done gymnastics: Miss Val. With no formal "coaching experience" Miss Val quickly began studying how to be a "coach". In her must-read book Life Is Short, Don't Wait to Dance, Miss Val describes the process:
"I got busy studying successful coaches. In my mind a coach was tough-minded, tough-talking, unwavering, intimidating, and had a dictator-like swagger. I assumed the posture of a relentless intimidating coach and learned to say things like "Go hard or go home" and "Winners make adjustments and losers make excuses."
The team finished dead last my first year at the NCAA championships. I became more hard-nosed. I demanded more of our team, learned more cutting quips, implemented sarcasm as a real stinger, and did my best to be unrelenting, unwavering, and "right" always. After my second season we were horrible and getting worse. We failed to even make it to the national championships. That was it. I decided to resign.
I was walking through the UCLA Student Union on my way to resign when I spotted one of John Wooden's books, "They Call Me Coach." I had never thought to study Coach Wooden. I picked up the book and the first page I opened to was Coach Wooden's definition of success: "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of Self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the Best you are capable of becoming."
I read it again. Each time I read it, the word "you" kept getting bigger and bolder and brighter. I finally got it. I realized I had been trying to be someone else. And I also realized that whenever you try to be someone else you will always be a second rate them and worse, you will never become a first rate you. With one sentence Coach Wooden humanized the process of sport for me and lifted the burden of outcome.
I thought, "What is it that I can bring to this job that is worthwhile, authentic, and inspiring?" At that moment, right when I was on my way to quit, I realized I could do the job, and do it well. In fact, the art of preparing young women to be calm and confident before they compete is something I knew I could do as well as any other gymnastics coach. I just needed to block out all the coaching "noise." I needed to start listening to my own voice and make the best decisions I could one day at a time, one step at a time, one choice at a time."
Are you doing the best version of you?