A Coaches Greatest Heartache

Photo Credit: Austin Distel     

Some kids are born to be great runners, and it is undeniable that running is their God-given gift and best sport. However, a family member, educator, or peer convinces the person not to try running or quit for various reasons.

It is very frustrating for a coach to see all that potential go down the drain and for the child by not exercising their God-given talent.  However, you must let the loss go and work with who is before you.

I admit it; I don’t always handle this issue well. If you are a coach, you are predisposed to see others' potential; it’s how we are wired. It’s hard to see all that potential go unfulfilled.

At least for me, the pain is seeing all the potential in another human being and not helping him or her reach their potential.                                                                                 

I have to use every tool to get over the feeling and emotion of being unable to help someone when I know they have what it takes to do great things.

You know you were meant to coach when you genuinely want to help someone reach their potential, and you are not allowed to help them for whatever reason. Coaches are wired to care for others and help them at a deep level.

Sometimes, you see a young person walking in the hall whose life could change for the better if they tried this running thing. For whatever reason, they refuse to give running a chance. You may reach the young person by being persistent and respectful, but at some point, you have to let it go if they don't respond. 

Years later, you may run into that person on the street, and they say, “I wish I had given that running thing a try back in my high school days.”  And, by the way, I’ve heard this regret story several times. Be prepared to give a gracious response.

Next, you have the person with you for a while, but they decide to quit right at the threshold of their potential due to some emotional response. Almost without exception, they regret their decision to leave years later. However, you have to let it all go.

Finally, at the college or pro level, you may have an athlete who, for whatever reason, thinks the grass is greener to train somewhere else until they jump the fence—by then, it is too late—coming back rarely, if ever, works for either party. The trust is already broken.

How do you handle the disappointment of those people who ignore your offer of help? That is the million-dollar question—this type of disappointment is one of the most significant coaching pain sources. 

The starting point of healing is to acknowledge your pain or frustration. You can't change what you don't acknowledge.  Accept that there is a loss going on here. 

Then, release the idea that you can reach and help every person. You can’t. Sometimes, you may not be the best fit for the athletes' personalities or goals.              

Find people right in front of you who genuinely want your help. Work with the people you’ve been given and make them champions! Throw yourself into helping others who need and want your help.

Put another way, focus on the people who value what you bring. Some people genuinely don't appreciate what you have to offer them for various reasons. Accept this fact, deal with it emotionally, and move on.

Always be genuinely grateful for the people who do value you’re coaching. Find people to help that you can influence for the better now. Stop crying over spilled milk, as they say. 

Respectfully and without malice, say goodbye to the person who does not want your help and give everything you’ve got to those under your care who want help. Pray for the person you could not reach, and then let them go. 

Everyone has free will. Do your best to reach out to people to show them their God-given potential. However, accept each person’s choices, whether you agree with them or not. 

The coach's prayer in these situations is the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the things I cannot change; Courage the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

No more real words were spoken. Change it if you can; let it go if you must.


Coach Weber 

Philippians 4:13