I've always grown up believing that I am in complete control of my destiny... "Eat the sandwich you make". We are incredible because we are self-malleable. Outside the small Iowa town where I was raised, I did good things and reaped the benefits. I made some pretty big mistakes and paid for them. When I chose to attend the University of Iowa, I picked one of the more difficult majors thinking... "I can tackle anything". Doesn't every young guy go through that invincibility phase?
I took on the identity of a chemical engineer and started to forge my own blade. Through all the hard work and plenty of social experiments I felt well-prepped for the real world, and secured a great job. I had a lot of success in my job, but was left wanting more. A bigger challenge and purpose was calling, so I took my tools back to college for a master's degree. I decided to leave the high paying jobs behind and follow a personal passion, coaching basketball. "What's the worst that could happen" I asked myself. It's not like you are going to get eaten. Right?
I got on the staff at Iowa as a graduate assistant, experienced a Big Ten championship season, graduated with an MBA (I know... a pricey way to get into a very low paying job). Around the time of graduation, I married my long-time girlfriend and received a job offer all within 24 hours. We were headed to a promising assistant coaching position at a private college. My wife easily found a great paying job and we settled in picturesque town. Life was good.
We loved it there. Sure we had little bumps in the road that come along with new home ownership or challenges in new jobs, but all-in-all, we were happily on our way. I worked my tail off for the next three years building a program that would be ready to take off and make powerful, positive changes in the lives of the student/athletes in my program. One year from the expected transition to become head coach, the powers that be at the college and myself agreed on a contract that I would assume the duties of head coach at the end of the following season. My wife and I were pumped! We could now deepen our roots. We decided to start a family (thus the 'babies' portion of this blog). We refinanced our house and built on. All still within our means, but knowing that we had at least a few years there for everything to pay off.
Now, let me note that our seasons did not pan out like I would have wanted them too. One of the hardest things about being an assistant coach is that your number one job is loyalty and providing the head coach with support. The direction that he was taking the program was not one that fit my philosophy, but he was also very set in his ways and not an open communicator. I admit that here I felt very ineffective. Coaching was only 25% of my assignment and the other 75% was a significant teaching responsibility on campus (not fundamentals of 'fill in the blank'). I spent most of my coaching time with project management, recruiting and character and profession development with the team. I felt, and still feel that collegiate athletics doesn't do enough to prepare our youth for a full and successful life. What I was doing was overcoming that shortfall and providing my players with a competive advantage
With four games left in the season the athletic director pulled me in his office and notified me that he was not going to honor the contract and was going to perform a search for new head coach. From this point on I always felt that I had more than a fighting chance because I was, and still am, convinced I am the best person for the job. The process drug on and eventually I found out that I was not the top choice, but kept in the process because I was a strong 'back-up plan'.
What just happened? The past few weeks have been full of thoughts of remorse, anger, self-pity, vindication, regret, animosity and a total lack of energy. These feelings are new to me. How do you react when you get your first real rejection? In terms of coaching and my life situation, this is a big one. We can't move with our family and financial situation and if I take a year off from coaching it will be almost impossible to get my foot back in the door somewhere. So this brings me to now and this blog...
My 'former' blade-wielding, invincible, can't-be-beaten-down self was covered with a big nasty smelling blanket. Like I mentioned, this was a first for me. I didn't know how to respond. Did I just let my family down? I'm not necessarily proud of it, but up to this point I've always been one to seek approval from others I care about. I spent five years and incurred a fair amount of debt to chase this coaching dream. To top it off, I love coaching and developing people, and am pretty damn good at it too.
This has been my journey. I am at the tipping point. I am not going to give you a rousing success-only story, largely because I don't know what the future holds. What I can tell you is that if I cannot use the basketball court to develop our young leaders of tomorrow, THIS will be my new court. I will provide an introspective look into my journey as I become a father and a new... something (although you will quickly find out that I despise identities or titles).
I look forward to seeing you at the next practice (which I promise will be much more to the point with added drill work!)
Own the moment you are in.