Having enjoyed my little blogging break over the summer I had the need to feed my ego by getting back with a subject that has has concerned me for some time. We all have an ego however there are levels to it and I would like to challenge it from a coaching perspective.
Ryan Holliday talks about the “Disease of Me” and the self-interest of the ego. Your ego will hold you back. The counter to ego is humility, selflessness, modesty, self-control and justice. Consequently, by putting these into practice your ego is suppressed and you will develop and move forward.
As a grassroots coach achieving honours such as trophies and awards is the validation of the ego. Awards and recognition matter to the egotist. The coach fixated with winning to the detriment of player development is ego operating at the highest level.
There is a cost to ego. Coaches need to look internally and seriously question if their own ego is getting in the way of their players’ development. Of course, the ones with the biggest ego’s will fail to do this. Self-reflection is ridiculed by the ego. The very ones who need to do this are the ones who will disregard and rubbish this point. They fool themselves that they are doing it ‘for the kids’ when in reality the ego has won. The enemy lies within and the enemy is the ego.
Now the problem is that you can’t avoid it. The ego lies within all of us. It’s that little voice or in many cases voices that is chipping away at you not to lose face and show others how good we are. It’s part of us but our daily battle needs to be how to turn the volume down. The ego is telling us how good we are; how much better than others we are. The reality might be very different. Are we deluded?
Grassroots coaches come in many shapes and sizes. Our backgrounds, intelligence, behaviours and culture will be remarkably different. No two coaches are the same. With all these factors and all our personal history there is no wonder ego can easily find a comfortable home. We have found ourselves in a position of trust sometimes by default or by maneuvering ourselves into a role. No matter how you have found yourself in this coaching role, we are now here and let’s think how the ego affects that performance as a coach. Will it help or hinder?
Firstly let’s look at one end of the continuum. The ‘Egotistical Coach’ They are easy to spot. It’s all about them. Chasing trophies; chasing the best players; swapping out players who don’t meet their expectations; telling anyone who is willing to listen how good their team is. As Reed Maltbie would say the ‘joystick coach’ continually giving instruction. They do it for themselves, not the team. Don’t get me wrong there have been a few exceptions. I know a few who have created successful teams (in terms of trophy winning) but have built the teams with humility and selflessness.
In these times of instant gratification, ego is well fed and lives in comfortable surroundings. However, just like many forms of gratification it is empty, artificial and poisonous.
So at the other end of the continuum where ego has been silenced, we see the good traits in a coach removed of his ego. Truly great coaches do not need external assurance. They look internally and I don’t think how good I am but think what can I do better. In my experience, the ones who I have the most respect for were self-aware, diligent and humble. The saying ‘Think Big, Act small’ was their mantra. They knew the road to development was a long one but taking one small step at a time without any self-promotion was the path to greatness.
Finally, the ego blinds us by building ourselves up with fantastic stories of how good we are. Guaranteed it will be same ego and self-delusion that will be your downfall.
I’ll finish with my coaching hero and the most ego-less coach I know. John Wooden, voted the No’1 coach of all-time was seen at a basketball game at 93 years old taking notes. He was still intent on learning at such an age. No ego in any shape or form. We must learn from the greats. We must prevent ego finding a place in ourselves as it will only undermine your true self.
Ego is an opponent we can beat.