Monday, June 13, 2016

How Coaching Golf Made Me a Better Stay-At-Home-Mom

Oddly specific title, I will admit. Hey, this is a very niche blog, after all.
For a refresher or for new readers, I spent five years as the head men's and women's coach at a mid-size regional university that played at the NCAA Division II level.
Coaching is like, the best job. Leading groups of people to the "battle" of competition was always a thrill.
But the job was so much more than a single tournament, and an unbelievable amount of preparation had to go into each event. And I'm not just talking about the skills of the players; as a small program I had no assistant for many seasons and was expected by the department to do much of the administrative work including budgeting, trip arrangements, post-trip paperwork, and much else that head coaches of some "bigger" team sports have two or three salaried employees or grad assistants to pass it off on. Many people were shocked at how much office time I would have to dedicate to the minute details of all that business.
Coaching was also a great way to put my Psychology degree to work. As a person who loves the mysteries of the mind, I had up to 20 fascinating real-life sport psychology case studies at any given time. Plus, there was always the group dynamic to contend with. Sometimes I felt like I was an expert on that, but many times I found myself needing to be a lot more agile to maintain my lead of the team.
It would take a several-thousand word post to go into all the detail of the job of coaching. In short, these are just some of the hats I wore as a college golf coach: administrator, teacher, travel agent, bus driver, statistician, curriculum developer, disciplinarian, therapist, academic counselor, career counselor, first aid responder, seamstress, purchaser, accountant, designer, politician, janitor. Only maybe 10-15% of the time was my hat an actual golf hat, for actual golf.
And I got very comfortable being uncomfortable. I learned not to take too much personally. I learned that I set the tone for the group. I learned to work hard not give my athletes personality labels, and instead to love, accept and work with who they were, even if they suddenly changed sometimes. I learned that communicating is a two-way street and that as a leader it was my responsibility to keep the flow of traffic going. I learned to apply consistent and fair boundaries and consequences, and to communicate those boundaries and consequences well in advance of when I might need them. I learned to think quickly and delegate tasks. I learned that I could not be all things to all the players all the time, and to not pretend to be. I worked to help empower them to act like adults and make wise choices. I learned to seek out a supportive community of peers. I learned that I needed to take care of myself if I expected to do the job well. I learned that the testament to the quality of my team is what the players did when they weren't in my presence. I learned that I needed to keep learning. I learned that nurturing the good out of people is serious business that shouldn't be taken lightly.
All of this has helped me keep a pretty even head in the often-isolating and extremely stressful world of being a mom. And as many working-women-turned-stay-at-home-moms know, job experience like this can make for very beneficial skills when raising a family. I also believe the reverse is true: leading a household makes for a good worker, and hopefully when I  lucky enough to work outside the home again that I can find an employer who shares that mindset.

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