A few days before our departure to Brazil I was texting with my friend and tour organizer Michael. There were some critical details that were not set up to my satisfaction, namely balls. Soccer is one of the cheapest games in the world to play, but everyone knows you need balls.
I needed to know, would we bring ours from SF and incur an excess
baggage charge or could we have some waiting for us there? Would they be new or used? Could we bring some back with us? Mike’s reply came in Portuguese: “Calma cassette.” (Be calm, cassette.)
I was intrigued. What did the term “cassette” mean in this context ? Mike shrugged it off as a slang phrase with no special meaning. We didn’t know if it referred to someone who was wound up tight, but that resonated with me and the famous Brazilian culture. Was it a pejorative term for the person who can’t relax and trust in things? And was that me?
I began to obsess about worrying. As a coach, your job is to lend your experience to the team, to educate and prepare the players. Mustn’t this mean seeing what problems they have – and are about to have – and planning what you will do to help?
A simple internet search on the terms “John Wooden preparation” for example, yields ideas like:
“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”
“I think very definitely it’s the little things that make the big things happen. It’s putting your shoes on properly. It’s getting the wrinkles out of your socks so you won’t get blisters. Those are important things. It’s making sure that no soap is left on the shower room floor where someone — maybe not you, but somebody else — might slip and fall and hurt themselves. Just little things like that. They may seem inconsequential, but I think they’re important.”
Clearly preparation and planning go hand-in-hand with success. But it can be overdone, right? Coaches need to present a sense of calm and control. Vicente Del Bosque had this to say about the day of the World Cup final:(http://www.11wsports.com/futbol-europeo/feliz-cumpleanios-futbol.html)
Aquél domingo de julio, Del Bosque reunido con sus jugadores antes de la final les dijo “que sólo éramos futbolistas. Ser futbolistas es ser románticos, ser apasionados del fútbol y considerar que iban a jugar el partido más esperado de su vida. Hay cierto tipo de entrenadores que está todo el día cabreado. El fútbol no es para estar cabreado, es para estar optimista. ¿Jugar una final de un Mundial no es para estar felices?”.
On that Sunday in July, Del Bosque told his players before the final “that we’re only football players. To be a footballer is to be romantic, to be passionate about football and to consider that they were going to play the most important game of their lives. There’s a certain type of coach who is PO’ed all day. Soccer isn’t for being PO’ed, it’s for being optimistic. To play in a World Cup Final, isn’t that for being happy?”
Putting these two ideas together, a coach’s job is to worry, foresee, plan and prepare. But he has to do it in a way that allows him to also project calm and contentment. I coach can’t be PO’ed all the time or wound up tight when he is in front of his players. In sweating the details with Michael that night I was trying to create an environment in Brazil where we could all be relaxed, knowing that we had all the equipment we needed.
The First Lady Michelle Obama was one of the most recent people to invoke the metaphor that good coaches should adopt: “We’re like a swan: calm and serene above water – but we’re paddling like mad, going crazy underneath, trying to look smooth”.
The image of the cassette tape art is from: Ghost in the Machine http://www.flickr.com/photos/iri5/sets/72157611954107572/