“But it’s a hard way to go, on the straight and narrow. When everybody in town points a finger at you, but they ain’t had to walk with the weight that you’ve hauled. They don’t know you at all, but they think that they do.”
Tyler Childers, “Bottles and Bibles”
There’s a process to success. I’m learning that more and more. Last week I baked a cake from scratch for The Coach on his 45th birthday. I’m not a baker, mind you. I’m much more of a creative cook who loosely follows recipes and uses what I have on hand rather than precise ingredients. This cake was a challenge.
While following closely to the specific recipe The Coach requested, (I had made this cake in the summer for our daughter’s birthday and even though the icing mostly melted off the lopsided cake, everyone said it was one of the best cakes they’d ever tasted) I realized while reading through the various steps that I hadn’t truly followed the process when I’d made the cake before (I had thrown all the ingredients in together at once), so this time I did everything the recipe said.
I worked hard to follow steps in the exact order, adding each of the five eggs to the butter one at a time making sure to blend completely before adding in the next. I added the sugar in one cup at a time, the dry ingredients were kept separate from the wet ingredients which were added to the mixture in an alternating pattern, all were blended together and put into the three circular, greased and floured cake pans and put into the preheated oven.
It took about two hours for me to follow each and every exact step of this process. While the cakes baked, I made homemade buttercream frosting. I waited- which I don’t normally do- until the cakes were completely cooled before I layered and frosted them at 10:30pm that night. Note: The Coach still wasn’t home.
When we finally ate the cake on the day after The Coach’s birthday, everyone in the family said that it was the very best cake they’d ever had. It wasn’t gorgeous. It kind of looked like a cake you’d see at a church potluck made by somebody’s mawmaw. I don’t know whether it’s really the best cake they’ve ever tasted, but I thought it was pretty freaking good myself.
After Saturday’s state championship win, I was thinking back on the season and how it too is a very time consuming and tedious process to get to victory. The season started off somewhat badly. We lost several games. It sucked. I would get so mad after the games, and I couldn’t figure out why The Coach wasn’t angry like I was. I didn’t realize that he has a deep understanding of the process, and he wasn’t concerned. He knew the team would find their rhythm and figure things out.
Some of the worst parts of being the wife of The Coach are when people start bashing your husband, his assistant coaches, and the players. When “fans” begin to talk about what the team should do, and put on social media how terrible everyone is and how so and so should be playing/coaching instead….blah, blah, blah- because they’re the experts. (*Imagine an eye roll here).
Everyone has their own opinions, I know, I share mine frequently with The Coach. But what I’m coming to understand more and more is that there is a process that teams -and people for that matter- need to go through in order to find the sweet spot and become successful.
The Coach and I were looking at stats last night. Saturday’s game was his 99th win as head coach and he’s had 25 losses. According to my nonmathematical brain, failure should happen about 1 out of every 5 times. If you’re not trying out new things and risking failure, then success won’t happen. Meeting with adversity and working hard to rise above it, is one of the most important steps in the process. Many people would rather quit than push through something difficult or painful. Growing hurts, you can’t grow without failure. It’s part of the process.
Another step in the process would be making adjustments to New People. They are the new players, coaches, trainers, and other staff, who haven’t been through the process before. They don’t know how it works, and can’t be expected to know. That would be like asking a person off the street to come in and do surgery on someone for an appendectomy just because they’ve had the surgery before- or perhaps watched a doctor perform the surgery. Just because you think you’re familiar with a process, doesn’t mean you truly understand it on a level where you can perform it. The process is learned slowly and in a meticulous fashion. New People must be given time and a learning curve.
I listened to some of the newer coaches talk the other night about how their wives and girlfriends didn’t understand why the football meetings took so long. I laughed. I remember those days. I used to think, it couldn’t possibly take 14 hours on a Sunday for the coaches to watch film and come up with their practice plan for the week, but I was wrong. Sometimes it takes even longer.
Then, comes the work of having the team learn to operate as one. This is painful since team members and coaches find where their strengths and weaknesses lie. More times than not, people haven’t really ever looked at their weaknesses. There is also a huge mixture of backgrounds and personalities. Hard work happens during this step, and team members show whether or not they can handle it. After this time of awakening and discomfort, some players quit. Some pout. And some work through the process and get stronger, smarter and more resilient.
Learning to sift through the voices is one of the most important parts of the process. The team learns that there are voices of haters and voices of encouragers. They have to learn to ignore many and listen to the few. Sometimes they must learn to be their own voice of encouragement. Players learn to keep their circles small if they want to survive the season.
One of the memories that stands out in my mind from this season is how Isaiah Bess, the quarterback, and MVP at this year’s state championship, would text and say encouraging things to the other players. I remember when we were at our lowest points in the season and my son would come in and talk about how Isaiah had sent out a text encouraging everyone. I could hardly believe it because at that same time people on social media and in the community were totally bashing him. What an amazing young man, to be able to encourage others when the rest of the world was belittling him. He became a real leader for his team by choosing to be one of the voices they needed to hear.
There are so many other steps to the process of becoming a championship team. There’s no perfect recipe for it, but there are consistent steps that many people who aren’t in it day in and day out won’t understand. So next season, if our team has a loss, or if a player or coach makes a mistake, I hope that you will think back and remember that, after all, it’s just part of the process. And it may be that one- in- five need for a failure in order to later have the ultimate success.