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Coaching Tips

Dealing With the Unexpected

Recently I had the chance to speak to two groups of school athletic directors. The discussion began with this question: What percentage of your time is spent on your to-do list, and what percentage is spent dealing with the unexpected?

In both groups, estimates on the percentage of time spent dealing with the unexpected ranged as high as 90 percent. And the events themselves got your attention: an athlete thrown through a glass window during track practice; an official who shows up at a game without a uniform; a volleyball player who travels to a road game with her boyfriend on his motorcycle.

These athletic directors must become experts at dealing with the unexpected. How do they do do it? The first thing is attitude. No one can whine about problems and solve them at the same time.

Author Malcolm Bradbury said, “Life is a crisis – so what!”

And broadcaster Paul Harvey added, “In times like these it is good to remember that there have always been times like these.”

We all must become skilled at dealing with the unexpected. A few weeks ago, who in Japan was ready for a life-threatening crisis? Then the tsunami struck.

Back in my sports writing days, my late, great boss, Hall of Fame baseball writer Milton Richman said, “One of these days you will go to the ballpark to cover a game  and the roof will fall in.”

Years later, after Richman died, his prophecy came true. I was in Candlestick Park waiting for Game 3 of the 1989 World Series when an earthquake changed the landscape. Suddenly I was no longer covering a baseball game; I was covering a natural disaster.

Coaches and athletes must be prepared for sudden changes in fate, because their field is, by definition, unpredictable. You do your best to prepare, and then deal with what comes up. This is true whether you’re in the NCAA tournament or preparing for Little League tryouts.

“One thing is sure,” president Franklin D.Roosevelt counseled. “We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment . . .  If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.”

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.” To see Coach Tully and Coach Pritchard discuss “Seven Ways to Prepare for Adversity,” click here.


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