Baby Steps

I am not sure what is going on in the universe right now, but here is what my week consisted of:
– Several emails saying, “Things are so bad with my team right now. It’s way too much to type. When can we talk?”
– Conversations with coaches about mental health issues, drug abuse, players struggling with playing time and new roles, bullying, and team culture issues.
– Two clients who said, “We’re going to need to get you here as soon as possible.”
It was a rough week for a lot of coaches and administrators and it’s not even October! I am grateful for their willingness to ask for help and their desire to put the needs of their student-athletes first.

At the end of such a crazy week, I was looking forward to lunch with some coaching friends. For about the last year the three of us have been meeting for lunch once or twice a month. These are coaches I enjoy being around and I had the pleasure of working with their team last spring. We meet at a local place that we call “Disney” because we think it really is the greatest place on earth. “Disney” is a hole in the wall. It is a small, local place that hasn’t been updated in years. You know how Cracker Barrel tries to have decor that looks old? Well, this place has decor that just IS old. The carpet is stained, the furniture is so dated and the decorations are pure 1970’s! But they have good, cheap food.

My friends brought a new coach with them. When we sat down one of them said to the new coach, “Oh, the three of us don’t need to look at the menu, we always get the same thing.” At this point I tried to explain that I was making a change, I was trying to make healthier decisions and I wasn’t going to get the #12: two biscuits with a bowl of gravy, an extra biscuit (at my request), a plate of hash browns and sweet tea. Yes, that’s like 3,000 calories and enough carbs to power my Elantra and sweet tea so strong that it would put a diabetic into a coma after one sip. Their tea has so much sugar in it that it is nearly caramelized. At times I’ve needed a spoon vs a straw to drink it. But change is coming, baby steps.

Our waitress arrived and asked for our drink orders. My friends all ordered water but I asked for hot tea which was met with skeptical looks from my friends. I explained that with hot tea I could control the sugar, two packets vs two cups. Baby steps, baby steps.

When our waitress came back to take our orders I chose pancakes, with strawberries! Our waitress asked if I wanted two or three pancakes? That needed no thought on my behalf, three of course! To which my friend said, “I knew she was going to ask you that and I knew you were going to say three!” Baby steps, baby steps.

Our food soon arrived. My pancakes were the circumference of the plate, each about an inch thick with 5 large strawberries on top and I am certain they used an entire can of aerosol spray-on cool-whip. My pancakes looked like a 3rd-grade science project. The pancakes were the volcano which had erupted with cool-whip. They were absolutely covered with cool-whip. My friend said, “At least you got fruit.” Little did she know that they were not fresh strawberries, they were clearly frozen and had been packed in juice and sugar. As a connoisseur of southern sweet tea, I know this to be true because I know what sugar tastes like. I went to work removing all the cool-whip. Baby steps, baby steps.

After an hour of endless laughter and conversations about what is going on with their teams and how I could help, a man who had been eating alone approached our table. He was about 6’3 and in his early 60’s. He was lanky and he had scraggly hair. He was missing a few teeth, he was wearing wranglers, boots and he had a leather belt that I am certain had his name stamped on it. He looked a little gruff, like a guy who would be in a biker gang. He said, “Excuse me, ladies ….. I have no idea what you were talking about or laughing about but I just wanted to say that most people sit at meals and don’t say a word, or they just look their phones the entire time.  But you weren’t … and it was refreshing. You clearly enjoy each other’s company. I just wanted to say you made my day.” And then he patted my new friend on the shoulder and walked away.

So here’s what I take from my week. Life is difficult. Life presents the unexpected. We need to ask for help and sometimes we need to make changes. We need to have people who we can trust with our concerns. We need to laugh. And, we need to take baby steps, one foot at a time because change is a slow, slow process.

For every coach or administrator who feels like they are stuck in a really bad and hopeless place right now, hang in there. Find some people to laugh with. Drink some sweet tea. Call me if you need to.

Baby steps my friends, baby steps.

Molly Grishamgrowth, leadership, leaders