Letter from the Coach

By Barry Maher

This is not really an article, rather it’s an actual exchange of emails. Maybe it won’t mean anything to the anyone but the coach in question and myself, but I think it just might.

Obviously the coach’s name has been changed to protect his privacy. And obviously I went to Notre Dame and still haven’t recovered.

Dear Barry:

I’m really struggling for self confidence. I’ve won a total of six state championships in my high school coaching career. And for the upcoming season, I have one of the best teams I’ve ever had. However, I’m having a terrible time motivating myself. I’ve just recently began pastoring at a local church and it seems that I’m afraid to push the kids like I once did, and my entire coaching philosophy has changed. I want to ensure that I don’t say anything wrong in front of the kids but at the same time I want to get everything out of them I possibly can. Could you please offer some words of encouragement to motivate me, so I can motivate them to do their best?


Coach Rockne


Dear Coach Rockne:

It strikes me that you don’t need advice from me. You need advice from you. You’re the one who’s won six state championships. So you obviously know how to motivate yourself to reach your goals. Maybe the problem is that that your goals may have changed or that you’re no longer sure what your real goals are. There’s nothing wrong with not racing to win. It’s a choice we can make and it’s a perfectly legitimate one. But if you really want to excel—really want it—don’t you have to want it badly enough that you’ll want to do all the things you know are necessary to make it happen?

What is it you really want? Maybe it’s to win state championship number seven. Maybe, to paraphrase Kurt Hahn, it’s simply to discover that there’s more in you than you know, so you’ll be unwilling to settle for less. Or maybe it’s to help these kids discover that there’s more in them than they ever believed to be possible, so they’ll be unwilling to settle for less. Because I suspect you got where you are by focusing on the kids, what you can do for them, not by focusing on yourself.

What is it you really want? And do you want it badly enough that you’ll make the effort necessary to achieve it? My guess is that when push comes to shove, you’ll do everything in your power to avoid shortchanging the kids.

All the Very Best,



The standard Hollywood ending to this story would be that the coach and his team won championship number seven. They didn’t. But they did make it to the state championship game which they very nearly won. And “very nearly” sounds like a huge success to me. The coach was nice enough to write and offer me part of the credit. I’ll accept it because, hey I’ll take all the credit I can get. And it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being part of a state championship team or “very nearly” a state championship team.

Still, when it comes right down to it, we all know that nobody else can really motivate us. All anyone else can ever do is talk us into motivating ourselves, sell us on the idea of motivating ourselves. We’ve got to do work; we’ve got to do the heavy lifting.  And nobody else can be with us when all those thousands of little decisions that lead toward our goals or away from our goals have to be made. We’ve got to win our own championships.

And yes, even outside of horseshoes, sometimes “very nearly” counts. As those of us who watched what Butler very nearly did last Monday night couldn’t help but realize.

© Copyright 2012, Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates, Las Vegas, Nevada


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