Monday, January 24, 2011

Learning to Teach While Teaching Part I: Discipline

Today we discuss the first section of our series on Coaching for Character. Today's topic: DISCIPLINE

As coaches we always say that discipline is important and how we need to be a disciplined team in order to be successful. What is discipline exactly? Merriam-Webster defines discipline as: (1) training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character (2) orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior (3) Self-control

Hmmmm…..from these definitions seems that discipline is a basic form of mental toughness. Not mental toughness in the sense that one is completely oblivious to everything around them, or getting beat to the proverbial pulp, but mental toughness as in staying the course and being focused on one's goal.

Let's even take one step further and consider the root word of discipline which is - DISCIPLE. A disciple is one who "spreads the teachings of another." Wow... that's strong! As coaches we are challenged to teach morals and values as much as the specific techniques required to play our chosen sport. As ministers we are called to glorify the Kingdom of God by our representation both on and off the field.

The best definition of discipline that I can remember was given to me by my life trainer during my brief stay in the NFL – Mack Newton. His quote was simply: “discipline is doing what you should do, when you should do it, whether you like it or not.” I have to admit that immediately I thought the definition was dry and a bit blunt… but then again you would have to know Mack. That said, I took his words of wisdom and made them my personal mantra.

Having played at Notre Dame I thought I understood what it took to work hard and give it my all. What I didn’t understand was how to give more than I had. Mack pushed me far beyond any physical or mental limit that I could have imagined. It was tough…in fact, it actually hurt. The feeling of knowing that I gave everything I could give in an effort to be successful was one of the most rewarding feelings I had ever felt. Physically, mentally and emotional exhausted yet happy to have competed…and that was just the workout!

It’s not always easy to discipline oneself. We all fall a little short of the "excellence" mark from time to time. Discipline in that vein comes from how resilient you are in regaining your composure and continuing on your journey. As I have told my students in the past: “None of us were born with a MANUAL OF LIFE in a little baggie; failure is a part of any success.” We have the power to decide how we handle any given situation in our lives. We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we have total control of how we react to it in moving forward.

As coaches and athletic administrators it's our job to assert discipline in our programs. It's also our responsibility to be sure that our student-athletes understand that through this discipline they are not only learning their sport of choice, but also becoming the best possible version of themselves which will enable them to become productive members of society.

Sounds like a tall order coaches... but then again no one ever said ministry was easy. Discipline: "Doing what you should do when you should do it - whether you like it or not." Well said Mr. Newton - thank you.