Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Fairy Tale at the DMV....

Let’s get this out of the way; this ISN’T a fairy tale.

I was selling my car to a private party last week. We went to the bank, I signed the title in front of the bank’s Notary and the car was no longer mine. I begin to search for a new car.

A few hours later I got a call from the people I had sold it to. They were at the Division of Motor Vehicles and there was a big problem, could I come there. I was actually pretty close so I headed over.

I got to the DMV and was told the relative I had sold my car to earlier owned the car I was selling and that I still owned the car I had sold them from before. I was the only person in the whole scenario without a car and yet I was being told, at the moment, I had TWO!

The phrase “long story, short” would be very appropriate here but futile. It goes something like this: I had bought the car I was selling from a relative and sold my old car to my daughter. Both vehicles were the same year. In addition, both vehicles were being sold to the same last name. Add to that the fact that both parties came into the DMV within a two day period. Now add to that the fact that the vehicle identification number (VIN), by pure chance, had the same last three digits except for the last number which was one number off: 445 and 446. My guess was that the car I was selling was accidentally put into my daughter’s  name and that car had never been put in her name because they put this car in her name instead!

Need a breather?

We started to rationally explain what we thought had happened to the nice lady behind the counter. She listened and kept saying she was sorry, but in order for this sale to go through, she needed this and this and this to happen. Frustration was welling up inside all of us and finally a supervisor came over. We went over everything with him, what we thought had happened. He took the documents we had, went to the backroom and printed out about a dozen more. He came out twice asking who each of us were and how we were in the scenario, who the other relatives were and finally went back to HIS Supervisor’s office..for 25 minutes!

He came out with her and we all girded up for an epic battle. We were ready to go to war right now. Blood pressures were raging, faces started to turn red before he even got up to us and he leaned in and said:

“Wow, did we screw this up!” 

I almost choked on the gum I had just swallowed.

“Yea”, he continued, “I see where we made our mistake, well, a bunch of them actually. I’m really sorry. We’re going to get this fixed right now.”

And they did. All the titles were taken care of, I went from owning two cars to none and everything went to plan.

Why should we have been so surprised? They DID screw up but it was still a shock to the system that they would admit it? Why should that be?

How hard is it for us to say “I don’t know” or “I was wrong,” in modern society anymore? We make excuses, we deflect, we pretend.

In their new book titled, “Think Like a Freak,” authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner devote a whole chapter to the three hardest words in the English language: “I don’t know.”

As coaches, we are EXPECTED to know everything about what we coach…EVERYTHING. We are told to watch one swing of a 10 year old server and then told to “fix her.” We are asked why someone keeps hitting in the net without ever watching that player and comment on what she’s doing wrong. We put together elaborate drills that when they don’t go smoothly, the athletes obviously didn’t do it right!

The thing to ask though is, as coaches, have we gathered enough information to make those determinations? As a new coach, do you have information to help you make the decisions you need to make? Are you basing your middle blocker on the fact that she’s the tallest person on the team and the libero because she’s the shortest? When the drill isn’t going as well as you envisioned, is it the athletes or is it something you hadn’t thought about that’s making the drill lag?

We are human. We make mistakes. We don’t always know the answers and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

That isn’t an excuse for not continuing to find the answers: coaching clinics, reading books and articles, watching video, analyzing statistics. We owe that to our athletes, our sport and ourselves.

Next time a drill you concocted isn’t working, pull the team together and admit, “Yea, that one is a clunker. Let’s do this instead.” It’s not a sign of weakness but athletes will understand better that it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them when a role model or coach admits it as well.

While younger players should have a chance to play all positions, as they get older and are put into specific positions,  use their athletic skills and positive to help choose their place on the floor. Height is helpful but not always the best predictor. What other drills, games and skills can you observe and evaluate to help you put your players in their best position(s) to succeed.

I don’t know. I made a mistake. They aren’t the vocabulary pariahs they have been made out to be.

They are a sign of being human….