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One Coach’s Message to 2020 High School Seniors

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Matt French

Note to Coaches: Share with your high school seniors. As we all encourage them to win the next four years, here’s how one coach spoke to the 2020 class.

2020 Seniors,

It has been a pleasure to be part of your lives for the last few years. You went through a lot from deep commitment to the sport you love, injuries and a season cut short by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. It’s not how any of us would write the story. I am confident that we were poised to do special things this year. The reality is, you did far more special things than any of us could have imagined.

You worked your tails off and made significant improvements in every category. You set the bar for how things should be done. Your consistent character was on display every day as a teaching tool for the younger athletes. As someone that is able to see across all the different levels of the program, your impact on future athletes was clear. It may be hard to comprehend now, but just being who you are changed the lives of those that look up to you. It was inspiring to see.

With this pandemic, your story will be recounted in books of every nature including history, economic, sociology, government, healthcare, mental wellness – you name it – every type of book. You not only lived it, you learned from it. The world will change because of your experience - just like you have. I am incredibly impressed and proud of how you handled the situation. You used your time wisely to self-reflect and think about where you are headed.

Some of you are in the process of making decisions that will impact your life forever. The reality is, every choice will impact your life - in both big and small ways. I have had ups and downs and struggled with decisions throughout my life. In my experience, if you evaluate decisions clearly and listen to your gut, all decisions are the right decisions. In 20 years from now, you will pause and reflect on the long line of ‘cause and effects’ that led you to where you are at that point in time. I have found that understanding my “why” was critical in navigating every challenging decision. It also helped to improve my happiness.

17 Tips to Develop Your Personal Game

I have been fortunate to learn from many inspiring people throughout my life including coaches, workforce managers, family, friends and student-athletes. Here are a handful of things that I have learned. Very few of these concepts are my own. Hopefully there are a few that you find useful.

Get Your Mind Ready

Cultivate your “why”

Take the time to understand your why / purpose. Write it down. Revisit it often because you will change and adapt. Use it as your guardrails, not rules. You will deviate, but that is OK. Just make sure you are headed in the right direction.

Character is who you are, reputation is how others perceive you

Tend to your personal brand. And the best way to do that is by treating people with respect and doing the right things consistently. Build bridges, don’t burn them. You will begin to recognize how incestuous this world is. I have hired a lot of people in my career and every hire I made was based on a personal referral or several positive reference checks. Ties back to relationships are everything.

Be vulnerable

Open up to the people you trust. Explore deeper conversations about your feelings and perspectives. Take your guard down and be you. Let others see that you are human. It will create more empathy toward you, develop tighter bonds and can help curb stress.

Read often

Reading is proven to improve knowledge, empathy and creativity. Be educated not only on the things that interest you, but the things that impact you and the people you love. Read to stimulate and calm the mind - ultimately reducing stress.

If you want to be something, assume that persona

Write down the characteristics of the person you want to be. Then, get into character and become that person - little by little, every day. Reflect on your successes and attack areas where you need to improve.

Be healthy selfish

At the end of the day, this is your life and you have needs. Be selfish and protect the things that keep you healthy. A healthy you is a better you that is able to give more to others.

Healthy To-Do’s

Do hard things, reflect

Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Find out what is possible. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity. When you do fail, course correct fast and reflect on the experience. “We do not learn from our experience...we learn from reflecting on experiences.” — John Dewey

Experience college

Never forget ‘why’ you are at college, but have fun. Limit the “college experiences’ in your first semester. First, focus on school and developing healthy routines. Once you get a handle on what it takes to deliver on your college commitments, explore more. Go to that party, join a club, seek out new interesting people, explore your new home. Academic and career education is critical, but so is discovering who you are. College gives you both opportunities. Call home often.

Smile more

Smiling can improve mental wellness and make you more engaging to others. While it’s a natural human behavior, learning to smile more often is a skill that can be developed through repetitions. Work to smile more when you talk to people in person, when on the phone or just on by yourself.

Set weekly goals

You have your ‘why’. Weekly goals will help you continue to support your why. Write them down on Sunday night or Monday morning. Look at them every morning when you first wake up. It will give you more control over your life, help you prioritize and reduce stress because you are able to focus on the things that really matter. “Goals have a beginning and an end. Purpose doesn’t. Purpose is what we live for.” – Tony Dungy, former NFL head coach

Tomorrow starts the night before

For me, sleep is everything. I don’t need much of it, but when I am low on sleep I tend to have less control the next day. Eating goes South, procrastination, lack of focus, mood swings, etc. I feel best when I am able to get up early and get a quick win. And it all starts with self-control the night before.

Improve Your Soul

Treat yourself

As you get small and big wins, celebrate them. Recognize your accomplishment, rinse and repeat.

Surround yourself with the right people

“You are the average of the five people you hang around with the most.” 2020 NFL draft pick out of UCLA, Darnay Holmes, was reminded of this daily by his father. If you don’t respect the people around you, then it is hard to respect yourself. Surround yourself with people that support who you want to be.

Relationships are everything

Connecting with others holds the keys to happiness and contentment. Giving yourself to others not only improves your mind and soul, it creates mutual bonds. Relationships create a support structure that you will use throughout your life whether it’s getting introduced to the girl of your dreams or helping you get your first internship / job. You might even reconnect with people from your distant past that inspire you to do something new. Connect and stay connected with others. Convert relationships into genuine friendships.

Take time to understand other people’s perspectives

Too many people in this day and age, especially with social media, are closed-minded. They engage in one-way conversations. Instead of defending your own agenda, listen and learn. Most people are logical and have important information to share. Look for nuggets that will prove useful to you – even if you don’t agree with the overall message, how it’s delivered or the person. It will help inform your perspectives and make you more personable. You will run into people that you simply cannot connect with and you also cannot avoid - whether it’s at school, at work or in your personal life. Be the calm-head and bring balance to the relationship. There’s usually an underlying reason for the behavior.

Think WIN/win

Not everything is a competition but you will compete for most everything you want in life. On your quest to win, the people you compete with need to win as well. You get the big WIN and they get the win (consolation prize). It’s a negotiation tactic, but it’s also the foundation of healthy competition that will lead to respect, trust and relationships. This is the primary concept behind Ron Shapiro’s book “The Power of Nice.” Ron is a baseball agent that represented many Hall of Fame baseball players.

Be a mentor

You will learn a lot through this journey. Share your experiences and learnings with others. Visit your high school field often. Remember, even if your relationship or experience wasn’t perfect, your old coach and new members of the program need you.


I am not excellent at all of these, but I try to be. I check in on my progress and use them as reminders to keep me on track. Hopefully you will find them useful along your journey. Thank you for making me a better coach and person.

 

“Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.”

 

Keep in touch,

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A Coach Rooting for You to Win in Life
Mobile Phone: A mentor near you
Personal Email: Someone who cares


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