I’ve been having some conversations with coaching friends of mine recently about the idea of enthusiasm. The conversations have ranged from some believing that enthusiasm is an overused and misunderstood term for teams and players, questioning the value of enthusiasm, wondering how to teach/instill it, and an uncertainty about how to define it. I don’t have all the answers, but our conversations stirred up some thoughts and I wanted to share them with. Hopefully they provide some value to you.
As a basketball coach, the bench that you sit on is always directly in front of the opposing team during warm ups. So depending on what level you are coaching, there might be 15-45 minutes where you have an opportunity to observe the other team prior to the beginning of the game. There are a handful of times that I’ve been involved with where I look at the opposing team, and then down at our team, and feel like we were about to get out classed, based simply on comparing the level of energy and enthusiasm coming from our end of the floor and the opposing team’s level of energy and enthusiasm. There have been other times where I felt like the other team didn’t even want to be in the gym compared to the energy that our kids were warming up with, and I felt like we were about to run them right out of the gym. Most of the time, the intuition was correct, on both sides of the coin.
My point is, that I do believe that enthusiasm is a very valuable piece to the success of a team. However, I think the collective “we” has developed a definition that paints an incorrect picture. So when people hear the word enthusiasm they think of something very specific. Usually, this means clapping and cheering and loud noises, etc. I DO believe that these are ways to express enthusiasm, but not the only way by any means, and not the way that we should be defining it.
Rather than using Enthusiasm (as we know it) my focus is on this: Expressing Your Passion
Maybe that’s my definition. Enthusiasm: A visible or tangible expression of one’s passion.
I’ve got a number of examples of stories that I could share, but here I will just list a few. My belief is that everyone is capable of expressing their passion, they may just need some help defining what that is. And this is passion in context, not necessarily their “life’s passion”. For example, I currently teach 5th grade. I don’t know that I’m your typical teacher, in that I didn’t want to be a teacher when I grew up, I don’t live and breathe the profession, and there are more people who are passionate about curriculum and methodology than I am. However, my passion is creating a positive environment for students and giving them a great school experience, by loving and caring for them as their teacher. So that is how I express my passion as a teacher.
For athletes, this can look very different for everyone:
Monmouth’s Bench: These guys are expressing the passion they have for basketball and their team by creating and displaying elaborate and humorous bench celebrations. This isn’t for every player, or for every coach, and I know some people may have strong feelings about what they are doing, but I think it’s great that these guys have found their way, and that their coach has allowed them to express their passion. https://youtu.be/I5iVrlvgEuU
Serious/Intense Guy: There are certain players, who never smile, never clap, never get really high or low, that you will never find jumping up and down yelling and screaming. They are very intense and focused at all times. These players show up every day and just go to work. They are seriously invested in their craft. Their passion is the game, their craft, developing their skill set, being great. And they express this passion through their intense focus and will to be their best. For everyone who is saying, “oh yeah, that is me, I’m super focused, like Kobe, I want to be the best ever, that’s why I don’t show traditional enthusiasm”, just know, that there are very few of these plaeyrs, in my opinion. If you are claiming to be this player, be honest with yourself, it needs to be a true expression of who you are, not because you haven’t figured out a way to express your passion. These are usually pretty elite players.
Encourager: Some people are passionate for their teammates and the success of and connection to others.
So they express their enthusiasm through high fives, slapping on the rear end, encouraging words, cheering, etc. There is a cool video on how often Steve Nash used high fives to “connect” to his teammates during games. https://youtu.be/koR2efE2alQ
Clapping, Stopping, Cheers, Volleyball/Softball: I used to love going to volleyball games, and I’m headed today to watch one of my former players play softball. The reason I enjoy these games, beyond watching my players, is that generally there is a very high level of enthusiasm on these teams. Volleyball teams have so many cheers after points, after aces, before they play, sometimes I wonder when they practice, because they have so many cheers. But I think it’s really cool, and I always enjoy feeling the energy when they huddle up and do their cheers. And softball is similar, the cheers just usually occur during live play, as the players in the dugout cheer on their team that is on the field or the player that is batting. But, I know a volleyball coach who hates that, and doesn’t allow his team to do it. Personally, I don’t really want to go watch them play, because that is one of the aspects of high school volleyball that I really enjoy, but it just doesn’t work for him, and that’s okay. And that’s part of the point of my definition: Express YOUR Passion. This isn’t for everyone. There are players I’ve had and teams I’ve been on who were great at this, their passion was being full of energy, celebrating their experience in the moment, and they expressed this in a very outward fashion. If this is you, go for it. If this is not for you, then don’t.
These are just a few examples. The encouragement is this: Don’t fake it before you make it, “Try Before You Buy”. If you try and fake it because you feel like you should or someone has made you then it will most likely come out just like that, as fake, and you won’t ever get comfortable with something that isn’t true to who you are. (If you are a coach, I encourage you to allow your kids to Try Before They Buy, rather than just telling them how to be enthusiastic). But, if you take the mindset of Try Before You Buy, then I think you can find something that works for you. Just try one of these ways, and see what matches with your roots, your core, the posture of YOUR heart. Try one. And if that doesn’t work, try another one. It will still likely feel awkward for a bit, particularly when you try things that aren’t aligned with who you are. But if you take this mindest of trying things out, until you find Yours, I believe you will feel better about the process not being “fake”, and when you hit yours, you will feel good about what YOU have discovered. THEN, you can sell out to it, or “BUY” it, and take ownership of it.