Narrative power

I was sitting in the stands Saturday, watching the sixth and final game of a mini-round robin we were hosting. First tournament hosted by Founders and first time two separate schools had competed on our court. Four years in and I’m still tracking firsts… but I digress. My girls team had finished both their games, so I was watching the boys close it out.

I had sat down next to an ongoing conversation between two teacher friends, but they turned to me as if I could weigh in immediately.

“Do you ever get tired? Like, are you ready for the season to be over?”

Rather than answer immediately, I thought about this blog post and what I was going to say in it. I don’t remember what I said in real life, other than it wasn’t “yes”.

Teaching is a grind. Life is a grind, to be fair, but teaching deserves special recognition. If you google “teacher burnout” it will result in plenty of stat-and-theory-driven articles, and the most common factoid that jumps out at me is how half of all new teachers quit in less than five years. Quit the profession itself. Stop being teachers.

I’m going on my seventh year teaching, and my eighteenth season coaching. I have this whole theory on how being in the education system can slow your perception of time, due to the counting and tracking and consistency and traditions and so on, but I am not going to elaborate on that here. There is something more poignant and less obvious I want to explore. I see the whole “education slows time” as a positive, by the way. I suppose if you hated your education experience you could see it as a negative.

Coaching energizes me. I am motivated by learning and improving myself, and I think of those things as “winning” in the context of daily life, but I often get off track or lose focus of my goals. It could be from being overworked, sick/injured, disillusioned, or any number of other normal human experiences. Coaching is different for me, though, and I think I know why.

A human life is both long and short. When we are trying to plan our lives and adapt to reality, our visions are often blurry, timespans uncertain, variables complex, ad infinitum. Understandably, it can be difficult to stay locked in when you experience setbacks, and it is tough to manufacture a sense of urgency when you have decades of highway ahead of you. One extra rest stop can’t hurt much, right? And, even if it does, how could you ever measure or look back once you near your destination?

A season is a lifetime wrapped up in a few months. It mirrors all the major plot points, at least in my experience (of life and seasons). Perhaps it is more accurate to say it this way: any given season contains one or more of the underlying narratives that drive our stories and lives from a big picture perspective. Consider the seven basic plots. Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rebirth.

Every season you live a whole life: beginning, middle, and end. They aren’t all pleasant lives, but they are captivating. I live and die at least once every year, then I come back eager for more. Pursuing happiness isn’t always productive – at least according to Reefer Madness – but pursuing wins is.

In short, I can tap into an endless supply of motivation, as long as I frame it in the context of a season and the particular narratives we are battling or wooing as a team. It comes down to winning.

So, yeah, I get tired. But, I don’t have much time left, so I can’t relax. The team will give everything we’ve got until the end, then we’ll be satisfied knowing we did our best. Then I’ll start over.





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