Over Your Head

When you are in control of your own destiny or you are actively pursing a goal one of the most frustrating obstacles can be opposition from a person hierarchically above you.  When outside forces seek to weigh down your dream, it is often difficult to overcome them.  When a person who actual has some control over the things you are supposed to be doing is in opposition to your goal it can feel as if your hope is dead.  Although it is ultimately up to you to decide if the situation is too toxic for you to continue, often times the best thing to do is defer to the person in charge.


My father has often told me a story about his time as a graduate assistant men’s basketball coach during the early 1980’s.  He was helping to coordinate a summer basketball camp, and as it grew closer to the conclusion of the event he and the other coaches began to speculate who would be named the camp’s most valuable player.  As he visited with the other assistant coaches, two candidates stood out.  One was a scrappy, high motor type kid that made up for his slight shortage of talent by enthusiastically working hard.  The other candidate was a natural talent with a poor attitude who had questioned the coaching staff and attempted to make a mockery of the camp.  The assistant coaches seemed to be in agreement that the hard working kid deserved the honor, even if he wasn’t truly the most valuable player.  

With the decision made, my dad approached the head coach and told him their decision, carefully noting the reasoning behind not choosing the kid who was clearly the superior athlete.  The head coach immediately shot down the idea and said the other, lazier kid would get the honor.  As my dad began to protest the old ball coach held up his hand, interrupting.  “Danny, you can do whatever you want when you get your own damn team,” he said.  The conversation was over, and my dad had learned a lesson he would pass on to me while we shared our last meal before he departed from dropping me off at my own first college coaching job.

Although the idea seems gruff at first, with more thought it begins to make more sense.  We must be able to trust the people above us, knowing that they have been positioned there for a reason.  If we constantly let self-serving interests interrupt the task at hand we will erect obstacles in our own way.  When faced with a situation where you are forced to alter the trajectory of your goals because of a supervisor or coach’s plans there are a few things you can do to make sure you fulfill the responsibility you have been given without completely compromising your dreams.

The first thing to do is step back and take a deep breath.  Authority figures are often charged with seeing the bigger picture, and your narrow view of things may be shaping your resistance to their idea.  If you still can’t see their vision be willing to trust that they have knowledge and know how to help make whatever you are pursing successful.  As I progressed in my coaching career, I was able to see this struggle from the other side, often when players had concerns about their playing.  In their mind the coaching staff was intentionally holding them back out of personal malice or some other asinine reason.  However, no coaching staff I have ever been a part of has willingly not put who we thought gave us the best chance to play on the floor.  When you are the one inside the situation it can be frustrating to let your talents wait on the sidelines as you can’t control the present, however, you can help to shape your own future.

In many situations where a supervisor or coach is seeming to hold you back they need to see what you are capable of.  Often times, within athletics in particular, more time is needed for a person to further hone their skills and mature into the role they desire.  Human nature forces us to want the recognition and responsibility as soon as possible, however, older supervisors can often see when someone is unready to successfully fill a role.  Would it better to be temporarily denied your dream while you use the energy created by your disappointment to fuel self-improvement, or would you rather be placed in a situation where the only outcome is your ultimate failure due to unpreparedness?  I would take the first option every time, and I bet you would too.  

When you feel that people are standing between you and the goals you have set for yourself make sure to take a step back in order to see the bigger picture.  Take careful inventory of the skills you possess and the attributes you will need to be successful in the role you aspire to.  Then go to work maximizing your potential in the identified areas in order to ensure that you will be ready to ‘put your name on it’ when the time comes.



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