I grew up as the oldest of four siblings with a dad who LOVED sports. He watched all the games. From the Yankees to the Giants to the Rangers to golf. You name it, he watched it, LOUDLY.
Did I like sports?
Not so much. Sure, I played sports in high school but the whole notion of watching sports bored me to death.
Fast forward to my second marriage. I married a great man who happened to also be a sports fanatic. On Saturday nights when a game was on, the only way we could go out to dinner is if the restaurant had a TV. And if there was an exciting game going on, he’d leave me at the table to watch it. When we amicably divorced, I remember thinking to myself, “Thank God. I’m done with sports.”
Not for long.
Whether you believe in Karma or that God (or whoever you believe in) has a snarky sense of humor, or you believe simply in straight irony—you be the judge (or, fine, the referee)…
STALKED BY SPORTS At the end of 2014, I got a phone call from an NFL agent who was looking for a life coaching company to coach some of his athletes. He asked if I would consider coaching athletes. I laughed and said, “I hate sports.” He said, “Oh my God, you’re the perfect person because we don’t want someone who’s all googly-eyed about it, just someone who can coach the players.”
Needless to say, I got the gig.
He gave me two athletes to coach: a young professional player on the verge of being cut and a retired player who spent 12 seasons in the NFL and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next.
I immediately fell in love with these men. As small in stature as I was in comparison to them, I was big in their eyes. I got to kick their butts (figuratively), and they loved the coaching. It got me thinking that we should create a sports division and coach all athletes: from rookies to seasoned players to retired players. And while we’re at it, we should coach the coaches and the heads of the various organizations. We could make a real difference. I was getting pumped. And, yes, I did see the irony.
Except it didn’t end there.
At the same time, I had the opportunity to meet an awesome woman who was on the committee for the NFL Hall of Fame. She so loved what I was up to that she made an introduction. This time, however, when I told them the truth about my somewhat dysfunctional relationship to sports, they were a bit more concerned and wondered how I was going to coach at the Hall of Fame if I can’t stand football.
THE COACH GETS COACHED My newfound friend, supporter and NFL Hall of Fame connection turned the coaching table on me. Just as I had coached her to deal with her life, she told me it was time for me to not only learn football, but like it. Of course, she was right. If I was going to be taken seriously, I needed to not only get their world, I needed to respect it.
BOOTCAMP I proceeded to put myself in my own sports bootcamp.
My Hall of Fame connection had me download the NFL app that covers all the players and teams, read Football for Dummies, learn the rules of the game and start watching football. Since I’m from New York, I picked the Giants as my team and guess what? All of a sudden, I started really getting into it and really rooting for them.
A few weeks later, I went back to the Hall of Fame, told them that I knew they didn’t want to hire me because I didn’t like football, and that they were right. Then I shared everything I had done since the last meeting. I even shared how on a recent Sunday I was alone, watching the Giants play, and was screaming at the TV.
After that meeting, the NFL Hall of Fame and I began discussions on HG leading workshops for the retired players and their wives once their new center opens in the next two years.
MY ROOKIE As I rightfully got called out for being a brat about football, so did my coaching client, the rookie. He was a high-potential who was expected to do well, but was struggling. Physically, he was talented and in amazing shape, but he was a mess in his head and on the verge of getting cut by his team.
I knew I had to get him to deal with his negative inner dialogue.
You see, one of the principles we teach at HG is that in your subconscious, there are negative voices that get in the way of your dream. Among the voices are two we call your “brat” and your “chicken.” Clearly, you may have noticed, particularly with regards to sports and me, my inner brat is alive and kicking. Right? I mean, my resistance to learning and loving football almost cost us the Hall of Fame.
My rookie, on the other hand, was battling his chicken: the voice of fear that can certainly stunt your dream. I told my rookie to go spend the next week finding his “chicken” voice because his “chicken” was messing him up and sabotaging his shot in the NFL.
He came back a week later and said to me, “Beth, you’re not going to believe what happened. I listened for my chicken like you said, and, oh my God, I found him on the field. The quarterback was talking to us in the huddle and I didn’t hear a damn word he was saying. But I heard my “chicken” talking and he was like, “Oh my God, what’s the media going to say about me today? Oh my God, the media hates me. The media always hates me. Oh my God, what if I get cut? And I saw that in a matter of 8 seconds, I destroyed myself. But the best part was that for the first time I could hear it and I told my “chicken” to f-off (fly!). And the rest of the game, I rocked out and we won. And every time my chicken tried speak to me again, I told him to f-off. I finally can hear that it’s not me and he’s not on my team.”
Everything turned around for him after that. He went from almost being cut to getting his contract extended.
HEROES OF THE GAME Seems things turned around for me too. I went from hating sports to loving sports and working with athletes. To really getting the heroes these players are and have to be in order to play professionally. I discovered a whole newfound respect for sports and athletes.
And my own brat? It got what was coming to it: a permanent time-out and a sports division.
In 2015, we launched Handel Group Sports Division. We are working with numerous sports affiliations, professional players, coaches, administration, and even player’s wives and partners—helping everyone be a hero, on and off the field.
Interested in executive coaching or a workshop for your team or company? We have tailored solutions for you and your group. Get the conversation started with an email to email@example.com.