As I was driving my team around a few weeks ago my son asked me what energy was. I have found my mind is numb to the number and type of questions I get on a daily basis from my kids. However, this question caught my attention because it was not as easy to answer as I initially thought.
I stumbled through half-sentences and tried to work through my explanation aloud. As I was doing that, my 5-year-old said that energy is when you “yell and move like this.” She began to yell and flail her arms and legs in her booster seat. Before I knew it, my 3-year-old joined in, and the entire car was filled with the energy I was trying to define.
I went on to explain energy as something that allows other things to work.
It just so happened, later that week the Chicago Cubs advanced to the World Series. My wife and I packed up for Chicago to be part of World Series history.
During and through the trip to Chicago I came away with several Jack Handy-esque “deep thoughts.” However, I also came away with a more recent and tangible experience of “positive energy.”
As coaches, it’s sometimes difficult to project “positive energy.” First, we don’t always see positives; we’re busy trying to fix problems. Often I have watched practice film and dissected a play, focusing on “bad defense” when the offense scores. Then I’ve looked at the exact same type of play in a film session, but rather than praising the defense when they get a stop, I’ve criticized the offensive side.
It is tiring to look at life this way all the time. It’s even more tiring to be around people who are quick to be negative. What I have found that sometimes it is OK to say the “defense was good but the offense was better.”
You must be real with yourself and team. Don’t be afraid to be positive. In fact, if you embrace honest positivity it is more likely that any negative criticism will carry more weight leading toward improvement.
The other problem that coaches have with projecting “positive energy” is that they fear creating a sense of complacency or acceptance of mediocrity. If driven, our human nature typically drives us to improve; I’ve found that this is especially the case for those who are involved in athletics at a higher level. If you want to drive them to success, the thinking goes, you can’t let them “rest on their laurels,” and therefore you can’t get too positive.
Now, people have asked me on several occasions what it was like going to a World Series game at Wrigley Field. My answer is that it was truly a blessing and amazing opportunity my mom and dad afforded to my brother and me. It was an actual dream come true. Going to the World Series with your dad … come on … you kidding me!?
Then there was the energy I FELT that came with the game. The best comparison I can find is the sensation of opening an oven to see if the Christmas cookies are done yet. That excitement, anticipation, hope and physical sensation of heat that comes out of the oven is what I experienced. The amount of positive energy almost every person in the city of Chicago was transferring from one to another was overwhelming.
The Cubs did not win the game I attended. It was never even really close. But it was OK. Sure there was a sense of letdown, frustration, and sadness I even made an appearance on SportsCenter as “Frustrated Cubs Fan.” That goes with the territory of being a die-hard fan.
However, thousands of people were walking out of the game that night feeling that “WE” could still do it. “WE” did not play well, but now all “WE” had to do was win the next three games. The Cubs players were saying it as well in post-game interviews.
The energy remained positive and a few days later, my family was celebrating the first Chicago Cubs World Series in 108 years.
I looked at my son and told him that this is what energy is. We were celebrating because “WE” chose to stay positive when “WE” were down 3-1 in “OUR” first World Series since that damn goat in 1945.
I start every day the same way: TIRED! Our kids don’t let us get as much sleep as we would like and at least one of them is usually ready to start the day before I am, but my house is filled with energy because of them. The key is to tap into and foster their positive energy. It is not always easy and sometimes for some reason I try to combat their positive energy with my “not so positive” energy.
But you know what? They always win and in fact they are undefeated.
Be willing to be positive, take time to observe and think before you react. Often there is a lot more positive in a situation than one would think.
The positive energy experience is worth it.
Brian Barone played basketball at Texas A&M University and Marquette University and holds a master’s degree in communications. He now coaches men’s basketball at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.