I have an 8 year old son, and I coach his basketball team. It’s the time of year where there are basketball tryouts, and so all us dads/wanna be coaches sit on the sidelines and judge 6, 7, and 8 year olds in their basketball ability. Sitting there, it’s a little other worldly, since most of us have full time jobs, are full time dads, and part-time basketball coaches (at best). Who are we to judge anyone? It’s like going into the voting booth and picking a Municipal Judge. Who are those guys anyway? It’s like letting your maintenance man select your accounting software.
When watching the kids play, we’re evaluating them on a variety of factors — dribbling, shooting, defense, and how they play in a short scrimmage. In a couple weeks, we’ll have the draft and try to pick the kids we each identified as having the skills that will be best for our team. Once we get into the season, that’s where the fun really starts. That’s when we find out that we had no idea what we were doing during the draft, or maybe it’s better to say we just had a less than clear picture of the different kids’ potential or lack thereof at the draft. All the “other” stuff comes out…stuff that just wasn’t identifiable at the draft. For example, some kids just aren’t coachable. Other kids have parents that make your life miserable. Some kids have family situations that make it so they miss a lot of practices and are late to games. There was just no way to know a lot of this when you’re drafting someone from a few minutes of watching him dribble and shoot a little.
However, once the child is on your team, there’s no going back. You’re committed to having that kid on your team, making him the best that he can be, and integrating him as well as possible with the rest of the team. The key to success with the child, and with the team in general, is about patience, commitment, and accountability (and having a sense of humor, of course). You’re not giving the child back. You’re not going to be trading the child back in for a different kid.
It’s all a lot like selecting new software.
When researching your options, you can hear what other people say about the software (like asking other coaches what they think of a kid). You can get a demonstration of the software (tryouts). You can have a list of criteria and match the software against the criteria (tryouts with a checklist). You can get all the background information you can about the software company itself (parents). At the end of the day, though, once you’ve made the decision to implement new software, you’ve got to stick with it. Sometimes it will be hard. Sometimes, in fact most times, it won’t go the way you thought. Employees (teammates) will complain about the software. Things will feel out of control (inaccurate reporting). That doesn’t mean you’ve got the wrong software (child).
If you selected the software (child) for the right reasons, it’s worth fighting through the tough stuff to get to the other side. And, if the software isn’t doing something it’s supposed to do, you can customize it or get more training (parenting).
Even though I don’t always know what I’m doing, I love coaching. We start with something that’s uncertain, disorganized, stressful, and a bit of a mess. And, if we do it right, we go on a journey, grow together, and turn that mess into something great. Implementing a new software package is the same journey. Don’t give up.