I learned the term “liminal” in my graduate history program back in the 90s so forgive me if I get this a bit wrong. It was my medieval religious history class.
It always stuck with me.
Liminal means threshold in Latin, but it also points to the space you are in when you are in transition, like say in the context of my class, from life to purgatory to heaven. (We were discussing women saints)
Liminal then is a threshold you step into as you transition from where you are to what’s next. It can be literal from one job to the next, or the time between seasons, or it can be more internal as you redefine your current space or reorganize your perspective.
This happens for each of us coaches on a small scale between seasons and on a larger scale with our career and life choices.
There are the coaches and teams for whom the season has ended too early. Sure they can push forward and declare “next season begins right now,” (I have done that), but they can also pause and consider why the year ended too early.
Moving quickly past a disappointing season can alleviate some discomfort, but there is wisdom in pausing to reflect. Value in taking the time to be between seasons, evaluating and learning from one in order to prepare and create another.
Not a time of action, but one of reflection.
Have necessary conversations with each player and staff member, but also take the time to consider your own reflections of what you would change.
Make sure to appreciate what you did well despite what the results might indicate.
See that you are building towards something, or see where you need to reconsider your process.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What was positive about the season and what could have been done better?
- If something needs to be changed, was it the planning or the execution?
- Who on your roster performed better than expected and why?
- Who under-performed and why?
- What role do your expectations play in performance? What role did theirs?
- Was communication clear all year? Where could it have been better?
- Did you establish the culture you wanted? Were the standards clear? People accountable?
- Did you set goals for the year? How did they turn out? Would you set goals again?
- Did you enjoy the season? Do you think the athletes did?
- What would you do differently? Where would you stay the course?
You may have different or better questions than I do, but the important thing is to give yourself a framework for reflection. Seasons rarely tie up neatly with a beginning an end. Often we start the next season by a bit of momentum at the end of one or we recognize before a season has ended that change is needed.
Without pausing to reflect we miss these signposts, their significance and what the next best steps may really be for our program.
So go ahead and take some time between seasons and before stepping through the threshold into the cycle.
Rest and Recommit
Also between seasons take a minute to give yourself a full break. Do something entirely different. Get away from the game.
We might do an evaluation and get feedback and really make the effort to understand the season, then discover that by stepping away we create space within ourselves for even more insight.
Do the work, then take the break.
The athletes need a rest but you do as well. Next year will be there waiting for you, well…next year.
When the time is right step into the next season with energy and excitement. Be confident that you have learned this year’s lessons and are ready to go.
Hold nothing back and step forward through the threshold into the next season, next team, next year.
“At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.” –Goethe