Last year, we somehow began the tradition (or habit depending on your outlook) of getting ice cream after road wins.
I don’t recall ever telling the team for every game they win, we get ice cream. It evolved and secretly I think my team was scheming. Anyhow, we were playing late in the season in a conference game and we won. It wasn’t pretty. Probably one of our worst showings up to that point. I was so angry that before we got on the bus I made it a point to tell them not to find the nearest ice cream shop, because there was no way we deserved ice cream after that miserable showing (If this is not relatable, you have not coached long enough!).
We get on the bus and 45 minutes into our long, quiet, miserable, drive home, our bus breaks down. It breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Nothing to be seen, a four-lane highway with nothing but farm land, trees, and road… except that as we get out of the bus there was one place. It’s not a gas station (which would make sense) it was a run down, questionable, Dairy Queen… let that sink in for a minute.
What started as me trying rationalize this whole situation turned into one of the best moments I’ve been a part of as a coach. Yes, I eventually caved and we got ice cream since we were going to be there for four hours (although I debated on whether or not they were allowed sprinkles).
Hours later my players decide that they want to make a music video on the side of the road for our awards banquet. You’d think the locals had never seen 25 females dancing beside a bus on the side of a highway.
As the sun had set, it became dark very fast, especially since there weren’t any road lights. We started to settle in and everyone sat outside. My players weren’t doing their homework, they weren’t on their phones, they were watching the stars. They were enjoying the moment… together.
Thank goodness I found the humor in this situation quickly because I learned some very valuable lessons during what ended up to being one of my favorite moments as a coach.
1- I am not in control. God always a plan, and if what I’m doing is not with his plan, he will take me on a detour.
2- Life is series of unexpected moments. Don’t let them pass by. We sat on the side of the road for nearly four hours, and during that time my team embraced every moment together. It wasn’t a planned team bonding, it was a very pure and very raw moment.
3- Let them be. I will often tell people my job depends on the decisions made by 18-21 year-olds, but I have found that sometimes I need to let the 18-21 year olds be just that.
Enjoy the ride this season. If your bus breaks down, it must be for a reason.