Handling Difficult People

Why was there only one Yogi Bear? Because they made a Boo-Boo.

Last month, the Jacksonville Jaguars admitted they made a Boo-Boo in hiring Urban Meyer. As the story played, I noticed mental toughness myths all over it. You either have it or you don’t. He was calling his assistants losers, blaming them for failures — basically name calling.   

He acted like pain and punishment were the best ways to learn. He kicked his kicker. When he was told not to do it again, he said he was the coach and he’d do whatever he wanted.

None of this surprises me. I’ve heard similar stories on all levels of sports and in all genders. 

If they were winning, we probably would not have heard anything about this. He would have been seen as a tough, old-school coach. I sometimes wonder if that tactic is used by these coaches to justify their actions.  

Those tactics — coupled with a late-night dance with a young blonde — reflect a lack of discipline, desperation and a desperate way to coach them.  

Fear, frustration, disappointment and discouragement are often seen as the fastest ways to relieve it quickly. Scream, yell, blame, hit something. But if that’s what you do most, you are taking the easy way and the lazy way. Maybe you even tend to blame others.

Read this article from Pro Football Talk about his first interview after the incident.

I’ve often heard that old-school coaches were just holding people accountable. Everyone except themselves, that is.

Every time we moved, my dad would say: “Hans, the names are changed, but people are the same.”

My hope is that stories like this mean things are changing.  

It’s amazing what experience teaches you. My dad was right. There will always be people like this, and once you accept that, it’s easier to handle because you don’t take it personally.

So as an athlete, what do you do if you find yourself in a similar spot? You can’t change them. They have to change themselves. This can apply to a coach, teammate or even yourself.

Instead, change how you handle it in your own mind. You probably won’t be able to get them to see they are being difficult.

One strategy I have used is what I call the Schrute Strategy. I just imagine they are Dwight Shrute from The Office — or Angela, his girlfriend. I try to see their heads on this difficult person I’m talking with. It helps me to distance myself and see that it’s not personal. It’s about their own fear, unresolved wound or lack of awareness.

I wonder if the Jacksonville Jaguars did something similar.