Two conflicting emotions take hold, even when the coach is unpopular
Relief and regret. When we win, it’s often not joy or excitement that fills our bodies, but relief. Relief it’s over, relief we didn’t mess up. When we lose it’s not anger or resentment that drives us, but regret. Regret we didn’t do more, play better, regret we let the chance slip away.
Relief and regret are different emotions, of course, coming from opposite ends of the spectrum, but they both too often find a way to creep into everyday life. It’s no different for a soccer player.
I’ve said that Jurgen Klinsmann should have been fired. It was the right decision from Sunil Gulati. Klinsmann wasn’t a good enough coach to lead our national team. Most U.S. Soccer fans should be excited about the move. I imagine the players, though, heard the news with more mixed emotions.
I’ve been on teams when the head coach got fired. I’ve been the one in the locker room every day counting down the seconds until someone finally realizes what’s going on and drops the hammer. Save me from this misery. I’ve felt the deep passionate resentment of having a boss make me worse, letting it consume every second of my day. I’ve also felt the regret when I let him get fired.
Because ultimately the only reason a coach gets fired is because the team lost, and the team only loses if I’m not good enough.
Coaches have a tremendous influence on a team. It’s really difficult, if not nearly impossible, to overcome the deficits of a bad coach. Yet, as athletes, we want to be the best. We want to take on every obstacle and every challenge and show we can beat anything. So while it’s a tremendous moment of relief when you hear the coach finally got fired, it’s also a deep moment of regret.
I should have done more. I could have done more. I’m a good enough player that I could have worked through it. I’m a good enough leader that I should have helped him work through it.
It feels good to have the reigns released from your body, but it’s also sad that you weren’t good enough to keep it from happening. It’s a failure on your record. Perhaps nobody else considers it a blemish, but you know inside yourself that you could have done more.
It’s not about the coach or protecting the coach. It’s about me as a player. A player doesn’t worry about the coach or his new unemployment; a player knows as well as anyone the results oriented nature of the job. Plus coaches are protected much more than players are. Klinsmann will still receive his millions of dollars a year for the next couple years and he will get another job — there’re always owners running clubs across the world willing to make a splash. No, it’s not a sadness for the coach, but rather a sadness for myself, for my inability to do more. I consider myself great, and yet I wasn’t quite great enough to work through this.
I regret my own shortcomings. I had an opportunity — a potentially rare opportunity — to be great, to be a saving force, and I let it slip away. I let the situation beat me.
For so long I wanted this moment to come. But it only happened because I wasn’t better. And while I’m so relieved that it finally happened, that’s something I’ll have to live with.