The Sociopath as Coach, Part 2

Some sociopaths make the “best” coaches.

At least, that’s what everyone thinks at the time.

So during the athletic banquet at the end of each season, people will often spend more time applauding this beloved individual than they do the young players on the team. Even if those players just broke six individual records.

Parents will send “thank you” cards and gifts by the dozen to this coach.

Particularly if he or she’s also charming, humble, and from the same hometown.

They’ll talk constantly for weeks and even months about how happy they are that this particular coach came into their child’s life. How this person changed everything. Built confidence. Gave a sense of accomplishment. Brought out the best.

But what they won’t know is how the same coach might come up to someone like me and confide (if I can be trusted or scared into keeping quiet) that there’s no way I’m helping Noah Alton get any more distance. That kid doesn’t deserve it, he’s a total slouch. Doesn’t deserve to win. But that’s just between us. And I want Tyler to win, anyway. You know, so I’m not giving Noah anything. That kid can fail.

But Noah Alton won’t know. He’ll spend the entire season working as hard as he can to be his best. He’ll win the respect of his teammates and other coaching staff. People will admire his character. His parents will feel great about what he did manage to accomplish. And they won’t have any idea that the coach they admire was keeping their son from winning for purely selfish reasons. So they’ll stand right up and applaud him along with everyone else.

They’ll think he’s the best.

Because a sociopath knows how to fake it.

And that counts for coaching, too.

Stand with the parents. Talk about the progress.

Run their kid through the paces. Keep him moving. Give him mediocre to bad advice. Keep him moving some more. Make him feel confident and connected. Make him believe that he’s doing his best. Never tell him that he could actually be number one if you really taught him the technique. Never let him know that you’re holding it back so the kids you like will win.

Never let him know his potential.

The Sociopath Delights on Control

A sociopath loves the thought of making someone win.

Being the person who decides it.

And the thrill of standing in the center of everyone.

All eyes on me.

That’s what a coach needs. That’s often what a sociopath loves. And coaching is even more than that. When you coach, you have complete control. You have complete power. You can choose who will win—and then make it happen. You might make odd choices just for fun. If you’re slick, your choices will never be so odd that anyone will question you. Because you decide who plays and who sits. And you can devastate and burn out just as easily as you build up and spotlight.

And at the end of any good performance, that spotlight will often land on you.

You get to make people jump.

That kind of power and attention can be giddying.

For certain kinds of people, especially.

So before you get caught up in praises for that next, most-connected coach your child’s ever had,

take a second look.

Because sometimes the people who seem to bond with our children the most are also the ones who would do them in.

And coaching is such an opportunity.

P.S. If you think I’m just a bitter parent who’s angry with the coaches, I’ll tell you that my child wins. Yes, he’s naturally talented and works incredibly hard day after day and in my opinion deserves to win. The kid I’m talking about (above) might’ve gotten second in a whole bunch of places, including the state competition. But didn’t. And yes, he was coached that way.

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