Don’t Amplify The Problem Without Trying To Be A Part Of The Solution

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

A couple years ago, I moved into a new development five minutes from where I grew up along the Jersey Shore. Living in this community comes with some great amenities including a clubhouse, pool, and gym, while also enjoying a maintenance-free lifestyle when it comes to things like landscaping and snow removal. Living here also comes with monthly Homeowner Association dues and an agreement to abide by the HOA regulations that make it all go. The perks and the guidelines are not mutually independent of one another and are necessary to work together in order to help the community operate smoothly.

We have a webpage that is a pathway for communication from management to announce certain community events or changes to some of the rules that the builder initially put in place. Additionally, the page acts as a forum for residents like myself to make others aware of various ongoings in the development that may include specific questions about our homes, organizing group outings for the kids who live here, or voicing concern about the way things may be going. Over the past few months, there has been a ton of “concerned voices” to the point where the page has become an incredibly toxic outlet for a very small number of homeowners to loudly complain about anything and everything under the sun.

“The grass is being cut too short.” “The grass is being cut too long.” (Yes, seriously). “Why hasn’t the road been paved yet?” “It just started snowing, so where are the plows that we are paying for?” “My ceiling has a crack in it.” “The landscaping company sucks.” “The builder sucks.” “The snow removable company sucks.” “The garbage truck made a mess.” “These people should be fired.” “My toilet keeps getting dirty.” (Yes, also a real complaint). Some of the issues are serious and absolutely warrant attention. But many, like those mentioned above, are not and highlight a far bigger issue: frequent complaints that don’t ever come with a single idea of solution.

For coaches, this type of behavior probably sounds pretty familiar. Have you ever had a player who was not happy about his role and spent more energy complaining about it than he did work to get better? How about a parent who wanted a meeting because you were screwing their kid out of an opportunity? Or maybe even an assistant who didn’t like the way you were running things as the head coach? Sadly, in our society, these instances are all commonplace in the landscape of sports today.

The dynamics of groups, whether they be communities, businesses, or teams, requires people to work together in order to have any chance of being successful. Our community has an elected board to make important decisions for our development and its homeowners. Businesses have their executives who are charged to do the same to benefit employees, stockholders, and customers. And in the athletic world, we have coaching staffs in place who are responsible for pushing our individual players and collective teams forward, together. Years ago, a wise man once told me that you cannot be all things to all people. One of the greatest challenges of leadership is making tough decisions that some people will not be happy about, and then, continuing to represent those dissenting voices as their leader.

Cheryl Reeve, a four-time WNBA Champion head coach for the Minnesota Lynx, has a practice of involving her players with every significant decision that comes up over the course of a season. Their voice comes with a caveat: because they are involved in making the decision, they release the right to complain about it after it has been made. While they may not agree with it, they had a seat at the table, and understand that in the end, it is a team decision, and as a part of the team, they will support that decision.

Those who are not actively behind the scenes have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. Simple solutions are not always as simple as they may seem from the outside. Until they become coaches themselves, players will never fully understand the challenges that go into playing time and team roles. There are often instances of players who think they are being unfairly treated by a certain coach, when the reality is that coach- as evident in those private meetings- is that player’s biggest sponsor. Until an assistant coach has to sync up three or four different groups of a team, they won’t fully appreciate how hard a daily schedule can be. Maybe there isn’t a better way to organize things because of all the pieces that go into the day.

When problems arise, and they will, challenge yourself to be more than just that person who criticizes everything that you’re not happy with. Come with potential solutions. Are you a player wanting to have a greater role? Then have a conversation with your coach about what exactly you need to do earn more at bats or innings on the mound. Are you an assistant coach unhappy about the way practice is being run? Offer a different option for the head coach to take a look at. Are you the leader of the team in charge of making final decisions? Create an environment that welcomes outside voices, where team members can be heard. If that becomes an accepted norm, while they may not like your final decision, they are more likely to respect it, and continue to be a supportive part of the team.

Very few things in this world run smoothly without issue. Team harmony in sport is no different. But when all people do is only complain about things, they are only amplifying the issue and throwing fuel on to the fire. We all have a choice. We can make problems worse if that’s all we ever talk about, or we can bring potential solutions to the table, and work together to fix it.

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Fenster was the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.