Podcast S1. Ep.26: The Challenge Game - Character in Athletics With Coach Scott Westering Part 4/5

John Norlin · May 23, 2019

Coach Scott Westering is the son of Hall of Fame Coach Frosty Westering. He had the privilege of coaching with and being mentored by his father for 23 years as an assistant at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma Washington. Scott was the Head Coach at PLU for 14 seasons, taking over the position from his father who retired after 32 years. Over the last 20+ years Scott has been a highly sought after speaker, having presented to hundreds of teams, coaches, and athletes. His talks have spanned corporations, conferences, and clinics - including USA Football and two Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony speeches.

We talk with Scott about the Confidence Game, the third part in the Attitude Games. We chat about the most powerful thing that we possess: the power of choice, and how in challenging situations we can help our athletes choose to focus on the process, not the results.


“It’s either half empty, it’s half full. It’s the same glass. It’s the same amount of water. It’s how we choose exercising the most powerful thing we posses, which I say this to coaches and student athletes all the time. It isn’t our intellect. It’s not our money. It’s not our strength. It’s not anything. It’s the power of choice, the most powerful thing that we possess, and it’s how we choose to look at that situation...”

— Coach Scott Westering

Episode Transcript:

  • John: Welcome to the CharacterStrong Podcast, where we have conversations on school culture and leadership. Today, we're talking with Coach Scott Westering. Scott is the son of Hall of Fame coach, Frosty Westering. He had the privilege of coaching with and being mentored by his father for 23 years as an assistant coach at Pacific Lutheran University. Scott was the head coach at PLU for 14 seasons, taking over the position from his father, who retired after 32 years. Over the last 20 plus years Scott has been a highly sought after speaker, having presented to hundreds of teams, coaches, and athletes. His talks have spanned corporations, conferences, and clinics, including US Football and two Hall of Fame induction ceremony speeches. Are you ready? Let's get character strong with Scott Westering.

  • John: All right, everybody. Welcome back to CharacterStrong Podcast. We're here with Coach Scott Westering. This is, gosh, I think it's like our fourth episode together, but it's part three of a four part series on what we're calling the Attitude Games. We've talked about the comparison game and ultimately the idea of comparing ourself to our best self instead of to the scoreboard, or others, or even our teammates, and the power of that when it comes to athletics and even life. We're talked about in the last episode the confidence game. With the confidence game idea and the power of put ups, that words matter, and how we use them matters, and yet you could be positive with your intentional put ups and also hold people accountable, that we're not just saying that everybody gets a trophy and everybody wins.

  • John: No. In fact, athletes crave both. We want high expectations, but we also want high supports, and the whole idea of where the relationship piece and trust piece comes into that part, and now we're transitioning into the challenge game. You're back with us again. Talk to me, coach, about the challenge game and how it connects to the overall picture, how we view winning, how we approach athletics and sport.

  • Scott: I used the example in our last podcast about the young baseball player that ultimately has two strikes on him, and how he steps out of the batter's box and has to look at this. As I would say, if I ever coached baseball, I'd pull that young man aside and put my arm around him, and say, "How many chances do you get to swing a bat?" He'd probably look at me and say, "Is that a trick question?" I'd say, "No. It's three. Right?" "Yeah." "So, you got one more chance. You've got one more chance to do this." So, it all plays back, which we've known forever and seen that analogy.

  • Scott: It's the proverbial glass of water. It's either half empty, it's half full. It's the same glass. It's the same amount of water. It's how we choose exercising the most powerful thing we posses, which I say this to coaches and student athletes all the time. It isn't our intellect. It's not our money. It's not our strength. It's not anything. It's the power of choice, the most powerful thing that we possess, and it's how we choose to look at that situation. So, if that young man were to climb back into that box where he would fight the normal things, as I talked about, the fears that would come and looking this in a fearful situation, being afraid to fail, "I have two strikes. Oh my gosh. I got to protect. I got to choke up. I got to look to hit to right," or whatever the heck it is, you're just setting that person up for failure to step back into that batter's box, as opposed to look at this idea of taking a calculated risk.

  • Scott: We look at and analogize it in baseball, that you've got a baseball player that bats 250, and another guy that bats 333. The guy that bats 333 makes a bunch of money. The guy that bats 250 is a pretty run of the mill baseball guy. Still in the world of pro baseball makes a lot of money, but still, comparatively, yeah. But the difference really, at the end of the day, if you were to ask people, "What do you think the difference is in same 10 plate appearances between a 333 hitter and a 250 hitter?", and some people'd say, "Well, I don't know. Maybe four hits or so." But mathematically look at it. It's only one hit out of 10. Only one hit in 10 makes the difference between being a 333 hitter and a 250 hitter. So, once again, back to the simply analogy I started with. The young man stepping back into the box, that's how we want to get them and getting them thinking and looking at this as a challenge and not being afraid to fail.

  • Scott: Point being, it's another way of saying it that helps people stay on task, is focus on the process, not the results. The end of the game in basketball, it comes down to the game. Boom. A person gets fouled. They go to the free throw line. As I always say, many gyms, that scoreboard's right up above the basket, so they can see that, that they're down one. There's only one second to go. If they process any of that information, that is not going to put them in a position where they're going to peak perform and ultimately shoot their best free throws. So, the idea of trying to get them .... you call time out, you bring them over, whatever it is. It would be focusing and getting that young person to focus on the process of shooting the free throw, not the results of we've got to make one to tie, make one to win. It's the process of shooting the free throw.

  • John: It's very practical, by the way.

  • Scott: No. By all means. Another simple way it's talked about is the idea of people that focus on solutions and not problems. It's so easy in our life, and that's true in our lives. That's true in parenting. That's true obviously in coaching, with working with student athletes, and us as coaches. We got to focus on the solutions, not the problems. Jeez. A coach in football, he'd say, "We're struggling throwing the ball, or protecting our quarterback, or running the ball, or whatever the heck it is." It's like, well, we could sit and talk about that all we want on the headsets and argue on the sidelines. We got to focus on the solutions here. We recognize the problems and move on from there, but ...

  • Scott: The idea of getting to a point of removing the fear of failure, so we know we can give it our best shot, as I said, that doesn't guarantee we're going to do it. That whole baseball player steps back in, as I said in the last segment, no guarantee he's going to get the hit, but he's gonna feel great about the fact when he comes back to the dugout after it's all said and done, that I can put my arm around him as a coach or his teammates, and that's where this idea ... Tying it back into the confidence and the put up game, it's how then we speak to each there when we do make mistakes or we don't do it that ...


“When you look at this idea of looking at life as challenges, it’s that proverbial poster that’s been in probably any good teacher’s classroom forever, the old if life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Well, the poster’s really not complete, because really what the poster needs to say is, If life throws you lemons, first off you have to choose to make lemonade.”

— Coach Scott Westering


 

  • Scott: Some of the key ways and phrases of doing it is, "You're better than that, " or, "You're going to get them next time," or, "I still believe in you," not even saying I still, "I believe in you. You'll get them next time," and that it's genuine and somebody really feels like that, as opposed to, "Great. You didn't help us. You struck out," all the negative putdowns that come into play. When you look at this idea of looking at life as challenges, it's that proverbial poster that's been in probably any good teacher's classroom forever, the old if life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Well, the poster's really not complete, because really what the poster needs to say is, "If life throws you lemons, first off you have to choose to make lemonade."

  • John: Good.

  • Scott: It doesn't just happen. You have to choose to make lemonade, which so few people do. Then another part that's missing in the poster is, oh, by the way, it takes hard work. It doesn't just happen. You've got to cut the lemons. You've got to peel them. You got to squish them, and crunch them, and the whole thing, and get the lemon juice out of them, the lemonade out of them. So, understanding of how we choose, which one of the greatest things I've ever seen on attitude, single statements that have been written on attitude have been written by a contemporary, Christian author and writer/pastor, Charles Swindall.

  • Scott: He starts it off by saying, it's a simple, little one page deal, but he starts off, "The longer I live in life, the more I'm convinced the impact of attitude on life." Then he goes on to talk, "I believe that attitude's more important than ..." he just rattles all these things off, facts, and appearance, and the giftedness, and skill, or whatever. The remarkable thing is that choice of attitude can make or break a company, a team, a marriage, a class, or whatever. How sad is it that there are so many teams that are out there, wow, they had such potential, they had such great talent, but they never did it, or accomplished, or achieved the success they could have? That comes back to attitude.

  • John: Absolutely it does.

  • Scott: So, he wraps the whole thing up with that statement that's so powerful. He says that, "I'm convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, but 90% of how I react to it." I always have people add the word choose there, 90% of how I choose to react to it. It's so powerful when we look at that, that power choice or how we look at life and how it comes into looking at coming out of mistakes, because we got to deal with mistakes when it comes to looking at things as challenges. A simple way that we've put together in relationship to a simple method, if you will, of dealing with mistakes is the first thing, real simply, one, you got to own it. You've got to admit the fact that I made a mistake. If you're in a team sport, you've got to admit to your teammates, you're ... "This is my fault."

  • John: And many times that doesn't happen in sport.

  • Scott: Oh, boy. At this day and age for me, so many people ... To me it's the simple, easy default to walk away from. They'll pat themselves on the shoulder and say, "My bad." I never allowed our kids to do that, because to me ownership is crucial and important. So one, recognizing and owning the mistake. Two, now we got to learn from it. We got to learn from it and learn from it in a positive way. That adage comes into play there. We don't want to wash our feet and put on dirty socks. You know? So, we got to learn from it. Okay. We admit it. we learn from it. Then we got to affirm it. Now, there's got to be some affirming there, that, "Hey. You're going to make that play next time. You're going to do it. I believe in you."

  • John: A lot of times that step is missing.

  • Scott: No question.

  • John: We try to learn from it, and then we're not affirming it.

  • Scott: No question.

  • John: We're tearing it down, or there's silence, which also says a lot.

  • Scott: Oh, boy.

  • John: Or whatever it might be.

  • Scott: The feared body language when it comes to coaching. I speak to that oftentimes. That can be more powerful that whatever comes out of their mouth, the roll of the eyes, the body language. That's true for coach. That's true for mom and dad. That's true for teammates. That's true for acceptance of maybe your higher end supposedly athletes on your team looking to a kid that had to come through for you, and how he doesn't come through for you, and how the high end athlete responds back to them and makes them feel coming out of that thing. Admitting it, there's the first problem to start with. Second, then learning from. A lot of them, okay, will admit it, but they don't do anything about it. They don't learn from it. But they got to admit it. They got to learn from it. Then there's the encouraging part. There's the-

  • John: Affirming.

  • Scott: ... affirming and all that that comes into play. Then it comes back with the analogy, as we talked about. It's like the parable, as we call it, the parable of the toilet. We've got to ... you're done with your business. You've got to flush it. It's got to go.

  • John: I love it. Got to let it go.

  • Scott: it's got to go. That's right. Then we look to bounce back and the next time go at it.

  • John: And can we set that example as a coach? The people leading our youth, can they flush it? Because some of them can't. You literally see it. They can't let it go.

  • Scott: By all means.

  • John: Now, we're three minutes later in the game, and the coach is still losing their mind about it, and what kind of example ... How can we expect our athletes to flush it, when we're not even setting the example ourself? Which is why the adult work, the coach work, is as important as the athlete work that we are doing.

  • Scott: By all means. Then for a coach, which is a huge step for coaches and a huge challenge I always give them, is that we have to recognize and ultimately admit to our kids, for that matter the parents involved, that we made mistakes, that I made mistakes coaching.

  • John: But then we have to learn from it.

  • Scott: That's right.

  • John: Because I also know coaches who in quotes own it, but they keep repeating the same behavior.

  • Scott: Yup. Wash their feet and put on dirty socks.

  • John: I love the practical steps that you've just taken through in that process that is connected to it. Let's keep the conversation going. The next one, the fourth attitude game, is the caring game. I'm really interested in this, because I think it really separates a lot of times, all of these do, but bringing these together, but ending with the caring game and our final episode of this really five part series ... because we talked about model of winning, and then we've gone through each of these. We started with the comparison game, then the confidence game. This one was the challenge game. Then the next episode, the caring game. So, we will see you soon for that one.

  • Scott: Great. Thanks.

  • John: Thank you for listening to the CharacterStrong Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to share on your social media. Please rate, review, and make sure to subscribe for future episodes on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play. To learn more about CharacterStrong and how we are supporting schools visit CharacterStrong.com. Thanks for listening. Make it a great day.


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John Norlin

John Norlin is a Co-Founder of CharacterStrong, a Servant Leadership trainer, and motivational speaker. He was Washington Advisor of the Year, taught 5 leadership classes per semester for 10 years at Sumner High School, and was a Program Administrator for the Whole Child for five years.