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 importance of attitude as we focus on character in athletics, and we dive in to the first game in what we call the Attitude Games: the Comparison Game.
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.
John: 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 USA football and two Hall of Fame induction ceremony speeches. Are you ready? Let's get CharacterStrong with Scott Westering.
John: All right everybody, welcome to the CharacterStrong podcast, so excited to have coach Scott Westering back with us. Thanks for coming back, you came back!
Scott: I did.
John: The first time was a good experience.
Scott: I did, doggone it. It was great, and excited to be back, you bet.
John: Awesome. So we're so excited because we're doing a series here of episodes with you, and really we've come together to talk about, how can we put a focus on character and athletics in our schools? Work being done with coaches, I know that you're presenting right now of right now for us and doing coaches trainings. You're working with athletes. How do we really, in many ways, change the paradigm from what we see a lot of times in sports, not only on television but also at the ground level, with sometimes what's happening in youth sports with coaches and our athletes?
John: And so we're talking about that today, the first episode was about our model of winning. Like, how do we actually view winning? We talked about the three-sided coin. But at the end of it we talked about then, the other really key piece of that is the attitude part, and how we approach the work and how we view it. And so, what we're going to do over the next four episodes is talk about the attitude games.
John: And the first one I want to ask you about today is the comparison game. Talk to me about how the comparison game connects to that attitude piece in approaching the work with athletics?
Scott: Well, comparison game, John, really plays off back to our model of winning. And if we really take this idea that giving it our best shot, the edge of the coin in that analogy we talked about, is really how we're going to look at winning. Then it boils down to the fact that we right now have control over this. When you compare yourself to someone else, you literally have no control over them as an opponent.
Scott: We had a line when I was coaching and all, that on a given Saturday that teams come to beat us, we come to be us. And that idea of focus and on the-
John: Be. Not beat, you come to "be us." I like that.
Scott: So it's come to "Be us." Exactly. And so it takes the focus totally off your opponent, who they are, how good they are, what their record is, whatever it is, and continues to keep back to an analogy that is put forth again. And that idea of focusing on the process and not the results, we know that ultimately, if winning in and of itself is the end goal, that you get into a competitive environment, winning ... If that's purely what it's about, that scoreboard, the score, whatever, that that's going to bring about anxiety. It's going to bring about tension. It's going to bring about the fear of failure.
Scott: Which then counters the whole idea of, when you are at your best, which is when you're relaxed. And so it pulls away from relaxation, and ultimately you tense. So you don't play your best. And so when the competition is all said and done, you don't have that feeling like you gave it your best shot. And so puling back and focusing on being the best that we can be, where we can control it, plays into this idea of what we call "the comparison game," which is the idea of me versus me.
Scott: And it's about us, as we would say it, not it's about me, or the way you'd look at any other way of looking at it. And so, ultimately, it comes down to three things. That if you can take this first attitude game that we talk about, this idea of comparison game, and when you look at ... I can focus on bringing the best out I me and best out in us, week in and week out, practice in and practice out. Because it has to happen within the dynamic of your team, also. Because the comparison game happens within that too.
Scott: Teammates compare themselves to each other, the guys that start versus the guys that are back ups. The guys...
John: A lot of times that's the biggest issue, is within each other.
Scott: Yeah, because it always comes into this classic phrase of team chemistry, and how do you achieve that? And the only way you're going to achieve that is truly get to where you take this idea of the comparison game and how it plays into your attitude, or the way that you look at being on your team, that you are a teammate, how we are going to truly be at our best.
Scott: And ultimately, if we can do that, if we can get to where I'm not going to compare myself to you, you're bigger than me, faster than me, stronger than me. I'll never be ... I don't have those skills. But I can be the best that I can be. And I can be better at what I do. I can work to become faster than I've ever been stronger than I've ever been. And likewise, if I get you or the way it plays is that our team and our coach can get us to where you're going to help me achieve that, look at the power in that. Look at the true chemistry that comes together in that.
Scott: And ultimately it boils down to three things, that if we look at it this way, one, we're going to feel better about ourselves.
Scott: And as I always say when I talk to student athletes and coaches and all, all of us, even as adults, all of us have that desire to feel better about ourselves.
John: Yeah, absolutely.
Scott: The second thing is, we're going to have more enjoyment in the arena itself. There's lots of kids that play sports that don't enjoy it, and coaches coach the joy of the game and the sport out of kids because of the way they go at it, the way they look at winning and losing, it's all about the scoreboard. And it's just ... The focus is just that that's ... It's all about the journey. Or, excuse me, not the journey, the destination of where you're going.
Scott: And if we don't win, then nothing else matters, typically, in that kind of scenario. And so if I can enjoy the process, the competition, and not focus, again, on the opponent or on the scoreboard, but about us and being the best that we can be, we're going to go out and then, ultimately, a third part of this is we're going to produce better results.
Scott: So, kids are going to feel better about themselves, they're going to have more joy in the competitive arena, and they're going to produce better results. And then, ultimately, that fits into the idea that score will take care of itself, which it does. Because if you look at it that way, we play the best that we can play, then we're going to feel great and we walk off the field after the game. And, by the way, better chance than not, that scoreboard is going to take care of itself.
John: Yeah, there's two things that are really standing out from the first episode and this one, that I think are just really powerful. And one is the idea that, once again, we're talking about controlling what we can control. It's not something out there somewhere else, it's controlling how good if feel about myself, or whether I "won" or not, that this is something that I can control. So that's a big one.
John: The other one, I think, with this that really stands out. And this one is, if it truly then is about me not comparing myself to others, like the scoreboard or even to my own teammates, but it's about me comparing myself to the best version of me, and we are bought in as a team, then what we are naturally going to do is we're going to celebrate that instead of just maybe the two star athletes on the team. That, as a team, we're going to celebrate Jimmy, who just was the best version of him, and he got bigger and faster and stronger, whatever it is, and performed it.
John: His ideal version or best self, he made the big time where he was, right, instead of just the person who, if it's football, rushed 30 times, 232 yards and three touchdowns. No, no, no, we're celebrating that as much as anything else because when we all do that, once again, the results will take care of themselves. We will reach the maximum potential that we could have reached if we were doing that. And that's a different way of viewing sport and doing team and athletics than we a lot of times see. Would you agree? That's naturally the way my brain's looking at it right now.
Scott: And that's right on, John. That's exactly how this plays out. And so when you get individuals, much less in our own lives. Because how often we compare ourselves in life, and I'll talk about that in a simple, social realm. I'll look at you and think, "Wow, I'm taller than you. You weigh more than me, you're stronger than me, I'm faster than you," or even in the ... Sheesh, you got better looking hair, you got a nicer looking girlfriend. I drive a nicer car.
Scott: We play that comparison game that brings stress and anxiety into our lives, and as I share that with student athletes it's so awesome to see the light bulb in their eyes get big and thinking, "Oh coach, god, you're so right. I have stress and I have anxiety in my life that is self-inflected. It brings me back to ..." And then some of us fight even within our own families. We fight the comparison game to an older brother or younger sister, or how it all plays that way.
Scott: And so, to be able to pull back from that and let go of comparing myself to someone else who I have no control over, focusing on me being the best that I can be, and bringing about the joy that comes in just daily life then ... Removing stress and anxiety, it's awesome to see. Especially young people that do that so often. It's all about the comparison game. And to get them to recognize it and then pull back from it ... That was my challenge and always is.
Scott: When I get ready to leave after my presentations, is that when you walk out that door, you're going to have the most powerful thing you possess, your power of choice, which we'll talk more of as we go here and pull back from ... You know, I'm not going to compare myself to others anymore, I'm going to compare myself to my best self, and work on the best me.
John: I love it. So, transitioning out of this episode, I think one of the things also that stand out is we are seeing such an increase in anxiety in our youth. And that's for a lot of different things that are happening, one is the world's moving at a pace it's never moved before with the increase in technology and everything else. And then you bring in sport, and you have coaches who potentially, because they don't know any other way, are operating in a mode that creates more anxiety and more fear.
John: And to think, still, today, that that is what it takes to get players to perform is such an old, archaic way of thinking, and is not accurate. And there's so much to back that up. I mean, we work, in CharacterStrong and the world of education and educational psychology and all of that, and we're going to talk more about this. But this whole idea of, "How do we challenge that and realize that what we're talking about is not fluffy at all?" Like, this is hard work but it also is, what? Even backed by science, shows us a way to get better performance from individuals and team, and even just the overall, the human nature.
John: I'm going to feel better about myself, I'm going to enjoy the experience, and if it's all about winning on the scoreboard, only one team gets that every year. So everybody else is a loser, right? Come on, there's nobody that can convince me of that. So we're going to come back tomorrow, or next episode, excuse me, we're going to talk about the confidence game, and then how that connects to the overall attitude games and how we view sport and going after it. Thanks for being here.
Scott: You betcha'.
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 Character Strong and how we are supporting schools, visit characterstrong.com. Thanks for listening, make it a great day.