The Coach Hatfield Story
(From Chapter 1 of Living Toad Free)
Living Toad Free uses the metaphor of a Toad to represent the obstacles in our life that slow us down---or stop us altogether.
Below is Chapter 1, which introduces you to the "Toad" concept.
The Section Overview provides a glance at what you can expect to find in the rest of the book.
For those interested, Dan Bobinski does "Toad Free" workshops and keynote speeches on the topic. Interested? Just ask!
The Coach Hatfield Story
Coach Hatfield knew about Toads. He knew where they came from, but more importantly he knew how to get rid of them. The key, according to Coach Hatfield, was to figure out what Toads were getting in the way, then eliminate them.
Coach Hatfield was a basketball coach at a small college in Illinois. He was tough, but he let everybody play. Most folks said he worked miracles, because somehow he developed winning teams in a school too small to really have the horses. But the “miracles” that occurred were simply a result of the way he taught his teams to view life.
At the beginning of every season Coach Hatfield sat down with the new players and told them the following story:
Mr. Centipede woke up early one morning in a great mood. He had a date later that day with the centipede of his dreams, Ms. Diana Centipede! She had one hundred of the longest legs he'd ever seen.
Mr. Centipede showered, put on his favorite yellow socks and fifty pairs of black Adidas tennis shoes. He slicked back his hair, flashed himself a confident smile in the mirror and headed for the door. With every leg in perfect rhythm, he flowed out of his little cave on the side of the hill.
As fate would have it, Mr. Centipede chanced upon Mr. Toad, sitting by the side of the trail (on a toadstool, of course), in his usual toady frame of mind. Mr. Centipede, beaming confidence, stopped and raised ten of his legs in a friendly salute. ‘Good Morning, Mr. Toad! How are you on this gorgeous day?’
Mr. Toad gave Mr. Centipede an aggravated glance, then grumbled back. ‘What's so good about it?’
Realizing he didn't want to lose his good mood in debating with a Toad, Mr. Centipede turned his head and answered to the air about the bright sun, the puffy clouds, and the fresh air. Then, starting up his jaunty, rippling body once again, and with all his legs in perfect rhythm, he flowed past Mr. Toad.
That's when it happened. Mr. Toad's brow furled as he watched Mr. Centipede glide past. Then a quizzical look came over the toad's scowling face as he called out to Mr. Centipede in a gruff, toady voice. ‘Mr. Centipede! Stop! There's something I want to ask you.’
Mr. Centipede stopped mid-stride, looked back over his shoulder, and said, ‘What is it, Mr. Toad?’
‘How do you do it, Mr. Centipede?’
Walk! How do you walk with all those legs in perfect unison? How in the world do you manage to move them all, much less at the same time?’
Mr. Centipede tilted his head and thought about the question. And he thought. And then he thought some more. Mr. Centipede missed his date. In fact, Mr. Centipede never moved again!
Then Coach Hatfield explained to his newcomers how Sammy Centipede had encountered a Toad of Confusion. “The Toad,” Coach explained, “sent the centipede’s state of mind into a whirlwind of doubt and confusion, totally taking him off guard. So much so that he froze—which made him lose his potential for fulfillment.”
The new ballplayers nodded as if they understood, but Coach Hatfield wasn’t done yet. He showed them a plaque with a saying engraved on it:
It's no sin to be blocked.
Only to stay blocked.
Then Coach Hatfield would say, “There are a lot of Toads and Toady situations in life that trip us up. Fear Toads, Perfection Toads, Inferiority Toads, Superiority Toads, Intimidation Toads, Guilt Toads, you name ’em, they’re out there! We’ve all got our share of Toads, but that’s okay. What’s not okay is to let any Toad, small or large, grow so big that it cripples us. The worst Toads, the biggest ones, are those that we feed and care for ourselves—the ones we grow with our own thoughts.”
The players were looking a bit confused, so Coach Hatfield threw the facts straight at them: “There are two kinds of basketball players. One is the guy fooling around on the playground. He isn’t serious. Either he isn’t committed or he hasn’t got the guts or the brains to nurture his talent. The other kind has the courage and the fortitude to challenge the Toads preventing him from being the best he can be. Those without the dedication, the courage, or the perseverance to eliminate their Toads should go home now. You will become mature players in this game or you will be gone!
“Whenever a Toad knocks us down we’re going to either get back up to knock it down or we’re going to find a way around it! People who succeed at this game are just like people who succeed at life. They don’t feed or pamper their Toads. Instead they find them and exterminate them! We will not allow any Toads to get in our way! Is that understood?
It was understood. The Toad concept worked to bring the teams together every year. In fact, the shout of “Kill the Toad! Kill the Toad!” became the team’s rally cry, much to the confusion of opposing teams.
Coach Hatfield used the Toad analogy all the time. He frequently chose his starters by looking each player in the eye and asking, “Are you Toad Free tonight?” And once, when the team’s best player developed an attitude of superiority, Coach Hatfield helped him become the team’s best “team-player” by showing him how his ego had become a Toad to the rest of the team.
Coach Hatfield’s Toad stories taught his teams about resiliency and stamina. They learned to take the heavy blows and keep on moving. Hence, they were never routed. Not only did they never quit as individuals, they “jelled” so well as a team they ended up winning games that, on paper, they weren’t supposed to win. And whenever they were defeated, they were beaten by a genuinely superior team—never by themselves.
No matter what, his teams always kept their pride because they always maintained flow and momentum, keeping their integrity even in the face of overwhelming competition. Coach Hatfield called that character. No matter what the score or the reputation of the opposition, all of Coach Hatfield’s players held onto their integrity. They learned how to search for the Toads impeding their potential. And they began eliminating those Toads as soon as they found them.