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Andy Prest: Life lessons learned from Ted Lasso, a fake coach with real integrity

The eternally optimistic fictional character played by Jason Sudeikis is a darn good role model for real-life coaches
Jason Sudeikis and Brett Goldstein appear in a scene from the series Ted Lasso, now streaming on Apple TV+.​ Sudeikis plays coach Ted Lasso, a character whose relentless optimism and humour make him a good role model for real-life coaches around the world.

“You two knuckleheads have split our locker room in half, and when it comes to locker rooms, I like ’em just like my mother’s bathing suits. I only wanna see ’em in one piece.”

Those cheeky words of wisdom come from a man who is so much more than a man. He is a coach, a guru, a mentor, a motivator, a guide. He’s even more than that though. He’s a life philosophy, a global movement.

He is Ted Lasso. He’s also, it must be said, not a real person. But his imprint on the world is certainly real.

Ted Lasso is the titular character of a show on Apple TV, now in its second season. And I’m not really joking when I say that Ted Lasso has changed the way I look at life, just a little bit. And judging from the reactions I’ve seen from others who have watched the show, and the awards the show has garnered, I know that I am not alone in this.

Lasso, played by former Saturday Night Live star Jason Sudeikis, is an American college football coach who gets hired to coach a soccer team in the English Premier League. The catch is that Lasso knows nothing about soccer. Hilarity ensues, but many other things also ensue.

Compassion, growth, kindness, joy – these are the skills drilled and demonstrated by Ted Lasso, whose secret is that the concept of “winning” has very little to do with the numbers on a scoreboard at the end of a game. He is relentlessly positive, sincere, optimistic and empathetic, constantly striving to improve the lives of everyone he encounters including friends, teammates, co-workers and even opponents. And he does it all with extremely endearing aw-shucks wit.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” a colleague asks him.

“I do,” he replies. “But more importantly, I believe they need to believe in themselves.”

When I watch Ted Lasso, the thought that is always in the back of my mind is that I want to BE Ted Lasso, or at least take his spirit with me into my relationships in life. As a coach myself involved in youth sports, I encounter many other coaches who are definitely NOT Coach Lasso.

Just this summer I coached an 8U baseball team that travelled to games and tournaments around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, and it was eye-opening. There are many coaches who are Ted Lasso when you meet them in those quiet moments before the game, but they quickly lose their Lasso when the game gets tight and those all-important youth baseball victories are at stake.

One team’s coaches didn’t agree with the call an umpire made – and note that the umpire is a 12-year-old girl – and proceeded to let her know very loudly and for an extended period of time what call she should make. When we finally asked the coaches to, you know, stop yelling at this little girl, their response was that they were trying to “help” her learn the rules of the game.

Another coach chirped one of my players because the player had the audacity to try the old “hidden ball trick” in an attempt to sneak an extra out. The trick didn’t work of course, and was quite unnecessary for this age group, but that really doesn’t justify a grown man with a beard dressed in baseball pyjamas talking sh*t to an eight-year-old child. 

Very un-Lasso-like.

But I get it. Sports are by their nature competitive, and when competition gets intense it is hard to always stay cool. And when the little eight-year-olds are messing up or even acting up, it can be hard not to take it personally, and easy to react angrily.

But you can always be more like Ted Lasso, who constantly reminds you that you can coach and challenge people without anyone losing their dignity.

“You know what the happiest animal on Earth is?” he asks a struggling player. “It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a ten-second memory. Be a goldfish.”

If you like British stuff, or jokes, or Jason Sudeikis, or sports – and who the heck wouldn’t? – go check out Ted Lasso. And while you’re laughing, don’t forget to do some learning, and growing.

 “Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse,” Lasso counsels one of his players. “If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.”

Andy Prest is the sports and features editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly.