God wired me to be a coach. Yet that is not my chosen profession, just my passion. I have spent over 35 years volunteering as a coach and being involved with young athletes. I have coached at many levels – rec leagues, travel teams, AAU, High School, College, Special Olympics volleyball and even a Women’s softball team. And I have coached a variety of sports, mostly football, soccer, and basketball. In total it is over 70 teams and 900 players. For all my coaching the only payment I ever received was a $3000 stipend as a grad assistant college coach (part of that went towards an engagement ring!), plus some cool coaching gear. However, my reward for coaching has been priceless.
Late in the 19th century, the word ‘coach’ appeared in the vocabulary of sports as someone who leads a team. This usage grew from earlier in that century where Oxford University students likened their instructors to carriages “conveying” them through their class=”=””es, metaphorically speaking like a horse-drawn coach. A horse drawn coach or carriage was a means to “take a person of importance from where they are to where they want or need to go.”
Coaching does not improve a player’s performance. A player improves his performance by being coached. The choice is the players. I like the saying “the paint in the can needs to be applied” as a great analogy here. I have used similar words, “I can only alter your mood; you must change your attitude” a lot over the years.
An effective coach chooses to be positive when dealing with others. They choose to be a light shining a path for others, not a judge who see other’s shortcomings; a model for others to emulate, not a critic who improves their standing by lowering the standing of others. A coach roots for others to succeed, knowing most people want to get better. “People don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care” is an often-cited coaching principle. However, coaches look to build and not coddle.
The destination was not determined by the carriage, but the ability to get from one place to the other was entirely dependent upon it. In a comparable way, a coach cannot predetermine the destination for a team or individual. The coach creates a plan of action and oversees the process to get a team or individual from where they are now to where they want to end up. This is very true in life as well as athletics.
If I type ‘Coach’ into my email address, the autofill gives me over 20 options. I see it as a title of respect much like “Doctor”. I had great coaches growing up, starting with my very first coach, my Dad. I still remember conversations around life lessons I had with High School coaches and looking back I can see the mentoring certain youth coaches provided. In today’s connected world of social media and smart phones I am glad to stay in touch with some of my college coaches. Some of my closest and trusted colleagues are the High School Football Coaches I have worked with these past few years.
In addition to coaching, ‘between the sidelines’ and coaching players in their physical attributes of the game, I have done Character Coaching through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and lately have been studying coaching in the second and third dimension with 3Dimensional coaching. These two components of coaching have given me an intentional outlook on how my actions are perceived. High School athletes that grow to become adult coaches will often coach the way they were coached. Studies also show they will lead business teams based on the mentoring they received from their coaches. I was blessed with great coaches and I need to pay that forward.
Being a Coach can be more than running a sports team. Leading a business team as well as volunteer organizations fit the definition of being a coach. I believe God’s plan for me was to be this type of coach and bring the passion of coaching to places outside of sports. Formal coaching has been part of my role in business. I once created a new hire coaching program for my company and have been involved in transforming a company’s culture from the ‘check-the-box’ yearly performance reviews to one that consists of ongoing coaching. Some of the best Leadership books for business I have found were written by Coaches, most notably John Wooden.
When you look closely at the word origin of coach it truly applies to heading a family. As a father you are the role model to guide very important people, you need to protect them as a covered carriage does. You need to have that intentional outlook on how your actions are perceived.
Outside of my Dad, my best coach was my defensive coordinator in college and the guy who recruited me to Lafayette College. It is interesting to note that at his funeral several years ago, there was a greater attendance of players from the smaller non-football factory college than his more recent D1 elite program. Why? I think his life lessons matter more to those of us with whom football was just a small part of life, not the be all/end all of life. The listing below was a tribute created in his memory. Coach would:
- Tell you that your “stance is about a ½ inch too wide” … making you appreciate the importance of paying attention to the “little things,” as they enable the “big things” to happen.
- Encourage you after making a good play, to do it again … teaching the importance of not settling for “good,” but instead, striving for consistency.
- Scold you for using foul language … teaching us the importance of sportsmanship.
- Implore you to “make plays” … teaching you getting it done was the needed outcome.
- Say before practice, “you either get better, or you get worse, you never stay the same” … pushing you to get better every day and to practice with a purpose.
- Wear long sleeve rubber sweat suit on a 95-degree day and a mere ‘heavy’ shirt on an 8-degree day … teaching us to be mentally tough.
- Run top speed to the next drill with a determined look on his face, prodding everyone to “hustle up” … teaching us make the most of what time we have.
- Say “make your second move first” … teaching us to anticipate and not be reactive.
- Express after a tough loss or a good win, “Starting Monday we’re gonna work to get better” … teaching us to move forward and build a better future.
- Demand that we study and know the playbook … teaching us the importance of “preparation.”
- Always be wearing a smile … teaching us that we need to enjoy what we are doing.
- Watch video tapes in a department store, hang out in an airport to catch recruits returning from other college visits, start breaking down next week’s opponent during the post-game meal … teaching us what it means to be passionate about what you do.
- Come to know our parents as well as us … genuinely caring about us as people and family.
The greatest model for coaching is Jesus. The New Testament shows that Jesus was an incredible coach and facilitator of the learning for the Apostles. When Jesus recruited his first disciples he said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). He didn’t offer to teach them, he was going to transform them. Jesus guides us, his sons and daughters so important to Him that he died for us, along His plan for our lives for eternity.
Coaching does not improve a player’s performance. A player improves his performance by being coached. The choice is the players. Christ does not improve my behavior, He provides the value system, the goal, the motivation for me to improve my behavior. The choice is mine.