I love coaching. In fact, over 40 years ago I loved it so much that I decided to make it my life’s profession. …and I’m excited to say that I’m still coaching. Over the years I’ve been blessed with amazing relationships, experiences, and memories. Coaches, athletes, athletics trainers, administrators, media, parents, family, and friends…thousands of people have impacted and inspired me. I can only hope that in some way, I’ve been able to return the blessing.
Not long ago I sat in a team meeting in which each player was asked to share their “why”. Before the players shared, the coaching staff shared. It’s something very powerful to be completely open and vulnerable in front of peers like this. It’s especially powerful to do this in front of the people you’ve been called to lead. I strongly encourage you and your staff to do this.
There are two important things I’ve learned that have really shaped my own “Why”. One is that players will do what you train them to do. This idea, given to me many years ago by an Olympic Gold Medal-winning coach, brought the realization that as their coach, I needed to work at being an exceptional teacher. The laws of learning are universal…even in athletics. As a coach, I began to feel more responsible for the player’s failures than I did their successes. If players failed, it meant that I had not taught them well enough…yet. The “Yet” is important. I quickly saw how this shared sense of responsibility could have a tremendous impact on player-coach relationships. What an amazing platform from which to work with the players…and one from which very special things often resulted.
The second thing I’ve learned is that coaches tend to coach the way they were coached. Watching former players coaching their own teams is humbling…and fun. Coaching is such an amazing opportunity to teach and influence people for the good. Leadership defined is simply, “Behavior that influences”. Being a coach carries with it an awesome responsibility to do it well. Coaching is so much more than just striving to win games. Coaches are some of the top influencers of young people in our country. Coaches can get their athletes to do things that sometimes even their own parents can’t get them to do. Successful coaches and great teammates, “Make the people around them better.” Just being a part of that growth journey is “Why” enough to be a coach!
Here is a quote from well-known author and educator Parker Palmer that sums up a lot of my “Why”. I’ve added parentheses, so it can be read from the perspective of a coach. Palmer writes:
“I am a teacher (coach) at heart, and there are moments…when I can hardly hold the joy. When my students (athletes) and I discover uncharted territory to explore, and when the pathway out of a thicket opens before us, …then teaching (coaching) is the finest work I know.”
This is my “Why”. Over the years, my “Why” has gotten clearer…and even more rewarding. I believe that each of us is capable of far more than we can ever imagine. I love to teach…and to do it with an athletics team is an amazing honor. Everything I’ve learned as a coach, I’ve learned from others. I’d strongly encourage you to think deeply and intentionally about your own “Why”. Doing so could be the most powerful growth experience you can have as a coach. “Why” do you coach? I’d like to encourage you to share your own “Why’s” with others at our new Facebook page.