A Coach is…

Recently I was asked to be a guest lecturer for a UCF class on the topic of coaching. Specifically, the process of how I got into coaching and the daily grind of the job. I don’t think it is coincidence that today is my anniversary date at UCF women’s soccer…12 years.  In re-visiting my journey as a coach I have smiled, laughed, and shed tears at the deeply memorable moments of every age group I have coached….under 11’s all the way through high school age and now the sacred years of those in college. So as you read keep in mind these are reflections on all my years of coaching from the little one’s to the one’s who think they have everything figured out.

Here are ideas I have stumbled upon that I believe are the great myths about coaching…(followed by some personal commentary).

–       Coaching is easy. (Hmmm…..)

–       Coaching is just putting some cones out and making kids run through the drill. (Are we talking babysitting or coaching?)

–       As long as I know the game, I’ll be a good coach. (It is not all x’s and o’s.)

–       I was a great player so, of course, I’ll be a good coach. (Get over yourself.)

–       Only an extrovert can be a good coach. (A definite lack of understanding of the definitions of extrovert and introvert.)

–       All I have to do is take a coaching course or get licensed and I’ll be a good coach. (It’s not really all that simple.)

–       If I have talented players my team will win. (You need to read Talent is Never Enough by John C. Maxwell)

–       If I am a good coach my team will win. (You hope, but not always true.)

–       I love (my sport) so I will love coaching. (Narrow-thinking)

My favorite question when someone learns I’m a college coach…. “Oh, is that full-time?”  As I try to contain myself from launching at this person over the table, I kindly smile and say, “why yes it is, and the best part is I get to wear shorts and a t-shirt to work”. Really people? That’s the question you ask. A similar one is “Oh, what else do you do”? Or, “so what do you do when you don’t have practice”?  It is these people that live outside the realm of sports so understandably I let them walk away unharmed.

Some of my favorite professional and college coaches are: Tony Dungy, Lou Holtz, John Wooden, Pat Summit, Dean Smith, and Anson Dorrance. My library has a dedicated shelf for biographies on these coaching icons and I reference this shelf quite a bit for inspiration and ideas. Legendary coach of University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball Pat Summit made a comment in an interview that has stuck with me…. “Coaching is about people. You win with people.”  That has resonated in my soul for years. It’s about the player, the person, a spirit inside them.

The most eye-opening statistic that has weighed heavily on my coaching career was a case study ranking the major “influencers” in a young person’s life.  First thoughts that come to mind are probably a young person’s parents, then maybe family and friends. Not even close.  The number one influencer on young people was music, a child’s mother ranked seventh and a child’s father ranked thirteenth, not even in the top ten. The third highest influencer on young people was a coach. Statistically, I have more influence on a player than even her mother or father. When I sit and think about this daunting task I ask myself again, “what does it mean to be a coach?”

Here are the three roles that I embrace as a coach.
First, I am an EDUCATOR. My job is to teach and help players develop. If my team wins every game but my players aren’t growing and getting better, I’m not doing my job. There are two avenues in coaching: creating a winning culture, which is about the team as a whole in a corporate sense and the second avenue is developing players. At any given time I am working with the team in mind or the individual. Both are of utmost importance.
I had a high school chemistry teacher that I can honestly say was the WORST teacher I ever had. He was retired from NASA and by the numbers he was a genius. But he couldn’t teach. He could probably do highly complicated math equations in his head but he didn’t know how to relate.  He didn’t know how to “put the cookies on the bottom shelf” for his students to reach them. As a coach I have to be able to teach what I know.  A coach is an educator.

Second, I am a MOTIVATOR. I can have the most talented players in the world but if I can’t get them to do anything, what good is accomplished? A lot of people might say, “a player needs to know how to motivate themself.” I agree. But that does not mean I have no responsibility in the matter. On an individual level and team level I am responsible to prepare them mentally and emotionally for what is ahead. I must instill confidence and make sure they understand their value as a player as well as a person. It is then that I will get the best out of a player. A coach is a motivator.

Third, I am a MENTOR. I don’t know everything and I am not perfect. It is okay for my players to see my humanity. It is about being honest. As I take responsibility for my life and actions I set the example for this journey called life. Everyone is expendable. Everyone is responsible to be growing, because if you aren’t you are going the other direction. I work to build a relationship with players so each knows she is valuable to me and to the team. When I show them I care about every area of their life, that is when they will climb a mountain or swim a river for the team. A coach is a mentor.

I hear the words of Pat Summit echo in my ear, “Coaching is about people. You win with people.”

I am an educator.
I am a motivator.
I am a mentor.
I am… “Coach”.

© Sequel Ministries, Inc. 2012

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