Friday, July 24, 2015

Qualities of a Great Coach: Part 2

Just about anyone who has ever been involved in athletics for any extended period of time has had at least one coach who was highly influential and made a positive difference in their life. As both an athlete and coach of multiple sports, I have been blessed to work with some dynamite coaches who have been instrumental in my own growth and development as a coach, husband and father. The fact of the matter is that coaches are oftentimes the most influential individual in a young person's life. It is a tremendous responsibility and one that I take very seriously. With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to write a series sharing some of the key things I have learned through my own experiences regarding the qualities that great coaches typically possess.

Typically, the most successful coaches across all sports are masterful at cultivating a sharp focus on the things that are under each athlete's control.  More specifically, I have found that the best coaches place a continual emphasis on attitude and effort. The fact of the matter is that these two areas are completely under the control of each and every athlete regardless of their talent level or life situation. Teams and individual athletes who truly embrace this principle typically perform very well, oftentimes better than their more naturally talented opponents.

The key to instilling this type of focus on attitude and effort is for you as the coach to define how you measure success. Obviously, winning is the benchmark we all like to use as coaches but there are so many factors outside of our control that make a winning-centered focus problematic.

I think legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, offers a much better option with his definition of success:
"Success is peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you gave your best effort to become the best of which you are capable (Biro, 2001)."
Imagine what this would look like if every individual athlete/team member demonstrated the type of attitude and effort outlined by Coach Wooden. Focusing on the things we CAN control releases us to maximize the unique gifts and talents God has blessed each of us with. The funny thing is that this type of focus almost always results in more winning. The reason why this is so is because the focus is on the daily process that makes an athlete/team great rather than just the outcome of being great. 

Despite the fact that he virtually never talked about winning with any of his teams, Coach Wooden won 664 games (.804 winning %)  including 10 national championship over the course of his NCAA coaching career. The De La Salle HS football team, who won a record 151 games in a row, is another great example of this principle put into practice. Throughout this unbelievable winning streak, the coaching staff maintained a steadfast emphasis on each athlete preparing themselves to the absolute best of their ability rather than a focus on winning more games. Obviously, winning more games was the ultimate result of this focus. 



Interestingly, you can even find an example of this principle at work in the win-at-all-costs world of professional sports. The New England Patriots have undoubtedly been the most successful professional football team in the NFL since 2001 winning four Super Bowls during this period of time. The Patriots simple team motto, "Do your job," is an excellent example of maintaining a focus on factors under each athletes control and the process of becoming successful instead of the outcome. All "Deflategate" jokes aside, it is clear that the Patriots players have done a great job in taking this motto to heart as the results speak for themselves. 

Image Credit: www.jostens.com
Ultimately, we can only do our very best with the gifts and talents God has blessed us with. It is a choice we can all make and it under our control each and every day. It is our job as coaches to help our athletes understand this principle and embrace it. In closing, one of my favorite Bible verses offers this great word of encouragement for us all:

"Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily from the soul, as something done for the Lord and not for men" ~ Colossians 3:23

Reference
Biro, B.D. (2001). Beyond success: The 15 secrets to effective leadership and life based on legendary coach John Wooden's pyramid of success. New York: Berkley.

Qualities of a Great Coach: Part 1

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Qualities of a Great Coach: Part 1



Just about anyone who has ever been involved in athletics for any extended period of time has had at least one coach who was highly influential and made a positive difference in their life. As both an athlete and coach of multiple sports, I have been blessed to work with some dynamite coaches who have been instrumental in my own growth and development as a coach, husband and father. The fact of the matter is that coaches are oftentimes the most influential individual in a young person's life. It is a tremendous responsibility and one that I take very seriously. With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to write a series sharing some of the key things I have learned through my own experiences regarding the qualities that great coaches typically possess.

The first, and most important quality in my opinion, is love. I have yet to meet an exceptional coach who does not genuinely love and care about the athletes under their leadership. The love I am talking about is similar to the love a parent has for their child. Coaches who have this kind of love for their athletes truly desire what is best for each individual and care about their overall development as a person. There is nothing wrong with desiring to win and building the best team/athlete possible; however, focusing solely on competitive success is limited in its ability to help athletes reach their maximum potential. 

More than ever before, athletes need to know that you care about them for more than just winning and building your own personal resume. This is critical in building the kind of trust and commitment needed for reaching competitive greatness. If an athlete feels that they are simply a tool for you to reach your own goals and dreams, they will never commit and put forth the effort that they would for a coach who genuinely loves them and cares about their well-being beyond their respective sport. 

In my own experience, the more I have focused on building positive relationships with my athletes and simply loving them, the more success they have achieved. I am absolutely convinced that athletes will "run through a brick wall" for you if they know you really love them and desire what is best for them as an athlete and person. If you are unsure of what it really means to love your athletes, I believe the Bible offers the best explanation possible: 

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." ~ 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

Loving your athletes (or people in general) is not merely a feeling, it is action and something you can choose to do each and every day. Legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, exemplified this well when he told his new players each year..."I will love you all the same, but I won't like you all the same." I challenge you as coach to reflect on where you are at in this specific area. Do you genuinely love the athletes under your leadership? If so, do they know it? If not, what can you do TODAY to change this?