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?

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