This article marks the 13th, and final, installment for this series investigating the 13 Beliefs of Good Coaches. To conclude, I hope to highlight the personal nature of coaching, and discuss how the difficulties of the job often stem from our desire to emulate those individuals that coached us.
“I was born to coach”. That was the first sentence I wrote for my doctoral dissertation, the culmination of a 9-month field study into the mechanics of the coaching process. My academic advisor almost spit coffee across the room when I handed her the first draft with those words as the opening line. Her insistence to the inappropriateness of beginning a scientific paper as weighty as a dissertation with such a personal statement let me know I was on the right track. Making such an audacious and bold declaration let everyone know where I was coming from. For me, coaching is one of the most personal things you can do. Coaching has shaped who I am, coaching will forever be a part of what I am to become.
I was born to coach not because of some inherited biological trait or special talent only bestowed to a few. I was born to coach because I came from coaches. Some of my earliest memories are watching my father instruct a group of little leaguers on how to track down a fly ball, or listening to my uncles’ debate the virtues of man-to-man defense. I was meant to coach in the same way countless generations of fathers, mothers, mentors, and teachers have passed down the love of sport to countless sons, daughters, students, and athletes. It has always been this way, one generation passing the mantle to the next generation through the passion to compete, the camaraderie of striving for a common goal, through a desire to connect the past to the future. For me, the thing that united it all was to follow my father’s example—to coach.
This series (The 13 Beliefs of Good Coaches) has been a journey for me, I hope it has been an interesting voyage for you too. During my journey, I have come to understand a certain truth: great coaches, through an authentic connection of beliefs and actions, find a way to pass on their passion to the next generation. Passion is the drive within a coach to do good, be honorable, succeed—the drive to move athletes from where they are, to where they need to be. All great coaches understand that the ultimate goal of coaching is not to win the next game; it is to build a TRADITION. Great coaches want to create something that last beyond their time on the field.
To accomplish that virtuous goal and pass on to the next generation the desire to do the same, a coach must learn to accept and balance the awesome power of sport. Athletics possesses a power unto itself. Every sport gets its unique power from the combining of opposites, just like the polarities of an electrical field. It is the offense vs. defense of the sport. It’s the way the ball bounces a certain way one day, then completely different the next. It is the power to lift our dreams, as well as crush us into heaps on the ground.
How do we find a way to balance the paradox of athletics? Passion. Passion is what allows a coach to show up every day and work to balance the positives and negatives their sport throws at them and their athletes. Maybe one day it is about pushing a terrified player to face their biggest fear, and then the next day you have to pull a kid back from the ugly monster of over-confidence by putting his ass on the bench. When a coach accepts the pushing and pulling that their job requires, only then have they begun the journey to greatness.
My educational hero, Parker Palmer, once said, “In certain circumstances, truth is found not by splitting the world into either-or’s but by embracing it as both-and”. For me, the world of coaching should be viewed as one of those circumstances. Athletics is the story of both confidence and fear, needs and wants, routineness and novelty, us and them. Great coaches respect this power and accept the responsibility they were handed by the coaches before them. A coach’s job is to join the opposites—be the glue that holds the bonds together—embrace the paradoxes. For so many coaches, like myself, these lessons were passed down from someone they consider family. Maybe it was a teacher, or mentor, or father, or mother, it was someone we hold ourselves accountable too.
Great coaches are born from great coaches.