In the light of the very recent passing of Joe Paterno, I was watching ESPN's Sportcenter for more details. As the coverage continued, there were more and more statements about Paterno's greatness as a coach, mentor, husband, father, philanthropist, and more.
This raised a question:
What does it mean to be a great coach?
I'm sure we all have our opinions on what the best answer is. But, is there really a perfect answer? I don't think so. But, I'm sure we can all agree that there are a few qualities that EVERY great coach must possess.
1. Passion: The dictionary defines passion as a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything. If you do not have a genuine love for the sport you are coaching, please get out now. How can you lead a team and encourage them to give 100% if you can't give 100% yourself? In youth sports, most of the coaches are unpaid. So, there must already be some passion there. However, some coaches have passion for their kids, and overlook the other kids on the team. Some have passion for their own dreams, and are living vicariously through their team. Others have a true passion for the sport, and in that want the whole team to get better to reach a common goal.
2. Knowledge: Usually if you have a passion for your sport, the knowledge comes easily. Your thirst to get better drives you to constantly study and strive to be better. Where you feel you are lacking, you go out and get help. Where you feel you are strong, you still seek out ways to be stronger. It's almost automatic, sometimes it becomes your addiction.
3. Compassion: Yes, this may seem like it's not very apparent in the coaching world, but if you look, you will see it. How many times have you seen a coach appearing to be "crazy" on the sidelines or at practice, but for some reason, their team loves them to death? In your mind, you see a man or woman out of control. In your mind you see someone merely yelling at your kids. But have you ever listened to what they were saying? Have you ever stopped and talked to your child about what happened to spearhead the outburst? Now, I'm not saying that there aren't plenty of overbearing, lunatic coaches out there. I'm saying this: sometimes, our passion takes over us. We need to show the kids how much this means - not just to us, but for them. And when we are done yelling, we talk to them. We explain everything in detail. And the best coaches out there take time to know how each player ticks. We make sure they know that we are there for them whenever they need us...even years and years later. Some coaches become 2nd parents to their team. Some coaches become 1st parents.
4. Integrity: No matter how many times you win, if you do it in an environment of cheating, you will never be GREAT! Integrity goes beyond the sport, too. No one wants the coach who is amazing and leads their team to victory over and over, but is an abuser, drunk, an addict, or anything even remotely close in nature. If coaches are role-models, we require them to be the cream of the crop. We actually expect them to have more integrity than ourselves.
5. Expectations: As a coach, you should have goals. My main goal every season is the same: Push the girls to their highest abilities - in every aspect of their life. With this, I have found much resistance. While I am working hard with the girls to push it to THEIR limits, sometimes the parents just don't understand. Many parents these days are so caught up in being "fair" that they forget that life is NOT fair. But, if you know that, then you know that you need to work through adversity. You cannot just give up at the drop of a dime. And, you MUST pass that on to the kids, too. For instance, I've heard a parent tell my husband that "This isn't the NBA!" when my husband was coaching basketball. I've been told "This isn't All Stars" when coaching cheer. Why were we told these statements? Because we expected our athletes to be great. Not great like Michael Jordan or Kiara Knowlin - just great as we saw the kids to be. We wanted our teams to push themselves to the fullest. All the way to their peak! And, after all these years, I've finally been able to sum it up:
Just because you don't expect your kid to be as great as he can be, doesn't mean that I don't. Don't be mad at me, the coach, for pushing your child to be HIS best! Be mad at yourself for not wanting the BEST for your kid. Don't be upset because I can see the potential in your son or daughter. Be upset because you don't believe in your child enough to know that they can achieve greatness...if they are willing to work for it.
As a parent, I expect all my children's coaches to push them all the way to the sky! That is why they are coaching my children. I entrust that they can help them achieve the greatness in LIFE that they are after.
Children gain so much more confidence from achieving things they never would have imagined they could do, than achieving things that come easy to them. Think about your childhood. What greatness did you achieve as a child? What greatness have you achieved as a parent?
And, remember this:
Some people just WANT to be great! And no matter what gets thrown at them, it is in their chemical make-up to BE GREAT! And because they REFUSE to be less than they are destined to be, they inspire the rest of us to BE GREAT, too!
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