Coaching is about much more than teaching a sport. The same way that teaching is about much more than the results of a state mandated test or whether a kid can calculate an algebra equation. It is about teaching kids to be the very best that they can be, and they can do more than what they think they can. And it all starts with relationships. I watched my dad coach when I was growing up, and the love he had for his players was unconditional. He was a master at building relationships with kids that lasted a lifetime.
Building relationships is much bigger than just sending a text to a kid or an email blast. It is about caring for the kid outside of sport. it is about learning about his home life and background. it is about learning their hopes and dreams and fears and goals. I talked to guys my dad coached 40 years ago and they talk about him in very high regard. And, they never mention a win or a loss. They talk about how he helped them through difficult situations they faced in their personal lives. These are things that are not out in the public eye. Part of building relationships is about being available.
Many times I asked my dad why he taught and coached, and he never talked about winning and losing. He talked about giving kids something to believe in so you can impact them through sport, improving their life after sport. Do you care about the Jersey, or the Player wearing the jersey? Do you care about the kid as much when he is in ISS as much as you do when he is scoring touchdowns? Do you cast kids away when they make a mistake, or do you reel them in for a teachable moment?
I have been blessed to work with head coaches who set great examples for building programs based around love. Kent Jackson, the HFC/AD in Seminole, Texas, cares greatly about each player. He often says, "do you teach English, or do you teach kids?" The answer to that question says a lot. It starts with wanting the very best for every kid you coach. It is about loving them unconditionally. It is about caring about them for who they are, not what they can do. It is about looking deep inside each kid and finding the gold inside. We can't give them greatness, they already have it. Our job is to pull it out of them. And again, it all goes back to relationships. If they know you care about them, and I mean truly care about them as more than a player on your team, they will play their hearts out.
Why is this important? Because someone has to fill the void that left by the absence of fathers. Most of the kids we teach and coach don't have a relationship with their father. For most of them, we are the only positive male role models they might have in their life. We may be the only adult male role model who truly cares about them and loves them unconditionally. Many of our young people are surrounded by adults who break promises. We have an opportunity to be someone they can trust.
One thing I have learned is to never, ever talk negative about a player in public. It does not do you any good personally or professionally. It builds a disdain and a distrust within your current and former players. Guys are going to talk and share information. Imagine what you would think if you ran into a former colleague and he told you your former boss said you were a lazy S.O.B. with no heart... How would you feel? What if that same colleague came up to you and said, your former boss said even though you didn't see eye to eye he said he always loved and respected X, Y, and Z about you... Which is more effective? If you are going to use an example of a former player, leave out the name. Or, bring back the former player to share his story. Let him educate your players.
Tell your players you love them, then back it up with your actions. If they make a mistake, coach them through it. Tell them you believe in them, and remind them of this often. Ask them about their family... and then listen to what they say. Hold them accountable for their actions and explain to them how it benefits them in the long run to be held accountable. This doesn't mean berate them in public. It means privately talking to them about the behavior and telling them why you are holding them accountable.
Take 5 minutes a day, three days a week and have a character talk. Have a different coach deliver the message each time, and keep it to 5 minutes. Bring in former players to give the talk. This will be meaningful to the players.
But again, this all comes back to if you don't care. If you don't really care, then you may want to make a career change. If you don't care whether Johnny has food on the table, or you don't care whether Bill became a good father, then your players are right.
When I first started coaching it was all about winning and losing, and I did not care about my players outside of sport. I really didn't care about them inside of sport unless they were a good player. We took a losing baseball program in the mid 90's and won games, but something was missing. Then I went to work for a man coaching football who cared deeply about each and every player. It was a great lesson for me on why we do what we do. Do we do what we do for ourselves? Or do we do what we do to because we have an opportunity to impact kids? The answer to that question can change and evolve over time. My purpose for coaching continues to evolve as I grow as a person.
The biggest regrets I have don't have to do with a play call or a why we lost a game. They have to do with how I might have handled a situation differently. They have to do with the crappy example I set on handling adversity. They have to do with the stuff I said to and about kids. There are kids that I had a chance to impact and I chose to take the easy way out and break them down. Why? Because I didn't care. I had a chance to build them up and help them to believe in themselves. I let my ego get in the way of this opportunity. Don't let your ego get in the way of an opportunity to change the life of one of your student-athletes. Is what you are about to do going to satisfy your ego, or is it going to help that kid be successful? An instructor at West Point once said, "give em what they need, not what they deserve."
There are some who would say this philosophy doesn't work. This is all kumbaya. That would be patently false. We coach our kids hard. We hold them accountable for every little detail. If we don't do something right, we do it again. But we try to do this without breaking them down. We work hard to coach with passion and enthusiasm each and every day. We bring energy and try to set that example for our kids. We don't sugarcoat things. We tell them the truth, but we do so with a twist about how it can change. We add that we believe in them. As John Wooden said, "a coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment." If you constantly break your kids down, they will play like they are broken down. More importantly, they will live their life broken down.
Here is the cool part... When we began to coach as transformational coaches nearly 20 years ago, we won more games. We were more consistent. Our kids believed in themselves. We had better leadership. We had trust between players and coaches and players and players. Our players could handle adversity. And, our kids learned values that have continued into adulthood. If you want to be champions on the field, you have to be willing to build champions off the field. You have to build culture of love and trust within your program.
The best part about this is that how we coach is a choice. How much we care is a choice. I make mistakes each day. Yesterday I said something to a kid I had to apologize for. I told him I shouldn't have said what I said and asked for his forgiveness. He responded that he forgave me. We hugged. He said, "thank you coach." I told him I loved him. He repeated it back. Our relationship is now strengthened because of it. He knows I care about him, and I modeled for him what you do when you make a mistake. Some would say that showed weakness. I would tell you that something like that shows great strength. That kid can now use that lesson when he is a husband or father and makes a mistake.
That is the real goal. What can we do to build young men that will be great husbands and fathers? What can we do to help them achieve more than they once thought possible What can we do to help them believe that they can overcome adversity they will face in life? And that all starts with the relationships you build.
I wrote two new iBooks that can help your program with X's and O's. The first is on Installing RPO's into any offense. Here is a link to the iBooks version: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1078061959. The ibooks version includes explanations, diagrams, and video clips on multiple RPO Concepts. It will give you a simple process for implementing them into your offense.
If you don't have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you can order the Amazon version for the Kindle. It has everything except the embedded video. You can order it here: http://www.amazon.com/Installing-Explosive-Concepts-Into-Offense-ebook/dp/B01B12YSCG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8Coach Vint has authored several books and instructional DVD's with Coaches Choice. His book 101 Pistol Option Plays is actually available now as a 2 volume interactive ibook for the iPad! It is similar to a traditional book, but it contains several hours of video as well!
Order Part 1 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 1- Traditional Option Concepts
Order Part 2 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 2- Spread Concepts