Coaching It Forward

Maya Angelou once said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did,
they will remember how you made them feel.” I remember the bliss I felt the day my college
coach taught me an invaluable lesson; if you want to learn how to do anything well in life, teach
it. Although I have forgotten a lot in the 20 years since that encounter, I remember these things
because they are behind my passion for coaching.
Great coaches represent themselves first as genuine humanitarians, they seek to better the
lives of others and second as developers of competitors. They always find a way to effectively
communicate a positive perspective. They go beyond training the mind and body; they
influence the soul.
Exceptional coaches teach more than how to be nimble and execute plays. They form the
cornerstone of their player’s personal belief systems. Some use passionate words of
encouragement. Others use a style that makes you stretch your mind by using an
uncomfortable in-your- face approach. My experience with the latter type of coach taught me to
concentrate on the content of the coach’s message rather than the tone.
Here are 10 qualities I believe all highly effective coaches share:
1. Make players feel good about themselves.
2. Show empathy.
3. Congratulate publicly, critique privately.
4. Listen to players (EVERYONE can get better here).
5. Explain mistakes when they happen.
6. Stretch player’s minds to develop character (grit, passion, confidence, etc.).
7. Take personal responsibility and hold players accountable for their actions.
8. Routinely find new ways to help players improve.
9. Treat everyone fairly but not the same.
10. Expect excellence from themselves and others at every performance.
The impact my little league football coaches had on me is unforgettable and I recall those
feelings to this day. Coach Bubba called me “Flutie” because I could throw the football far like
the NFL star. Coach Big O taught me how to be “nice-ty” by playing with an edge on the field
and being a gentleman off the field. These coaches always brightened my day and left me
feeling empowered. In my book, they are perfect examples of exceptional coaches.
Now in my own 5 th Quarter, which is coaching basketball, my number one priority is to impart
wisdom to my players. Every lesson I teach is meant to evoke positive feelings and actions
from my players. I make it my daily mission to reach at least one player so they may experience
the same powerful feelings I did as a young athlete. As I always remind my players,
“Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. But as long as you pay it forward you never