Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

The Most Important Poster in Coaching

Some of you may be familiar with the phrase “Be Consistent” if you’ve taken USAV’s IMPACT course. This philosophy stems from a conversation I had with Head Coach Marv Dunphy on a flight back from the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Marv had just led the U.S. Men’s Team to a second Olympic gold medal. During our conversation, I asked Marv about his BYU thesis on legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden and what he learned from him that should be in the IMPACT manual I was writing. Marv’s response was simple yet profound: “Be consistent.” He emphasized how Coach Wooden treated everyone fairly but not equally and how he never bruised the dignity of the disciplined player. Coach Wooden’s consistency allowed his players to rely on him.

In my office, I have a poster that holds great significance to me. It’s from John Wooden’s book “They Call Me Coach” published in 1972. The poster showcases Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. His thoughts on coaching and success are timeless: “Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

After every game, Coach Wooden would ask his players if they did their best. If they had, he would tell them to take a shower. If not, they were encouraged to reflect on what they could work on in the next practice before heading to the showers.

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I have carried this poster with me in my briefcase for decades. It serves as a constant reminder of the principles and values Coach Wooden embodied.

If you’re interested in becoming a better coach, I recommend checking out the Calls for Coaches: Coaching Social & Emotional Skills in Youth Sports released by the Aspen Institute’s Project Play. This resource offers valuable insights and strategies for coaches to develop resilience, grit, empathy, problem-solving skills, and teamwork in young athletes. It emphasizes the importance of being a transformational leader, knowing your purpose as a coach, embracing mistakes as opportunities for growth, and fostering a love for the game and learning.

During the Calls for Coaches livestream, two key points stood out to me. Firstly, the impact of mental injuries caused by external factors outside of practice cannot be ignored. Secondly, the influence of the “social media scoreboard” on kids, which can lead to anxiety and stress.

The Calls for Coaches include the following principles: knowing each athlete’s story, establishing a supportive team culture, celebrating effort, focusing on essential skills, being a role model, embracing coachability, and collaborating with others. It was inspiring to hear young athletes express their desire for coaches to see them beyond their role as players and to coach with compassion.

Every speaker had to share the biggest impact their most influential coach had on them. One cross-country coach made a powerful statement: a coach should never single out an athlete with the question, “What did YOU do wrong?” Instead, coaches should engage in a collaborative discussion with their athletes, addressing the issue together.

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I also recommend watching a thought-provoking video titled “Making the Modern Athlete”. In this conversation, David Epstein, the author of “Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World,” and Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Talking to Strangers,” discuss unstructured play and player development. The insights shared in this conversation can provide valuable perspectives on holistic athlete development.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the topics discussed above and how we can collectively become better teachers of sports.