This past week a former player that I coached in high school stopped by my school to visit me. He is currently coaching a college club team, playing professionally in Europe, and starting his own youth basketball business offering individual workouts and camps. It was great to catch up with him. We talked about what he was doing now and what he had planned for the future. I offered to help him in any way that I could and he did the same for me. Talks like these are among the most gratifying moments of any coach’s career. One of the biggest disappointments of my own college playing days was the perception that my coach didn’t really want to build a relationship with me or any of my teammates outside of the coach-player relationship on the court. To me, the ability to build those off-court relationships with players is what makes a coach special. Those coaches are the ones players remember because they have an impact on more than just basketball. Those coaches influence the lives of their players in ways that may go unrecognized for many years.
Have you ever asked a coach, “How did your team do this season?” and not have them respond with the team’s won-loss record? I doubt it. Maybe if the won-loss record was poor they might say, “Well, we really improved over the course of the season.” But really, won-loss record is how we judge a coach’s success. Is that fair? Is won-loss record the most important thing? Sure, it’s important! We all want to win. Great coaches do a lot of winning. But it isn’t the only thing. There is something more to coaching than just the bottom line.
What if a coach responded to “How did your team do this season?” by saying, “I’m not sure yet. In 15 or 20 years let me see how many former players come back to visit me and share their accomplishments. I’ll judge my team’s success by how many of my players have turned into productive members of society.” How would you react to that answer? Personally, I would say, “Wow! This coach gets it.” Because Isn’t producing successful people ultimately the most important impact a coach can make? Impacting players’ lives outside the game in a positive way?
I have had the good fortune of coaching many skilled and talented players over the past twenty five years as a high school coach, basketball camp director, and individual skills trainer. Teams that I have coached have won a lot of games and competed for championships. I’ve also coached many teams with losing records on the scoreboard. I’ve done plenty of winning but what I am most proud of in my coaching career is the former players that are still in touch with me. A huge percentage of our camp staff at Head Start Basketball in any given year is made up of coaches that previously attended our camps. Players wanting to come back and be a part of the camp again as coach helps validate what I do every day. That to me is success.
Coaches, I would love to hear from you regarding ways you impact players off the court and help them become better people in the long run.
Parents, make sure you judge a coach on more than just wins, losses, and basketball acumen. Are they improving your child’s life in ways that go beyond the basketball court?
Players, reach out to a former coach and let them know the impact they had on your life. Your old coach will be more grateful than you will ever know!!
During the chat with my former player last week you know the one thing we didn’t talk about? Our won-loss record.
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