From the Sidelines
By Keith Champion
A few years ago, I conducted a basketball camp near Nashville, Tennessee. I had a session with elementary students in the morning, high school girls in the afternoon, and high school boys at night. Before the first session started on Monday morning, a young, eight-year-old boy approached me by the edge of the bleachers. He sheepishly asked, “Are you the coach?” I replied that I was and he then stated, “You are going to have problems with me!”
I fought to hide my amusement with his comment and asked why he would say that. I envisioned this young boy as being a wild, undisciplined boy who would make my week stay in Tennessee a long one. He then looked at me with his big eyes and said, “You see coach, I don’t know this game.” I then chuckled at his reply and assured him that it was for that very reason we were having camp. He was a good camper and hopefully, knew more about the game by the end of the week.
That innocent revelation by the young boy has been with me ever since. It has been a reminder to me what coaching is all about. To be a coach, is to be a teacher. A teacher who has for his classroom the court, the mat, the field, the pool, or the track. A teacher who has to teach “the game” just as a math teacher must teach the understanding of a math problem. Many athletes can play, but it is the coach’s job to get him to understand the fundamentals, techniques, and strategies of the game in which they are participating.
Coaches, at all levels, should not get so caught up with their won-loss records that they forget about their responsibility as a teacher, and as a role model.
Often, in our competitive society, coaches can get caught up in having to always win to feel successful and forget the platform that they have to teach. Teaching players the particular skills associated with the sport, but also teaching character traits, such as teamwork, industriousness, integrity, etc. Teaching players how to have humility in victory, and graciousness in defeat. Teaching them principles that will take the athlete far beyond his/her athletic years. Teaching them life through example, as well as precept.
I have found that this should not be an impossible task because most athletes really do want to learn.
What most young athletes are looking for, are coaches who are role models. They are looking for coaches who practice what they preach and are enthused about what they do. They are looking for coaches who can look beyond the won-loss record and look for the never-ending opportunities to teach. They are looking for coaches who are willing to invest their lives in them.
Realizing there are many young athletes out there who “don’t know this game”, we, as coaches, should seize the opportunity to put on our teaching hats and get to work. Our young athletes are depending on it.
After 40 years of coaching, I thought about the awesome responsibility that goes along with calling yourself “Coach”. As a coach you will be a teacher and a role model, like it or not. Coaches should all take advantage of the important platform you have been given.
That’s the way I see it From the Sidelines.