If You Lead, They Will Follow
In a culture as totally encompassing as sports, teams take on the personality and values of their coach. This is true for younger players all the way up through the professional ranks. Coaches make demands, set rules and make decisions based upon his own value system. To be a truly effective leader, the coach has to live those values. Players look up to and want to emulate their coach, especially with younger players. When you accept a coaching job, even at a youth level though to a lesser extent, you decide to accept a lifestyle. Regardless of what else you do, to your players, you will always be “Coach.” Whether you see your players in practice, at the supermarket or in a restaurant, you will be “Coach” first, and whoever you really are second. Your actions must reflect that.
Your players will do what you do. Use questionable language in practice, so will they. If you dress inappropriately, so will they. Be late for appointments with them, so will they. Your players, especially at the younger levels, will emulate the way you carry yourself. For that reason, coaching has become a lifestyle.
Create a Persona You Can Live With
Being a leader of young lives is an awesome responsibility. You have a right to lead your life the way you want to but you have to understand the effect you have on others. You have to find a way in your personal life where you can enjoy and grow your life and yet be a person that players will want to look up to. You have to be a person parents will want to entrust their kids to. You have to make sacrifices.
I know great coaches, great teachers, great leaders who have lost their jobs because they were seen in a strip club. I know others who are out of coaching, not due to wins and losses, but due to DUIs. After all, would you entrust your child to someone who doesn’t exercise enough judgment not to drive when he has been drinking? Once you decide to coach, you affect not only your life but the lives of others as well. You must create a coaching persona that you would be comfortable living with but it also must be someone you would be comfortable having your child play for.
However, that coaching persona cannot be different than the person that you really are. Players can tell when you are faking, they can tell when you are not being genuine. In addition, if you are not real, you can’t keep it up all the time. Coaching adults is a little different; they can figure out that there is a coach in their coaching role and a coach in a personal role.
But, if you decide to coach younger players, high school, youth, etc., those kids have a more difficult time with that. You have to remember, at that level, you are always a role model. Standing in front of a player in the supermarket is the same as standing in front of a player in practice. Remember back to when you were in 5th, 6th, 7th grade. If you saw a teacher outside of school and that teacher acted differently than you expected, you looked at him differently when you went to school the next day. The same is true, even more so, as a coach.
I am not saying that you have to change who you are. Nor am I saying that you have to live your life according to your players’ expectations. I am saying that is part of your consideration when making your decision as to whether to become a coach or not, the role model factor has to figure in. If you wish to be a coach, you have to be willing to bear that responsibility.