The Right Coach


Joe Cunningham, III

In teaching, you get asked to do a lot of things and you get to volunteer to do a lot of things. Here recently, I was asked if I wanted to help with my school’s basketball team. Given how much I like a lot of the kids on both the high school and middle school boys teams and, given how much I enjoy spending time with the coaches of those teams, I jumped at the opportunity.

The reason I enjoy hanging out with the coaches at my school is because there is something you can learn watching how different coaches approach the sport they are involved in. I’ve seen a lot of coaches both through various jobs in journalism and my job as a teacher. The best coaches, inevitably, are the ones who do three things and do them sometimes at the expense of victory.

The first thing every good coach does is establish a relationship with a player that goes beyond just being a coach. He or she is involved with your education, making sure you are focusing on your grades and communicating with both your parents and your teachers when there is a problem. They are as much a teacher as a coach, making sure you are getting the important things done before you step onto the court. If a player isn’t taking care of his grades, a good coach won’t try to get the grade fixed, but will keep them off the court in order to motivate them.

A good coach isn’t just a player’s coach when it comes to a sport, but when it comes to life. Teaching the kids not just how to shoot a basketball or carry a football down the field isn’t enough. They also teach life skills. One of the most interesting things about my school’s team is that all the kids are talented, but none of them are the type of person whose attitude stinks but you keep around because they are so good.

I’ve worked with several of our school’s athletes in studying for tests, editing papers, and just giving them a place to work quietly after school, and in interacting with them, it’s very obvious each of them is determined to succeed outside of the court or field. This is a testament to the coaching staff we have at our school, as well as schools across the state.

The final thing that good coaches do is make sacrifices when the situation calls for it. If an athlete has a poor grade or a bad attitude, then a good coach will bench them no matter how good they are. It could lead to a loss if you have to bench your best player, but this makes it clear to athletes that being good at sports can be a temporary part of life, but being a successful person can last a lifetime. The right coaching is focused entirely on making a kid a better person.

If a coach does all of this, then the final product (whether it’s a season of wins or losses) will be kids who are prepared to handle life, not just handle a ball.