speech to high school coaches
February 5, 1993, Hershey, Pennsylvania
What is a coach? We are teachers. Educators. We have the same obligations as all teachers, except we probably have more influence over young people than anybody but their families. And, in a lot of cases, more than their families.
To teach an academic subject is certainly not easy, but compared to coaching, it is. We can say two plus two is four to every kid and be sure that we are right. But in coaching, we have to literally get to the soul of the people we are dealing with.
We have to work with emotion, commitment, discipline, loyalty, pride.
The things that make the difference in a person’s life.
They look to us for examples. A boy wants to be a man. But he doesn’t know what a man is. They look to us for poise. Everybody doesn’t get a fair shake in life. They look to us for values. You must relate athletic experiences to life. You are role models.
They look to us for consistency. We have to realize a kid will love us one day and hate us the next. That cannot change who we are and what we are about. We are there to help them reach for excellence . . . and not just win games.
We have to be understanding but tough. Firm. Real firmness is always helpful. Bill Clinton said, “I feel for you.” Vince Lombardi said, “The pain is in your head.”
Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote about the difference beween excellence and success. He wrote:
“Many people, particularly in sports, believe that success and excellence are the same. They are not. No distinction in the realm of games is more important. Success is tricky, perishable, and often outside our control. On the other hand, excellence is dependable, lasting, and largely within our control. Let me emphasize at once that nobody is all one way or another. The desire for success and love of excellence coexist in all of us. The question is: Where does the balance lie? In a pinch, what guides us?”
I think we all have to ask ourselves that question. In a pinch, what guides us—success or excellence? Which will give us shelter when the storm clouds gather?
A01: Joe Posnanski
Bio: Joe Posnanski is a senior writer at the new USA TODAY venture Sports On Earth. Previously, he was a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and wrote about sports for the Kansas City Star for sixteen years. In 2011 he was named National Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame. He is the author of four books, including The Soul of Baseball, the 2007 winner of the Casey Award as America’s best baseball book. He lives with his family in Charlotte, North Carolina.