Playing v Coaching

Thought this was a wonderful excerpt from the late Jim Valvano’s autobiography.
[Here’s Jimmy V’s bio.]
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When I switched from playing to coaching at Rutgers, it didn’t take more than a few losses to figure out the difference. Let’s get that one out of the way real fast. There is positively no comparison between being a player and a coach. The animals aren’t even in the same kingdom. Forget it.

Playing the game is easy. Playing is putting your sneakers on and answering intros and running and jumping and shouting and getting it on. If you play great, you feel great. If you win, you feel great. If you lose, you still feel great. Oh, you might put on a long face after a defeat, but if you’ve had a good game individually, it doesn’t bother you that much.

As a player, the way you play affects how you feel more than winning or losing. That’s why on a losing-team bus I’ve never insisted players show remorse and don’t talk. Don’t give me that silent, sad act.

Fans take the losses harder than players. I don’t care what anybody says; the player who goes for 40 big ones in a one-point loss and says he’s crushed — hey, take that outta here. And, even if you win big, the players who didn’t get into the game aren’t going to be happy, either.

As a coach, it’s a different mind-set. You can’t coach well and lose and still feel good. You win, you lose. The preparation in coaching is a hundredfold greater than in playing. I didn’t get nervous before I played. Playing was an absolute joy. Coaching was like giving birth. It’s labor, it’s work.

The thing is — unlike being a player — as a coach, that game is yours, win or lose, comedy or tragedy. It belongs to you. In that way, a coach is an artist. When you make a beautiful canvas, you’re proud. When you don’t, all the work and energy and effort is for naught. You’ve failed. You feel that failure deep inside your every bone.

Playing and coaching have so little to do with each other that it should come as no suprise how few players enjoy coaching when they’ve finished their active careers. They think they’ll like it because they want to stay “close to the game.” Then they find out it isn’t a game anymore.

It’s a total business at this level. On the one hand, it’s a discipline; on the other, it’s art. But it’s a discipline first, and a lot of people don’t like that: the hours in the tape room, the schmoozing with the media, the practices, the road trips, the X’s and O’s. What they see on TV is the nice suits and the guys in control; immediately they want to turn in their uniforms and move down to the business end of the pine.

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