Coach the Species, not the Sport / by James Leath

“How does the team look this year?”

Years ago I ran into a former coach of mine who was entering his 27th year of coaching.

“I don’t know just yet,” the old coach replied.

“Well, you went pretty deep into the playoffs last year, so things are looking pretty good,” I offered.

He thought for a moment.

“Records are deceiving, buddy.” He went on, “I won’t really know how I did as a coach for 10, maybe 15 years. When those young men finish college, start a family, and are productive members of society, then I’ll know I did my part well.”

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I have never forgotten that conversation. As coaches, we get so caught up in current wins and losses and the drama of the season that we forget we are only one season of our student athlete’s lives. We get them for such a short time and at such an important time.

Last year I got a call from a student I coached 9 years ago who was in town and wanted to have breakfast with his old youth coach. It reminded me how special the title "coach" really is. When I was this man’s youth football coach, we lost one game in a span of two years. How do I know we were successful all those years ago? Because over breakfast we talked about his collegiate aspirations and his dreams to be an engineer. He tried to explain to me why I should be on Snapchat and I recommended some books he should read. We laughed and shared and poked fun at one another. Not one word was uttered about all those games we won.

Focus on coaching the species, not the sport.