What is a Players’ Coach?

March 29, 2008

I’ve heard that phrase for years and I’m still trying to figure out what it means. Does a “players’ coach” let them get away with more? Are mistakes tolerated more because he or she is trying so hard to be their buddy?

I don’t think it’s the coach’s role to be loved by the players. That comes with time. They’ve got a job to do. Respect is the key.

Athletes can be like kids, they’ll try to get away with as much as they can, or as little as they can, if you let them. It’s most important is that the coach be fair, honest, considerate, and consistent. You show me a coach with those qualities and I’ll show you a coach who cares even if he isn’t called a “players’ coach”.


Character is as Character Does

March 27, 2008

You can talk about drafting “character guys in the NFL” all you want, but the bottom line is doing whatever it takes to win as Chris Sanders said in his post.

The Tennessee Titans rolled the dice when they drafted cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones out of West Virginia with the 6th pick in the 2005 NFL draft even though he’d already been involved in a number of off the field issues in college and was labeled a questionable pick.  I talked to one of their top team officials who said they’d investigated Pacman’s background more than any other player before making the pick.

Oh really?

They wanted and needed his talent at that position and were willing to close their eyes to potential danger signs. Besides, I’ll bet they also thought they could teach and/or force him toe the line.  But it didn’t work, and they’ve been embarrassed as an organization as a result.

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay. Winning at all cost can blur the lines of rational thinking. Coaches do it everyday when they’re dealing with star players who might win “the big one” for them.

Character Counts But It’s Not Adding Up In the NFL

March 25, 2008

This is the time of the year when we hear people talk about the NFL draft with phrases like “character counts” or “Our organization only picks guys with character.”

Come on, give a break.

A lot of those statements are just idle words and chit chat. The real question is this: Does character only count when a player is helping you win a Super Bowl or is it the way he conducts himself off the field? If teams really cared about character they would be asking the question, “Can I count on you to win in life and on the field?”

If a team’s primary objective is to win on the field, then character doesn’t really count and all the talk about a player’s character is just a whole bunch of words adding up to nothing.

Conclusion: Character doesn’t count in the NFL.

Winning is Easy, But I’m Watching The Losers

March 24, 2008

Belmont basketballI’ve done a lot of interviews in my career and been in a lot of post game press conferences. Winning is easy. Ask any question and the coach and the players will ramble on, but let them lose, and especially a heartbreaker and you’ll really get a chance to see character first hand.

In the opening round of the NCAA tournament, the Belmont Bruins, a 15th seed, lost by one point to 2nd seeded Duke. The back breaker was an errant pass by Belmont in the final seconds that was intercepted changing the game from potential victory to defeat in seconds, but the post game press conference was eye opening.

The head coach Rick Byrd spoke with calm measured words. The same character and self control that he displays on the sidelines in a game. Obviously disappointed, but not sulking or whining. A classy display, but even more impressive was Alex Renfro, the player threw the pass, who despite being heartbroken, spoke with the same dignity as his coach. He spoke from the heart…candid, but yet compassionate. Not full of clichés like you so often get in those circumstances. He even forced himself to smile then he talked about having to appreciate how far the team had come.

Players often reflect their coaches in their demeanor and their conversation. If a coach is uptight and guarded, the players will be as well, because they know he’s listening and judging their words. It’s refreshing when you hear and see a player and a coach who are as open and honest, with character, in defeat as they are in victory.

And the coach is the one who sets that tone.

Passion Isn’t Enough In Coaching

March 22, 2008

I was talking to a highly successful and long time former college football coach “Boots” Donnelly from Middle Tennessee State University the other day. He told me that it wasn’t enough for a coach to simply have passion for his job. He also had to be smart enough to do the job.

He told me about an energetic, passionate high school coach that he knew who had one of the fastest runners in the state on his team. Nobody could touch him, but when Boots went to visit the practice he saw that the kid was playing in the line at right guard.

So Boots said, “Coach, he’s the fastest guy in the state. Nobody can touch him, and you’ve got him at guard?”

The coach replied, “Yeah, that’s right. You ought to see him pull out to block.”

Boots remarked, “Well pull him out of the line, put him in the backfield, and don’t ever move him again.”

Passion isn’t enough. You also have to be smart enough to coach.

What’s Your Motivation?

March 20, 2008

I recently saw a story on Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. He made the following statement: “Winning a basketball game is not as important as helping someone, it only motivates me to want to win again.”

If you’re a coach, what’s your motivation?

Tough Lessons for Pampered Athletes?

March 19, 2008

Billy Donovan with team in practice

I saw where Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan banned his players from the plush basketball facilities at the university and told them, in essence, that they had gotten the “big head” after winning two straight National championships and hadn’t put out the effort needed to be winners. He said they took life and their privileges for granted.

I like that, just the way I liked it when Middle Tennessee State University basketball coach Kermit Davis did about the same thing to his players earlier this season. He locked his team out of their pampered locker rooms for not playing with any effort. They were forced to change in and old equipment room that had no hangers, no lockers, and no plasma TV on the wall. They changed on chairs that they found in other rooms, and put their clothes in big trash bags, and did it for at least a week. The players I talked too said it really got their attention. They realized how fortunate they were to have their entire schooling paid for by scholarships and all the frills that go with that.

What do you know? They woke up and overachieved the rest of the season.

Nobody wants to play for a coach that degrades players, but a good coach will have the courage to teach tough life skills in the midst of adversity because he knows it’s for the good of his players, not just today, but for the rest of their lives.