By Marc Jensen
Every coach wants players believing in the team-first mentality. It’s a philosophy that should bring success. Perhaps, however, coaches should/must take care of a few things in advance to allow for full devotion to the team at the appropriate time. By nature, coaches are committed to building success, but perhaps they need to be reminded of areas to focus on before focusing on the team, such as their spouse, health and family.
Coaches have a tremendous opportunity at hand. Collectively, they interact with thousands upon thousands of young people. Through the heat of battle, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, coaches share precious time with their teams. They teach valuable lessons, make game plans and share incredible moments. Sometimes they win; sometimes they lose. However, through all these moments, coaches may have overlooked some aspects that should not be forgotten.
Many coaches burn out too soon. They are encouraged to step down because of other areas of life that have not received proper attention.
Following are some aspects of our lives that, if left unattended, could one day cause frustration. Coaches are the best examples of team above all – but to what team? That is left to you.
*Forgotten Priority No. 1 – Your Spouse
*Forgotten Priority No. 2 – Your Physical health
*Forgotten Priority No. 3 – Needs of Your Family
Last year, legendary coach John Wooden passed away on a quiet summer’s day. He was just short of his 100 birthday. He took with him numerous awards. Who could forget his remarkable run of NCAA National Basketball Championships? He penned several books, had awards named after him and was a highly sought-after guest speaker.
One event that will always remind us of his greatness is found on the famed court at Pauley Pavilion on the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles. The court will forever be named after him. How many thousands of people will see his name as they are watching the Bruins play?
In a powerful, impactful and teaching-moment way that only the greats can do, Coach Wooden respectfully asked that if the court was going to be named after him, it should also include the person who meant more to him than anyone else. He wanted to share the honor with his sweetheart, Nellie. This is a man who accomplished great things. Could this be the greatest lesson he ever taught? Despite numerous opportunities to be honored, he always wanted to remember and express his appreciation for his spouse. She was his equal in all aspects. In many ways, she was his superior.
At a recent basketball conference, a successful high school coach was speaking. His message was very clear – “do not forget your spouse.” This particular coach had won many district and region championships. His record was impressive to say the least. But then, in a moment not forgotten by many, he paused and shared that through this terrific run of high school basketball championships, his marriage relationship had suffered and ended in divorce. Regarded by many as the ultimate competitor and champion, he shared that no victories on the court will ever take the place of victories at home. No banner was worth losing his marriage. Humbly, the coach asked a rhetorical question: “Have you taken the time to build your relationship?”
Involve your spouse in ways he or she feels comfortable, needed and wanted. Allow your spouse to share victories, but don’t blame him or her for your setbacks. We often teach of the team-first mentality. Long after coaches hang up the whistle, they are given opportunities of long-lasting relationships.
Sometimes, it seems society is heading in the other direction, but we need only to watch a game at Pauley Pavilion to be reminded of the importance of our better half. Perhaps Coach Wooden’s greatest lesson he ever delivered is that on top of his pyramid to success – the relationship he had with his spouse. Coach Wooden said "Her love, faith and loyalty through all our years together are primarily responsible for what I am."*
Two of the past five national championship football teams have come from the University of Florida under the direction of Coach Urban Meyer. Many coaches can only dream of winning at that level, yet he has chosen to walk away from that opportunity. Whether the move is permanent or not remains to be seen.
Why would he walk away? He said in an interview that he needed to take care of some health issues. He was very passionate about his profession, but he said that after 20 years of taking care of others, it was time to take care of himself.
Coaches know about the hours they put in. They are the first to arrive and the last to leave. Months upon months, they are dedicated and committed – often at little or no monetary compensation. The passion for the youth and the game is their compensation. If you don’t take care of the car, you can’t win the Daytona 500. You know it. You spend hours each week preparing your team for competition. You give and give and give.
Without taking anything away from your desire to be successful, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Coaches talk to their teams about getting proper rest, getting a physical exam, eating nutritional meals and having balanced lives. Do you perhaps need to look in the mirror the next time you give that speech?
All coaches are in different family situations. They may be single, married, with or without kids. They are all striving to build championship athletic programs and teams, but do the duties and responsibilities at home get the necessary attention? Do they get not only your time, but your preparation, focus and concern? Does the family get put on hold for football season, and the does the season really ever end?
Andy Reid, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, commented on his son who was having legal problems. He said that even a coach in the National Football League needs to be reminded to focus on teaching and helping those members of our family.
Schools, churches, social departments and educational groups often stress the importance of focusing on the family. Coaches should be no different. Each person in your family desires to love and be loved.
Are you pulling your fair share? Do the teams that you coach know about your appreciation for your spouse and family through words, time and action? Do these teams know that by taking care of your health, you are allowing the team to become better?
The world needs more coaches – those who will teach and train athletes to be successful in battle and then take those skills to become tomorrow’s leaders. Society thanks you for your efforts.
Remember, however, that successful coaches have to have balance. Don’t be so far removed from relationships with your spouse and family that you are actually getting diminished returns. Focus on your family. Lift them up and allow them to lift you up. Together, you can rise higher than you thought.
Remember your health. You can’t give and give and give and give unless the tank gets refueled. Forgetting to take care of yourself will disqualify you from giving one day. Sometimes, it takes just a little re-focus on some priorities. Let us remember to not forget.
*Source: John Wooden. They Call Me Coach. 2003. pg. 3.
About the Author:
Marc Jensen is basketball and soccer coach at Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah. He has coached high school sports for 13 years.