There is a reason why we at My Football Mentor say “no egos allowed” and “it’s all about the kids”. That’s because any sport at the high school or youth level should be about the kids that participate in the sport…period! Coaches are simply teachers of that sport. All the great coaches understand how to teach. I do not feel that a large ego is something that is beneficial in the sport of football, particularly relative to coaches. After all, what is it that we as coaches preach to players? “Football is not a me sport, it’s a we sport”. From that standpoint, a coach that preaches this to his kids but fails to put his ego aside for the good of a player or the team creates an environment that can be counter productive.
Have you ever heard a coach screaming at a player to “catch the ball” following a play where that player drops a pass or “hold on to the ball” after a player fumbles? This is not an effective method of coaching as it teaches the player nothing. In actuality, it can be counter productive in that it will create stress for the player and make that player even more apprehensive the next time a pass is thrown his way or the next time he carries the football.
The appropriate way to engage a player who drops a pass or fumbles a ball would be to ask the player if he knows why he dropped the pass or fumbled the ball. If the player can not give a reasonable explanation as to why the error occurred, it is the sole responsibility of the coach to explain why. Here is an example:
“Son, let me tell you why you dropped that pass. The ball was thrown low and away from you and you attempted to make the catch with your thumbs and index fingers together which caused you to reach for the ball with your hands above the ball and not below it. If the ball is thrown low and away from you, you need to make sure you have your pinkies together and you get your hands under the ball, scooping it so that your forearms are in a position to cradle the ball if you miss-handle it”. This would be an example of a teaching moment and coaching on the fly. The player will have learned from the experience and be better prepared to perform the catch the proper way the next time a ball is thrown to him.
Another important “non-egotistical” characteristic of a good coach is one who will adapt to his personnel. In high school, as well as youth football, the personnel of a team can change every year. Coaches do not have the ability to hand-pick their talent such as in college and at the professional level. Due to this fact it is extremely important that a coach has the ability to adapt year in and year out to the personnel he has. It is very difficult to be successful year in and year out if a coach tries to fit the personnel to his system and not the other way around. Good coaches understand that a system needs to fit the available personnel. Does this mean that a system needs to completely change? No, but the coach needs to be able to tweak his system so that it takes advantage of the strengths of certain players. Good coaches understand the principle of putting players in the best position to succeed. This applies on a play by play basis just as it should on a season by season basis.
To summarize, I can’t emphasize enough that to be an effective coach you must be an effective teacher. Shouting “catch the ball” as a non-specific generalization is egotistical and non-productive. It does not teach the player anything and gives the impression that the coach has his own best interest in mind and not the players’. As well, running a system that does not take advantage of the strengths of personnel is also egotistical and gives the impression that it’s about the coach and his system and not in the best interest of the team and the personnel on that team.
A coach that understands how to be a teacher as well as how to adapt can have a group of kids that will play hard for him as they know that the coach cares about the success of each individual player and the team overall.
Coach Van Tassel