by Coach Czes (as appeared in TimeOut Magazine’s Winter 2012 Issue (http://bit.ly/GAVelt)
The word, “character,” has been at the forefront of many news reports lately, in light of recent allegations of criminal misconduct at two prestigious universities that have altered the perception of the coaching profession in the mainstream media. As the investigations unfold, we can only hope that the justice system will prevail, that those whose lives have been affected can find peace, and that our society gains awareness and safety measures that make our world a safer place.
Now, more than ever, the character of a coach will be closely scrutinized in hiring practices as well as in the media. Coaches at all levels are viewed as role models, influencers, and guiding lights that help shape the lives of our youth. This is a responsibility that should never be taken lightly.
Few professions allow you to have an impact on the lives of people who need you as much as ours does and that goes for any coach, anywhere. It isn’t just about the game. Kids who participate in athletics need coaches who care about them and are willing to take things seriously and work hard to help them improve in that sport and in life. Think about your own experiences and how much your former coaches mean to you.
I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be a coach. Every time I see a player in the hallway, receive an e-mail or call from a former player, or get the chance to be around other coaches, I am energized and grateful that this profession exists for me to be a part of. Those of you who coach at any level should be proud of what you are doing and make the most of your particular situation. It doesn’t matter if you are the head coach at a Division I program or are coaching a 5-year old T-ball team, what matters is that you get a chance to make a difference in the lives of those around you. The difference you can make will be significant and permanent and will all depend on what you choose to put into it.
The character displayed by a coach both on and off the court is the most important thing players, referees, parents, fans, and administrators take away from their encounters with them. Coaches are chosen to help shape the lives of the young people we are trusted to be with, and high character, above all else, is what we should impart on them.
These four rules for outstanding character were passed on to me by my favorite coach, my father. They were reinforced at every turn by my wonderful mother, and I have tried to follow their lead in my life and adhere to these rules at all times. The older I get and the longer I coach, the more important I realize these rules are. I have been fortunate in my life to have two incredible parents and a multitude of excellent coaches and mentors who have shaped who I am today. I remain fortunate, as I continue to learn from those coaches, my parents, my wife and son, an amazing group of close friends, and my players.
My father’s rules:
Rule #1: Be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there.
Rule #2: Always operate as a team player.
Rule #3: Take responsibility for your actions.
Rule #4: Never worry alone.
Remember that the relationships you build with your players will be permanent, for better or worse. If you are a coach, be there for your players (past and present) and if you played for someone who has had an impact on your life, take the time to thank them!
Remember that all of the hard work you put in and time you spend away from your family is appreciated, whether it is stated or not, and is making a difference.
Remember that there are those who will never know what it feels like to impact someone’s life significantly, and you get a chance to do so every day.
What you choose to do with that power shapes the legacy you will leave.