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October 25, 2012

Tim Kolodziej: A coach’s true impact is not found in the standings

NEW CASTLE — It’s over.

Well, it’s almost over.

For many of you competing in fall sports, the end has come or it will arrive soon.

Seniors, what will you remember about your careers?

Better yet, what will you remember about your coach?

My guess is most of us who have ever slid on a whistle, held a clipboard or diagrammed a play have understood the responsibility that comes with the position.

We get it.

Just win, baby.

Right?

That’s what coaches are paid to do, isn’t it?

Section titles. WPIAL titles. State titles.

How many times have we heard the Bill Parcells quote, “You are what your record says you are.”

Don’t believe it.

Think about it. Game time is a very small part of playing or coaching. For every hour you spend competing against an opponent, chances are you’ve toiled at least three times that amount in preparation — probably more.

Sure, winning is important or else we wouldn’t keep score, but we can’t get too caught up in the bright lights.

Most of your success, most of the seeds you plant and lessons you teach, will occur off the field or off the court.

Coaches, your greatest impact will be felt ...

•In the weight room

•During one-on-one talks in your office

•While washing cars or selling hoagies to raise funds for your team

•During the endless repetition of plays at practice

•While waiting with one of your kids, in the freezing cold or rain, until his parents come to pick him up

•Driving him home because his parents never came

•Stopping at a restaurant for a team meal following a game

•By the coaching cues you constantly use as memory tools: “start small, grow tall” ... “stay low, play low” ... “drop your hips, not your head”

•During the impromptu “Dougie” contest in the locker room ... when you jump in and get your freak on

•On a quiet bus ride home after a loss

•On your visit to the funeral home when a player’s grandmother dies

•In the midst of a phone call to encourage one of your kids who didn’t get accepted to the college she dreamed of attending

•During your pre-game speeches to fire up your squad

•During your post-game talks when your voice is so hoarse you can barely speak

•During your “exit interview” following the season

That’s what your players are going to remember most about you.

So, Coach, how are you handling your business in those areas?

I’ve often heard John Wooden’s advice to those entrusted to lead young athletes: “Always coach as if it’s your last game.”

You’ll get no argument from me. I’m on board with that all the way.

But just for this week, let me flip that sentiment around. What if this week you chose to coach as if it’s THEIR last game.

Because for some of your kids, it will be.

What do you want to be their lasting memory of you? What parts of you will they take with them?

Coaches, you won’t fully know the impact you’ve had on your kids until maybe 10, 15 or 20 years down the line.

But you will. Because they’ll tell you.

And at that precise moment, you’ll know whether or not you were — and are — a winner.

No matter what your record says today.

 

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