Most of all, we want to teach them the value of loyalty, integrity, and teamwork. Once you know how to work with people, you can accomplish anything.”
Now of course, Holtz was a college coach for most of his career; however, the basic principals he talks about when discussing the role of the athletic coach can be applied to high school sports as well.
I think you’d agree with me when I say that many of America’s greatest coaches are not only committed to teaching their players how to excel on the field, but in life as well.
When it comes to high school sports, the basic function of the coach is to educate students through participation in education-based competition, and the interscholastic program should be designed to improve academic success and should not interfere with opportunities for academic accomplishments.
As part of the National Federation of State High School Associations’ Coaches Code of Ethics, the coach shall be aware that he or she has a tremendous influence, for either good or ill, on the education of the student and, thus, shall never place the value of winning above the value of instilling the highest ideals of character.
I believe this statement speaks volumes in that it tells us that above all else, at the end of the day, the coach should set an example of the highest ethical and moral conduct as he or she has such a powerful influence on players’ lives.
In addition, research indicates that developing player life skills and character does not have to come at the expense of your program’s success.
In fact, a study of award-winning high school football coaches indicates that character erodes when programs focus on winning. Although the coaches in this study won more than 75 percent of their games (as a group) and placed great value on on-the-field success, they did not implement a “win at all cost” approach.
Instead, helping develop their players as people was one of their most highly valued coaching goals. (Source: University of North Carolina Greensboro; Dr. Karen Collins, PhD & Yongchul Chung, MS)
I’d like to point out that as high school coaches, we are certainly allowed to emphasize the success of our programs; however, we must be committed to helping our players develop life skills as only a handful of our young adults will move on to play collegiate or professional sports.
By embracing a philosophy and sticking to it, building and nurturing relationships with our players as both athletes and people and providing clear expectations and sticking to those expectations, we will teach our players the value of being held accountable and so much more.
Our student-athletes will not automatically gain valuable life skills such as this from simply participating in athletics.
We must teach these skills and repeatedly emphasize them so that our players will be able to carry the characteristics they’ve learned while under our direction to the many off-the-field endeavors they will encounter along life’s journey.