Coaching: A Path With Heart

Why do I coach? The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi was famous for his belief in teaching fundamentals of the game. On the first day of training camp with a football in hand, Coach walked to the front of the room, took several seconds to look over his team in silence, held out the ball in front of him and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”  Coach Lombardi made this statement to remind his team that for them to be successful they must start with fundamentals.  The same holds true as we begin to intentionally develop the inner lives of our student-athletes through their sports experience.

The fundamentals begin with you and your Transformational Purpose of why you coach. To understand this question, you must take time, slow down and reflect on what really keeps you showing up to the students participating on your team and conversely, what might be getting in your way?  How much time do you take to reflect on what is truly important?  How are you molding the students you coach?  Are you only concerned with them becoming better athletes or are you being intentional about growing them into better people?  In the book A Path With Heart, author Jack Kornfield states:

 “We have become so busy with our daily affairs and thoughts that we have forgotten this essential art of taking time to converse with our heart.  When we ask it about our current path, we must look at the values we have chosen to live by.  Where do we put our time, our strength, our creativity, our love?  We must look at our life without sentimentality, exaggeration, or idealism.  Does what we are choosing reflect what we most deeply value?”

Reflecting on your highest held values and developing a clear Transformational Purpose for coaching will assist you in focusing first on the students you are entrusted with to grow and develop as human beings.  But writing it alone does not make it a reality.  You must be fully committed to it and personally own it.  Your Purpose should be one sentence, short, succinct, easy to memorize and self-explanatory.

“I coach to help boys and girls become men and women of empathy and integrity who will lead, be responsible and change the world for good.”  – Joe Ehrmann’s Transformational Purpose

After reflection and writing your Transformational Purpose, take time to reflect on why it is important to you personally.  Share with staff, students and parents your deeply held values and how your life led you to this purpose.  It takes courage to share yourself and be “real,” but it is the key to transformational coaching and mentoring students.  They want to know who you are.  Give students an opportunity to ask questions or share comments to help understand you and your purpose.  Purpose is why something exists; it’s the reason you coach and determines the lifelong impact you will or won’t make on every student’s life.

It takes courage and commitment to share your values and explain why they are important to you, and to your team. Ask your students to comment, ask questions and discuss your values.  It is important for them to understand each value, their importance to you and the value-based expectations you have for your students to enact these values on and off the field or court.

In the current win-at-all-costs sports culture, we too often forget our why and the way we are showing up to our students.  Kornfield states:

“If you have the privilege of being with a person who is aware at the time of his or her death, you find the questions such a person asks are very simple.  ‘Did I love well?’ ‘Did I live fully?’ ‘Did I learn to let go?’”

The reality is when you get to the end of your life and look back, you won’t be concerned with how many state championships or games you won, but you will be concerned with the depth of your relationships and how you impacted the young people you had the privilege to coach.

Love them well—the students you coach are in desperate need of love, acceptance and belonging.

Live life fully—they need you to show them how to be real, authentic and joyful.

Let go—of old coaching paradigms to help them live, play and grow without negativity and judgment.

Take time to search your heart and reflect on these questions— ‘Did I love well?’ ‘Did I live fully?’ ‘Did I learn to let go?’ and you will coach with heart which will positively impact both you and your students for a lifetime.