The Turnaround – Definition of a Coach

gamestrat high school football sideline instant replay

by Jason Strunk
Lubbock High School Head Football Coach
Follow @WestTXCoach

Jason Strunk in action on the sideline. Reprinted courtesy of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Jason Strunk in action on the sideline.
Reprinted courtesy of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

When you get into this profession, as a young kid out of college, you do not think of everything that truly encompasses the title of coach. There is more to this gig than blowing a whistle and drawing up some plays.

I took a lot of classes in the education field. I’m sure they helped me become an effective teacher. However, it wasn’t until I was in the classroom and on the field when I realized I have a lot to learn about teaching and coaching.

In all of my college courses, I never heard anyone say “Hey, you are going to be a father figure to some kids, so get used to it”. Of course, I was an athlete and I understand the coach-player dynamic. What I’m getting at is this: you can never receive enough training to fully understand what it means to be a coach.

A coach to me is a guy that lays it all on the line for his kids. You have to be willing to go the extra mile. What I have learned in almost twenty-years of service is that you may be the only positive influence in a player’s life. Think about that for a minute. YOU are the only positive influence in a player’s life. YOU, the coach. That’s it! Nobody told me that in college!

I quickly learned how important my role is as a coach as I grew up through the profession. You wear many hats, some of which you never would have fathomed you would be wearing.

Here are some things (hats) you need to keep in mind when you become a coach:

Psychologist – Sometimes you are the only one who can guide a player through tough times at home and in school. You actually become their brain and guide them through the right decision making processes.

Chauffeur – I cannot count how many times I’ve had to give a player a ride home after practice. No parents to pick them up. It’s a sobering dynamic.

Dad – A lot of players do not have a dad at home. There are many instances where you are the only positive male figure in a player’s life. That is some heavy stuff. You didn’t learn that in college, did you?

Counselor – Have you ever wondered why a player isn’t performing at practice one day? I have. Sometimes the answer I get is, “My girlfriend broke up with me.” In that instant you become a counselor, coaxing the player to finish strong at practice. You need to be able to switch gears from coach to counselor in a hurry.

The Jack of All Trades – In this dynamic, you have a player who wants to buy a car but doesn’t understand interest rates. You also have a player who has to bring his siblings to practice because he is babysitting. Oh, you also have a player who doesn’t know how to tie a tie for his award program after practice.

So you teach some interest rate math to one player, while you are keeping an eye on the other players brothers and sisters. After practice you find yourself tying a tie for a player. You are the most interesting man in the world, otherwise know as the Jack of All Trades.

There are many ways to define the word coach. These are some of things that I feel help define the word coach. This is a tough job to hold. There is a lot of burden that comes with this job. Do not think for one second that coaching is blowing a whistle. This is heady stuff and you better be ready for it.

Coaching isn’t for everyone. Make sure you understand what goes into this. You are shaping lives, filling voids and being the best coach possible in every facet for these kids.

Coach, a title you earn, not given.

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About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.