Coach's Corner: Stinson Dean 9/9
By Stinson Dean
Recent actions taken by some coaches of big-time programs (see Chip Kelly) have caused me to really think about what the biggest responsibility of a football coach is.
I like to think I coach for the betterment of my players as individuals, but sometimes it’s a lot harder than it seems. For example, if I have player who makes a mistake off the field, they need to experience the consequences. They need to learn early that their actions will affect themselves and their teammates. If a young player doesn’t learn this lesson early, then all he or she will know is that they can get away with anything.
This is all very easy to say. What happens when it’s my best player? When considering suspending a key player, many things run through your head. This player makes everyone better and gives everyone the best chance to succeed on thefield. Benching them could be interpreted as hurting the entire teamby sitting out a huge key to winning.
Not to mention the pressure from boosters, administrators, egos (not least my own) and other outside sources to win. It’s pretty easy to justify a decision by falling back on, “you’re hurting everyone else” when you suspend a star.
However, the correct long-term decision which is best for everyone involved is to make sure the stove is hot, real hot. No one ever touches the stove twice.
As an individual, I give them the chance to become a man. If they don’t learn, that’s their fault; but if I don’t give them the opportunity to learn…that’s my fault. I can’t cheat them by lowering standards solely because they’re good at sports.
As a team, I may lose one player for one game, but I’ll gain the entire team for every game if they respect their head coach. If they know their head coach has their best interests in mind when making decisions the players will play that much harder for them.
The player who breaks a rule, the team, and everyone involved with a program needs to see where the priorities lie. If I truly believe I am coaching to make my players better men, husbands, employees and citizens, then I owe it to them to make the tough decision.
Too many times we see star athletes, especially in high school, get away with too much and continue this reinforced behavior into college, only to be hit by reality. Sadly, if they’re good enough, some college coaches will let them continue down this path.
We see it again and again in the NFL where professional football players, who were never held accountable for their actions as amateurs, throw their life away making immature choices. Or, if they happen to survive yet again (as stars often do), someone else's life is often the one getting trashed.
This is assuming a lot, but I’d be willing to bet some of these truly sad NFL story-lines may have been prevented if a coach did what was necessary when that player was an impressionable, young football player (Not to say every mistake made by college and pro athletes are their high school coaches fault. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes athletes are given a chance to be a man, and still don’t learn).
In the end, if a young player is good enough to make it to the NFL, he will make it whether or not he missed games due to suspension.
But, whether he’ll be mature enough to handle the pressures in the NFL will be shaped long before he actually makes it to the big time.
Inaction is a choice. These players look to coaches as examples, father figures and mentors. Sometimes they are looking for someone to care enough to punish them. Football players need to learn early what it means to be a teammate, brother and employee. That is one of the things that make football so great. Every player has to be focused on the same goal to consistently experience success. These lessons-learned and life-skills-honed will carry football players into society with a wealth of experience unmatched by most.
I’m not a head coach, but hope to be one day. I've been blessed with being coached by and coaching under some great men who know what it means to be fishers of men. I’ve seen them in many difficult situations, but with a single focus, making football players men.
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