Leadership guru John Maxwell has often said, “The greatest day in a person’s life is the day he was born. The second greatest day is the day he discovers why.” Many of the people reading this know why you were born. You were born to coach. Maxwell also says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” What I take from that quote is that we should have knowledge, we should be proficient in the way we teach the game and we should be willing to practice what we preach on-and-off the field.
I confess that I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to coaching the “right way.” Recently, I took a trip down memory lane while thumbing through the media guides from my 25 years at Kentucky. I was very proud to look at several players who eventually played Major League Baseball, and others who have been very successful as coaches, teachers, pastors, businessmen and community leaders. One is even a manager for a major league team. But, I also saw many players in the media guides who I haven’t heard from in years and a few who have struggled in life. I wonder what I could have done differently to help them. After taking this trip down memory lane, I couldn’t help but think about opportunities missed to help players and times that I compromised and lowered my standards.
I learned from experience and also by observing great coaches such as Mark Johnson and Jerry Kindall that you don’t have to compromise in order to have success. What we must do is the same thing we teach our players: be consistent. With integrity, consistency, knowledge, a great work ethic and perseverance, you can be a champion on-and-off the field.
Recently, I read a quote by author Jon Gordon that I found to be very simple, yet profound: “Make a difference in the lives of the people in front of you. Don’t look past them to your destination. Realize that the people in front of you will lead you to your destination.”
This is so true. Sometimes we are looking so intently to where we want to be, that we forget who is going to help get us there. Often, high school or coaches at small colleges ask me, “What can I do to help me fulfill my dream of being a Division l coach?” I usually tell them that the most fun I ever had as a coach was when I coached at the high school level. For the most part, high school players want to spend time with the coach. College players usually want no part of hanging out with the coach. So, as a college coach it’s much harder to have a positive influence on the players “in front of you.” Coach Don Meyer once said, “It doesn’t matter where you coach; it matters why you coach.”
Never before in my lifetime has there been a greater need for coaches to lead in the right way. We still live in the greatest country in the world, but there are major moral breakdowns in our society. The opioid epidemic is taking the lives of people in every community in America. The gun violence in our cities and schools is out of control. Almost 2,000 years ago there were major problems, as well. What the Apostle Paul said then could and should be said often now, “Make the most of every opportunity you have because these are desperate times.” (Ephesians 5:16)
I am convinced that coaches can make a powerful and lasting difference in these desperate times. If coaches lead with integrity and love the players they lead more than the game they coach, they will not only build a better team, but more importantly, they will help build better communities. “If you want to become a better coach, you must first become a better you.” (Gene Chizik)
This installment of “Intentional Walk” is loosely taken from a presentation given at the ABCA Clinic in Indianapolis in January of this year. To watch and listen in its entirety, you may find the video on the American Baseball Coaches Association video website, www.ABCAvideos.org