This article was posted by Bob Starkey, the Associate Head Coach for the women's basketball team at LSU. Special thanks to coach Starkey for providing us with such a powerful article on why coaching a team is so important to so many. For me, this article really hit home because a day not spent in gym helping student-athletes improve and work towards achieving their goals, is like a having a bad day!
If you have followed Coach Don Meyer the past year, he has not doubt been a great inspiration to us all. But it is important to understand that as he navigates through the adversity that even in pain he is trying to teach us coaches. It is what he does best -- help us to do our jobs better.
That's why one message he was sending us over and over resonated with me very strongly -- give thanks we have a team. If you watched any of his interviews, the part that was most emotional for Coach Meyer was talking about having a team to coach -- to teach -- to mold.
During a video of his story showed during the ESPYs, the poignant moment of the night was when his daughter Brittany spoke of the first communicative message from Coach after the car accident. Unable to speak, he grabbed a pen and pad and wrote, "How long before I can coach?" In other words, "when can I rejoin my team!"
Not too long ago I had career opportunity that would have kept me in athletics but took me away from coaching. As I do before making a big decision, I have a small circle of influence that I ask for advice and guidance which by the way always includes Coach Meyer. At the top of that list is my junior high coach and mentor, Allen Osborne. Allen listened to me explain everything and then told me to pass on it and stay in coaching. I asked him why and he responded, "You will miss the feeling of being part of a team. You will miss shaping a team. There is something special about a team." His words carried a lot of weight because a few years before, after long and successful career, Allen had retired. It lasted on year. He need a team again.
To me the best part of being a coach is practice. It's what I enjoy the most. It's where I think I have the most influence on our "team." The way we conduct practices at LSU, in my opinion, not only makes them better players but better people. When asked what he misses most about coaching, John Wooden simply said, "Practice. The smell of the gym. The sound of sneakers squeaking."
This really hit home even more last night when I was reading "Champion," a magazine published by the NCAA. Don Ketchum wrote an article in this summer's edition on Bruce Snyder. Coach Snyder was an outstanding football coach that died last spring after a courageous 10-month battle with cancer.
Here's a little from Ketchum's article:
Snyder's cancer was discovered in June 2008, and he began his long difficult fight at medical facilities in Phoenix and at his home. Late in 2008, Snyder was invited by Texas coach Mack Brown to visit practice for the Fiesta Bowl. Snyder described the experience on http://www.caringbridge.org/:
"I was treated first class," he wrote. "Golf cart, access to the entire field, introduction to Coach Brown's staff individually and was able to watch the entire practice."
"At one point, I closed my eyes and took in the feeling of being at practice. There was the smell of cut grass, the voices of coaches on the run yelling instructions, the sound of the horn to alert players and coaches to switch drills and the sounds of pads -- it took me back to the days that I cherish."
"And at the end of practice, Coach Brown introduced me to his team and asked if I would say a few words. What an honor. I love talking to a team. It wasn't my team, but it was a football team."
Sometimes we take things for granted -- like we in fact do have a team...our team! Sure, we have our share of adversity and obstacles but that's life -- and we still have our team!
It also reminds of something that I heard Kelvin Sampson speak about three springs ago at a coaching clinic. He said his program would look each year for a retired coach to adopt because of the enormous hole in your soul when you get out of coaching. They would invite the coach to practices. Ask him for input. Have him address their team. Take him on a road trip. What an amazing idea. Mack Brown gave Coach Snyder a wonderful gift by making him a part of the Longhorn football program for an afternoon.
So today, let's be thankful that we have a team...a team to practice...a team to coach. And let's think about those who no longer do and make them a part of our team!
If you have the time, please copy and paste and email this to every coach you know. It's really an important message for all coaches to understand.