Setting the Standard

Posted: March 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

When I was a college athlete I always marveled at how my coaches could preach physical fitness or moral character and be so flawed themselves.  So how am I doing as a role model for my athletes?  What is the standard that I’m setting for my players?  What is my responsibility as an example to the youth that look up to me?

When I first started coaching I jumped in and played with the team as an assistant coach and went on runs with the girls.  Our head coach used me to set the pace for the players to reach their goals on fitness runs each year while the other assistant coach followed behind the pack in a truck.  I was also the moral compass of the team and tried to live my life in a way I’d want the girls to live it.  My first year as a head men’s coach I ran with the guys, and set the pace for the minimum time that was required to pass and tried to push the stragglers. 

But I must admit, as I’ve grown older, and hopefully wiser, my self-discipline has admittedly slipped a little.  My physical prowess has slipped some, and I wonder sometimes what kind of role model am I for my players?  As far as being a moral compass for my team, I hope now more than ever I am a living example of character and integrity, but doesn’t this encompass my fitness?

Where do we draw the line of being a role model for our players?  I still play in the 2nd division of our local adult league, and work out a couple times each week.  However, I know I can’t keep up with the players any more on their runs, and jumping in and playing with them is becoming more and more of a rare occurence.  And yet my demands on the players has not let up any as I’ve aged.

So what about my coaches in college?  One of my coaches was extremely over weight and was always trying a different diet, but he was probably one of the most demanding coaches I ever had in regards to our fitness levels.  My other coach in college was actually found guilty for stealing and fired from his coaching position.  And this is not a rare occurence, coaches all over the country, and the world, live by a standard that they would not tolerate with their players.

Another example, at a university I worked at we had a serious problem with coaches chewing tobacco on campus.  The athletic director was constantly bringing it up in athletic department meetings that we were violating league and campus rules to be a substance free campus.  But these same coaches would not stand for one of their players violating one of their team rules.  Why is this?

Why have my standards of physical fitness softened for myself, but not my players?  And is this right?  I truly believe that we are supposed to be the standard that our players see lived out in real life, both morally, physically, and spiritually.  But we’re not 20-year-old athletes in our prime, and we are responsible adults that should be allowed to make our own choices about what we do in our free time, right?

I think it comes down to our view of what our role is as a coach.  Are we a leader for these players that look up to us, or are we only a teacher of a game and the techniques it takes to be successful?

In a society that lacks personal responsibility we could be the only example of a person who holds the line for themselves in their own lives.  We have a real opportunity to show our players what it’s like to be a man who holds the line for the team and for ourselves.  I think this is one of the most valuable gifts that we can give our youth, and it’s a tough gift to give.  But anything that is worth giving someone should be a sacrifice, shouldn’t it? 

So what conclusions have I arrived at after nine years of coaching?  In regards to my fitness level I want my players to see that I care about my body and what I put into it.  I want them to see that I love to still play the game and find a way to stay involved, and I will workout enough times per week to stay at a healthy weight for my activity level.  I think this is fair, and I think the students understand why I am not at the level of a college soccer player anymore.  And when it comes to the moral standards in my life I think this is the most important factor that seperates the good coaches from the great coaches.  It’s worth a few sacrifices in my life if the guys can learn to live disciplined lives themselves when they leave my program.  To me it’s worth it.  They deserve to see me at my best, and I owe it to them to be a man who cares enough about them and their development to make a few sacrifices in my life so they can see that.

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