I just sent out a couple of tweets last night to a few college coaches that I greatly admire and respect, but just wanted to follow up with a blog, as I don’t think 140 characters give these guys proper justice.
Two of the coaches I have met before, while the third, I feel like I have gotten to know what he is about through the wonder that is twitter.
The biggest thing I have thought about all three coaches is quite simply, how lucky their players are.
As kids we think that coaches want to invest every shred to make us better and help us reach our goals, and that they are all motivated to better us and themselves through the pursuit of excellence. That being said, a hard, cold reality of getting older is realizing and seeing first hand that quite simply, a lot of coaches, like a lot of human beings, just go through the motions.
I’ve said it before, and quite simply coaching, teaching, or any profession that you have an opportunity to have a captive audience in front of you to impart wisdom to, is a gift, that you can do three things with. You can a) change people’s lives in an incredibly positive way b) you can have a negative influence and have them walk away worse off than when they came to you or c) you can have no impact at all.
At the end of the day, we all walk away from every interaction we have knowing if we gave our absolute best and made a positive impact. As coaches (and as people) anything less is quite simply a wasted opportunity.
And while I am highlighting these schools and coaches because of their success in wins, and NCAA progression, sometimes an amazing, impactful season isn’t reflected in wins and losses. But like good seeds that are planted, although at first they may be covered in weeds, one of the things I’ve learned, is that whatever is planted will always bloom and shine, even if it takes a while. I’m incredibly happy for these three coaches that this time has come.
At all three schools, I’ve witnessed all the coaches go above and beyond to be successful, and as an outsider looking in, I’m personally inspired.
2 of the coaches, I know through their attendance at my college showcase, the Western Canada Soccer Showcase, as they were a part of a small group of coaches who attended the event in 2008 and have been back many times since. The fact that both coaches travelled all the way up to Vancouver to an unknown showcase, in an already jam packed college showcase schedule, said a lot to me about their desire and willingness to go to far lengths to find players that would help their programs.
As a side-note, one of the coaches at that first 2008 showcase, took the time to change a life in a positive way and connect a talented, unknown Canadian player with an opportunity to play at the 2008 U17 World Cup with the Colombian U17 National Team. As I said, these are people that go above and beyond.
The third coach, I have followed on twitter for the last year or so, and just by reading his tweets, I can tell how he cares about his players, how he understands how to create a culture of excellence, and how he spends his own time to better himself and his knowledge to help his players and his program.
Furthermore, the two coaches I know personally, I have seen first hand how they have had the courage to let go talented players that were hurting the team culture at the various programs that they have been affiliated with through the years. While this may seem like an obvious move to some, I have seen far too many coaches not have the courage to let go of such players. It’s not easy to take a stand and many coaches are too lazy to be bothered, or too afraid of the short-term ramifications of such a move to realize the longer standing benefits. A culture of excellence requires courage. And success, in the traditional sense of wins and losses, doesn’t come without such a culture.
Most importantly, all three of these coaches seem to understand that the game is about something so much bigger than technique and tactics, and this again goes back to my initial thought of how lucky these players are. To have the opportunity to be inspired by leaders who I am sure it is obvious are investing everything that they have to their development as people and players, and to have a chance to experience what it means to be a part something bigger than themselves, is truly a magical experience that is unique to team sports and something that these players will take with them moving forward. As players, you never forget those people. (Shout out to my personal favourite coaches: here)
So to Danny Sanchez (Colorado), Mario Rincon (Arkansas) and Jon Lipsitz (Kentucky), on behalf of players and coaches everywhere, I tip my hat, congratulate you and thank you for the inspiration. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of your programs for years to come.