Why They Call You "Coach"

Why They Call You "Coach"
Many years ago when I first got into the profession, I would tell people that I was Coach and they would ask me, "What sport?" I would relish in sharing stories about the teams and players that I was going through this journey with and everything seemed to come back to one of those stories. To this day, in almost any situation, there is a story or a parable that teaches some life lesson to anyone willing to listen.

It would always be common in the sports world to walk around any venue, game, camp, or clinic to hear, "Hi, Coach"; "What's up Coach?" ; "How are you doing Coach?"; and whether you knew the persons name or not - by calling him or her "Coach" there is an immediate connection ... and a show of respect. Then we'd stand around and share stories that only added to the collection of tools in the toolbox to teach more life lessons down the road.

Whenever I would walk down the halls at school, or better yet,
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walk into a restaurant or see a former player at the mall and they would refer to me as "Coach" it brought a special twinkle to my eye that carried visions of the man many of us coaches look up to, John Wooden. He was rarely called "Mr. Wooden", few called him "John", and he wrote a book that guided what we all used when addressing him or talking about him. It was one of the first coaching books I ever read titled, "They Call Me Coach".

These days, if I tell someone that I coach, they invariably ask, "what kind?" Because now so many people use the word "Coach" to describe what they do. We have Life Coaches, Business Coaches, Success Coaches, Relationship Coaches, Weight-Loss Coaches, even Organization Coaches. Everyone is a "coach".

To be honest, there were times when I've been a little bitter about what I perceived as the overuse of the word "Coach".  For years, I harbored this inner resentment anytime anyone said they were a "coach" or mentioned a "coach" that wasn't involved with a sports team. How dare they steal our term of endearment. Then one day, I heard a story.

On the main road along the Danube River, between Vienna and Budapest there is a small Hungarian village called Kocs. These two great cities needed well-built, fast vehicles that would carry more than two people over the bumpy roads of the day in as much comfort as was then possible. During the 14th-century, the craftsmen of Kocs began to build the most superior wagons, carts and carriages in all the land.

One of the best of these multi-horse carts was called, in Hungarian, "kocsi szekér" or a wagon from Kocs.  Its design was so compact, elegant and sturdy that it's design spread throughout Europe. The German-speaking Viennese started to call this vehicle a Kutsche, which is how they heard Hungarians saying the name of their little carriage-making town. From Vienna these lively vehicles traveled to Paris and the French, adapting the Austrian word, called it a coche. When it arrived in Rome in Italian, it was a cocchio. Eventually, the English called it a coach. When Anne of Bohemia married England's Richard II in 1382, she brought carriages from Kocs, Hungary with her to England.

Eventually royalty throughout Europe were riding in the best horse-drawn carriages they had ever seen. Wealthy squires had their servants read to them as they drove in these coaches about the countryside or to pass the time on long trips into a nearby city. So, really, the first "coaches" took very important people from where they were - to where they wanted to go. And many of them learned along the way.

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Are we teaching those we are responsible for some other valuable life lessons during the ride? It can't be just about the sport, wins and losses, championships, or whatever we're coaching them in. There has to be something more than that. That's why Positive Coaching Alliance espouses the "Double-Goal Coach®" philosophy. Winning is one goal, but teaching Life Lessons is the more important goal

So are they learning anything about themselves?  Are they developing some skills and life lessons they can use outside the lines? That is the true value of sports. They think they're just playing a game, but what they are experiencing in sport is a microcosm of life that will lay the foundation for much of the way they live their lives in the furture

That is the real role of a coach. To take those we are responsible for from where they are to where they want to go. Imagine if the coach were to take King Edward I where the driver wanted to go instead of the destination the King wanted. I'd suspect he would face a William Wallace type of fate and it would be something like "off with his head!"

As coaches, any type of coach, we need to continually ask ourselves, "Are we taking others where THEY really want to go?" (within the team concept, of course - because that's one of life's big life lessons) Or are we just making them go someplace we think they should go. Even worse are we using them as a tool to get to where WE want to go? 


A coach must take the time to get to know those they are coaching and take the time to find out their goals. There is no "plug and play" method of coaching... no one-size-fits-all game plan. Each individual... each team... is different. We can't take square pegs and put them into our round holes.

Too often we see sports coaches try to fit players into their system. Maybe they put the tallest basketball player as a post player around the basket, even if their skills, personality, or future is as a guard on the perimeter. I see youth baseball coaches play skilled left-handed players at middle infield positions to help the team win now, without developing the players unique skills that would be used as the players move up the competitive ladder.

That type of decision, the one that is more geared to being successful now as opposed to the long term development of the player is much more self-serving than the servanthood true  "coaching" is designed to be. We will discuss "The Servant-Coach" in much greater detail during Part II.

I now accept the fact you can take someone where they want to go -  in any aspect of life, not just in sports. So I'm slowly getting over losing the exclusivity of our title.  I'm much more willing to share than I was earlier. But whenever I hear "Coach" I still think about whistles and clipboards ... and Coach Wooden.

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