What Does A Coach Do?

January 21, 2016
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I have watched every episode of the TV series House, MD but I don’t feel any more qualified to comment on a doctor’s performance than I did before watching. It is one of the unique parts of coaching sport that everyone who has played or watched a sport feels the opposite. Most people, despite never having trained as a coach, feel qualified to comment…a lot.

I get it, playing a sport and experiencing it from that perspective is different than never having performed a surgery. It is not like people are recreational doctors. But the demands placed on a coach at all levels of sport are out of whack.

Don’t get me wrong I respect doctors as much as any other profession. This is not a commentary on that profession, or any other. It takes great dedication and commitment to become a doctor. However the kill/save percentage of doctors are not published in the newspaper. Every specific test score of a teacher’s students is not blogged about and discussed on message boards.

I am grateful to be a coach. I do something I am passionate about every day. I get rewarded intrinsically and extrinsically for my passion for coaching. My issue is that too many people feel the right to comment, criticize and analyze a coach’s performance with little understanding of the complexities of the job. It takes great dedication and commitment to become an effective coach too.

I still dread meeting strangers in the off-season as I inevitably get asked, “So what do you do all day?” Many people still assume a coach’s job is just two hours a day at a practice or game. I can tell you, even before I started getting paid to coach, my involvement in the coaching process was way more involved than two hours a day.

Getting paid to coach basketball

So what does a coach do all day?

Here is a typical job posting and description of a coach’s responsibilities.

As you can see it does not just involve running a practice or coaching in a game.

I can only speak to my personal schedule but I usually wake up around 4:00-5:00 a.m. On occasion, I go into the office to get work done before anyone can bother me. This routine has changed some since I had kids, as I love to see them when they first wake up all full of love and excitement. So instead of going to the office, I work from home before my daughters and wife wake up so I can see them in the morning. 

This morning time is filled with video, planning, correspondence or catching up on administrative paperwork. These are things that I can immerse myself in and get done efficiently before I am likely to get interrupted. The rest of the day is filled with similar tasks but is often mixed in with meetings, workouts and phone calls. Recruiting, scheduling, fundraising and video is a constant in my daily schedule.

Most coaches do not have full-time support staff. I have no full-time assistants or administrative support. I do have an incredible group of volunteers that help me but almost all of the tasks fall on my plate. If a recruit wants to visit. I am the one booking their train ticket, picking them up at the train station and spending the time with them. If I want to get a player video of a specific thing they need to work on then I need to create the script for them to watch. I am faced with daily choices about what is the best use of my time knowing that there is always more I could do to help my team.

For example one of these decisions is whether to focus a week of video on a specific opponent or on our own games. Often within the season, when we are playing two games in a week, our own video gets put aside so I can focus on preparation for our opponents. Thankfully many technological improvements have made the process of watching and sharing video easier. But that improved technology has also created more video possibilities to create and share. It is a great problem but it is a challenge to decide where to spend my time.

Coaching Profession

Most of my day is filled up with problem solving challenges. It is the part of the job that I find most rewarding, but also the most difficult and frustrating. I have players come to me with every manner of problems. From class timetable issues to interpersonal problems. The problems I deal with run the gamut.

Some days I wish I could focus on the actual coaching process more but I am grateful I am a full-time coach. I know how difficult it is for a volunteer coach to make the type of impact that is worthy of their expectations. And that is really why I am writing this blog. What more people need to understand is that coaching is a job. It is a commitment. Paid or unpaid effective coaches put considerable time into the process. 

People who coach deserve our respect and admiration. They invest so much in something that can impact people in a positive way. Most of the time a coach does so without the acknowledgement, resources or reward. Most coaches coach for the right reasons. We tend to hear too much about the bad ones. The good ones are selfless servants. They care for their athletes. They care about the process and not just the final product.

This is why it is not fun to be evaluated by people who have zero experience. People who have spent no time learning what and how to coach are instant experts because they once played the game or watch it on TV. I attend games recruiting all the time and listen to people in the stands. I cannot believe how many things that are said that make no sense. Would the same person observe a doctor in surgery or a lawyer in court and question the decisions those experts are making?

Granted not all our coaches put time into the job. Too many coaches nowadays are experts without putting time into the process. A big problem that impacts all us coaches is that the coaching profession has few barriers to entry.  Wannabes become coaches. Untrained coaches are more common than ever. The demand for coaches outweighs the supply. The result is lower standards and more problems. This tarnishes all of us. If you choose to coach then you need to commit to a process beyond just worrying about winning and losing. Professionalism and professional development need to be at the forefront for all who choose to coach.

While part of what makes coaching fun is that so many people (fans, parents, players, media etc) care so much about it, we are long overdue for a perspective change on the actual role of the coach. A coach's evaluation goes way beyond their record. A coach's job is more than just running a practice and coaching a competition. If a coach's job is done properly their impact is deeper than just coaching a player how to play a sport.

Just like a doctor or teacher's job is so much more than just what you see on the surface.

Watch a Day In The Life Of A College Basketball Coach

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2 Comments

  1. Great transparencies to the (taken for granted) addendums of a normal coaching role., paid or volunteer. A dead-on realistic perspective from a committed coach.

  2. Great post! Thank you for explaining what a coach does! I like how you explained that”People who coach deserve our respect and admiration. They invest so much in something that can impact people in a positive way. Most of the time a coach does so without the acknowledgement, resources or reward. Most coaches coach for the right reasons.”. I can imagine how hard it can be to coach a basketball team. It takes a lot of time and dedication. As an athlete, I know that coaches do not get the credit that they deserve.

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