Protect Your Kids...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Coaches: Be bold and unafraid...

A quick story...

Everyone has memorable coaches or teachers that, at one point in their lives, truly inspired them.  Mine was my high school wrestling coach by the name of Dr. John Dahlem, who taught history and social science at Loara High School in Anaheim, CA.  When Loara needed a wrestling coach in 1970, he stepped on the mat and jumped right in.   

What happened over the next several years was simply astounding.

In an era before the "Masters" was a fixture in California wrestling, winning league championships was a benchmark of how solid of a program a school had developed. Between 1974 and 1984 (when he retired), his wrestlers won league titles in '74, '76, '77, '78, '79, '80. '81, '82, '83, and '84.  10 championships in 11 years!  

When I analyze his coaching career, Dahlem was an interesting parallel to Wooden in many ways:
  • Like Wooden, his early teams weren't immediately dominating.  But once he figured out his coaching style and learned the sport, his teams won more matches and league championships than any other team of the era.  
  • Like Wooden, he had an uncanny ability to teach and inspire kids.  For example, he used short, memorable maxims that triggered a desired action.  He then linked it to examples of how to apply them to other aspects of an athlete's post-wrestling life.  
  • Like Wooden, he also had a knack for making each player, no matter the skill level, feel like an important part of the team.  To this day, many of his players still contact him on a regular basis.
  • Like Wooden, he promoted a cohesive, "team" concept.  This is unique in a sport that to a casual observer is a sport of individuals (after all, when you wrestle an opponent, it's just you and him on the mat). 
  • Like Wooden had developed Swen Nader, Dahlem focused on making everyone, even the "spare parts", be the best they could be.  A testimony to this is that, while there were several very good wrestlers that went through Dahlem's program, only one in 14 years was a state champion.  
Dahlem's accomplishments were so profound that he was named the Orange County Coach of the Decade (chosen by the Orange County Register, which considered every school and every sport played in Orange County).  He was the first inductee into the Orange County Wrestling Hall of Fame.  He was eventually inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Not bad for a coach in a so-called "minor" sport like wrestling.  He then went on to become a well-respected high school principal, and retired in 2004.    

But the "amazing" hook to the story?

He never wrestled a day in his life.

So how does this relate to you, a potential coach or parent volunteer? 

Sometimes, a parent makes the unfortunate mistake of believing that a new coach's ability to coach can be judged by the previous playing experience he or she brings to the table.  In fact, I've even heard about youth league board members fawning over new youth coaches simply because they played college or pro ball.  

I wince when I hear this.  

Just as the performance of pre-adolecent kids has no bearing on how well athletes turn out in high school, previous playing experience has no bearing on how successful someone will be as a youth coach.  Put another way: lack of experience doesn't make you, as a new coach, any less valuable to these kids.  

My advice?  

Don't let the challenge of coaching intimidate you.  Instead, jump in with both feet!  

Make each day your masterpiece!


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