Pluses and pitfalls in head coaching jobs

As Tim Little becomes the new head coach for Sweet Home High School, it has caused me to reflect on just how difficult it is to become a head coach, no matter whether the program has been successful before or not.

Most people think just about the X’s and O’s and think that is the most important part of coaching. It is a factor, no doubt, but it may not be the deciding factor on whether a coach has a successful run. If one defines success by wins or losses, then there is grave danger in failing to recognize what an athletic program is all about.

When a person is dealing with kids on a regular basis, the main focus must be on relationships.

Therefore, I believe that a coach’s greatest asset is his ability to establish a positive working relationship with his players. Players must be inspired to play for the coach, so my first question would always be how does the coach inspire his players. What character traits does the coach possess that will earn the players’ respect?

Once that is established, the rest of the job becomes easier. Obviously, the coach must have knowledge of the game as well. If the skills and schemes taught are ineffective, the respect for the person may begin to whither away.

The transition from one coach to another always has its problems. Over the years, I have seen the difficulties that head coaches have had as they make this transition. In programs that have not been particularly successful, it has been difficult attracting the best athletes and then convincing them that the hard work it will take to resurrect such a program is a worthwhile goal.

These programs are often difficult to reestablish and have seen coaches come and go.

With the program that has been successful, new coaches have a different set of problems. First, they must establish the program as their own. Things will be different and athletes and fans will have to make adjustments. People are fickle. If the new style creates success, they will be right there to slap a coach on the back and express their support. When things turn the least bit ugly, the support slips away quickly. There are no more slaps on the back, only things said and done behind their back.

Little has the advantage of having been a part of a successful run. He knows the players and the administrators. He knows the organizational structure in place. But most of all, this is a good man.

Hopefully as we watch him take over the basketball program, we as spectators will give him the time and courtesy to make the adjustment period smooth. After all, isn’t that what we want to demonstrate to our kids? Sure, we would like every program to be a winner. But let’s keep the expectation of the coach, whether new or not, limited to hard work with a desire to improve.

If a coach has the passion to make our children better people, then let’s keep that coach around forever.