Throughout the history of the game, there have been some outstanding football coaches at every level. From the legend of Vince Lombardi in the pro game to names like Rockne, Warner, and Stagg at the college level. Lately, there have been some great high school coaches who have made the jump to college. Gus Malzahn at Auburn and Hugh Freeze of Mississippi are two. What is it that makes a great coach? Here, we take a look at some of the key characteristics of the best coaches in the game.
The Great Teacher
The best of the best coaches realize that at their roots, they are teachers. Coaches find the best ways to hold and captivate their students. They repeatedly work on the fundamentals and skills in daily practices and then evaluate their students each week with a test. That, of course, would be game day. Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who recently won the 1,000th game of his career, teaches so well that the university decided more of the student body should be exposed to his leadership teaching. The Coach K Center on Leadership was born as a result and each year Kryzyzewski does some teaching for business students going through the school’s MBA program.
The Great Communicator
Great coaches are excellent communicators. They must communicate clear instructions to their athletes and the members of their coaching staff. College coaches must deal effectively with high school kids and their parents. High school coaches must deal with parents, faculty members, and others in their community. Professional coaches deal with their players, staff, and the media on a regular basis. Modern communication has blossomed as well and now coaches must understand how to use social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. At their heart though, great coaches can effectively communicate with anyone.
The best coaches have a vision for their program. Whether they are the head coach of a small high school in rural America or they are Pete Carroll, who will lead the Seattle Seahawks into Super Bowl XLIX. Carroll had a vision for how training camp would be run, how practices would work, what the organization’s culture would be like, and much more. He knew that his teams would play great defense and his offense would be built around a very strong running game. Part of his vision included control. Carroll knew that for change to come to the Seattle franchise, he would have to have some control. He was given just that by owner Paul Allen. The results have been two Super Bowl trips in Carroll’s five seasons in Seattle.
Passion Of The Coach
As the great Ralph Waldo Emerson said, there were not too many great things that were accomplished without enthusiasm. Coaches in all sports are passionate by nature; otherwise, they wouldn’t be coaching. The best coaches have a drive that is unrivaled by their less successful peers. Paul “Bear” Bryant worked 365 days each year at becoming better at something. He held his assistants to that standard as well as his players. Nick Saban is built along the same lines. Bryant won six national championships in his coaching career and Saban is not far behind with four. The great ones, like Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, have a passion for the game that rubs off on assistants, players, and other staff members. It translates into good things on the field. Meyer’s Buckeyes were this year’s NCAA FBS champions.
“I would run through a wall for that man.” When you hear that about a coach, you have one that has inspired players. Great coaches get their athletes to believe in something. Football coaches must sell players on the ideas that their offensive scheme or defensive scheme is the best and will beat everyone else’s. There are high school teams throughout the country running the old Single-Wing and doing so with great success. Some run the Fullhouse-T, others the Wing-T, and, of course, many have converted to some form of the modern spread offense. Whatever it may be, the best football coaches get their kids to believe in their system. When everyone buys in, the road to success becomes much easier.
The best football coaches are great teachers, effective communicators, and those who have tremendous passion for success. Excellent coaches will have a vision for their program and their players, much of which will revolve around building not just great football players, but great young men. Great coaches hold their players accountable for their actions and inspire them to be great. They may do it in different ways, but the best of the best embody these qualities.