I have spent the past two weeks traveling to various training camps of a couple different sports at three different schools. I was blessed to spend a couple days with the Bearcats football team, a couple days with the Greyhounds football team, one full day with the Templeton Eagles football team, and even attended a volleyball practice from both Paso and Atascadero. I didn’t speak much while at practices, I would respond whenever asked a question, but I just wanted to observe the dynamics of each team. Through my years of playing sports I’ve realized that each team, no matter what sport they are in, have a unique personality, but where does that personality come from?
Is it just a mixture of all the personalities on the team blended into one diverse entity? Or is it a collection of the personalities, demeanors and style of just the best and most vocal players? Does a team that is strong on defense tend to have a grittier, meaner more rugged personality than a team that dominates on offense with skill and deception? Or is it the head coach’s style, and mannerisms that dominate the team’s identity? I don’t know the answer, and I suspect that there is probably no 100 percent right answer. I would imagine that the demographics of a team would play a major role in the team’s identity too, but assuming all things are good and equal, what is the main factor?
To really answer this I had to think back on my playing career and all the different teams and coaches I played for. What I realized is that, in my experience, my teams often took the shape of our commander and chief. If our coach was a hot head, the hot heads on the team felt enabled and would start more fights in practice and draw more personal foul penalties in games. So let’s take a look at just two of the different coaching styles there are.
Something I noticed heading out to practices last week is that there is fewer and fewer places for the “my way or the highway guy” (the most common type of coach when I was growing up) in today’s sports landscape. Yet another thing all these pesky millennials are ruining, right? Wrong, the “my way or the highway” guy is in my personal opinion the worst coach there is. I understand that coaches have more expertise and get paid to make certain decision, but the fact of the matter is, they aren’t the ones out there playing and if a coach is so insecure in his football (could be any sport, but especially football because there are so many moving pieces no one person can see all that’s happening even though some coaches act like they can) knowledge that he would be intimidated by input from his players, maybe he shouldn’t be the coach in the first place. I came across this countless times in my career. I would say, “Coach they are doing this or that,” but instead of hearing my thoughts they would be immediately dismissed with a simple, “No they aren’t.” As if I was making up some elaborate lie to throw the game for my entire team. If the “my way or the highway” guy is the extreme end of the strict scale, then the “Players coach” is at the other end, and can be equally as damaging. “Players coaches” are know to be much more laissez-faire and generally have favorites on the team. They let the better players get away with things lesser players don’t, and generally leave motivation to the players themselves. Both of these styles eventually lead to a lack of respect between labor and management, and thus lead to dysfunctional, underachieving teams.
As I was observing practices across the county this week I was pleased to see that there are few if any coaches like this coaching our kids. Instead our community has been infused with youth and progressiveness. Coach Grant is young and gregarious and his enthusiasm is contagious. Coach Lane of the Templeton Eagles is also very lively and spirited, and also has the most awesome beard (that’s not really important, I just wanted to point it out). Their energy resonates with the players, you can see it, you can feel, at times, I swear I could even smell it. It’s refreshing to see coaches take players aside to critique them and actually spend some time making sure they understand the reason for the critique, instead of just being yelled at and told to do something different, “because I said so.” Because the teams are still only in their first couple weeks together, it was hard to tell what teams will have what identities, but I left with excitement for what the future holds and can’t wait to watch this season playout.