The Player-Coach Relationship

It was not that long ago that I was the player, the one in the jersey and shorts with my high top shoes on. I have long since traded in those items for pant suits and heels, but I can still remember those days well. I remember the feel of the ball in my hands and the nervous butterflies I would get right before a big game. I remember what it felt like to be in the zone and not be able to miss the bucket, and I remember those long bus rides home.

More than anything, though, I remember my Coach. I recall her getting onto me rather intensely about not going hard, not blocking out, or about how prone I was to fouling. I can remember her voice shouting out, "Callie Ann," and I recall her whistle as it called us back to the baseline for another sprint.

Callie Newton

I remember more than anything that crazy relationship that a coach and a player have—one of respect and fear, of love and hate, all at the same time. Respect for her character, fear of her disappointment, love for how she cared about me as a person, and hate for killing us in practice. To this day, I would still run through a brick wall for her. There is no other voice besides my Mother’s that makes me instantly stand at attention when my name is called out. 

It was not until being on this side of the coach/player relationship that I began to realize how much influence I have over these young kids that have been entrusted to me. When I think back on my days as a player and recall the words and actions of my coaches and how those words and actions have built me up, motivated me, held me accountable, or even at times cut me down to size, I think to myself, "Wow, what a massive responsibility."

For some reason God has seen fit to allow me the opportunity to be the leader of a small group of young ladies, who can be molded, shaped, changed, built up or torn down, all by the slightest lift of my eyebrow or one word spoken from my lips. It is a giant responsibility and one none of us should take lightly. It is so easy to forget what our purpose is as coaches, and it is so easy to get wrapped up in the business side of coaching. 

We have all done it. We have all been there. We have all, at one time or another, put more stock into the wins and losses and what the public eye sees than the character we are building within our student athletes. I pray, however, that I never forget how I was shaped for the better by my coaches, and that I have been called to do the same for the young people around me.  

My coaches saw potential in me, the potential for great things as a player and as a person, and they took it upon themselves to pull that greatness out of me. I find myself doing things today that I never would have had the courage to do had it not been for the game of basketball and a coach that taught me to believe in myself. I am forever indebted to pass this along and do the same for those coming in behind me.

The Reverend Billy Graham said that, "One coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person will in a lifetime...so who's coaching the coaches?" May we all find ourselves hanging on to the life lessons that our coaches taught us as players, and may we pass those same lessons on to those we are now leading. Lessons about the things that really matter: character, accountability, respect, team. Teach them the things that matter...and hold onto the things that matter for ourselves.  

Originally published in the January 2011 issue of Ozark Preps Illustrated.

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