Note: Since this was original published by the NCAA I have had several people ask me for copies, the most recent was today. With that in mind I thought I would publish here, because I believe in the idea. Would love your feedback.
Years ago a friend gave me a copy of “The Humanistic Coach” – a book he had just penned. It detailed coaching sports from the perspective of the complete development of the athlete.
I found that book and started to read it again after years of letting it gather dust on my shelf.
Well, recently, every time I responded to the well-intentioned question: “What do you do for a living?” I felt like I was confessing to being a social deviate or a criminal.
That’s because I am a college coach.
I’ve been reading the sports pages, watching the updates, listening to talk radio, and time and time again, the topic is about how rotten we college coaches are.
How we cheat. How we lie. How we do horrible, unspeakable things.
That’s what people are being told about us. In front of our eyes, on a national stage, my chosen profession and my peers are going down the drain – straight to the underworld. And that needs to stop, because it is far from the truth.
Yes, I know, there are college coaches whose actions are reprehensible. Yet the percentage of coaches who cheat the rules, break the law and do the unspeakable is tiny. I’d guess it’s well below the average of many, if not most, professions.
I’ve met, worked with, competed against and studied hundreds of collegiate coaches over my 40 years in college sports, and I can remember barely a few who did not have the athlete’s best interests in mind.
When I worked with our Olympic rowing team, where the pressure to win was intense, all the coaches cared about their rowers.
At the college level, caring about the athletes’ development is what college coaches do.
A new lacrosse coach occupied the office next to mine a few years back. In his first week of practice, he tookhis team to a cemetery that adjoined his practice field. Coaches and players spent practice time pulling weeds, righting fallen headstones and tidying up.
When I asked why he did it, he responded, “Because we could, it needed to be done, and we all need to appreciate life more.”
He expected nothing in return except possibly for a few athletes to find a perspective. He was not the exception. He was the rule.
In last year, Rob Nugent, the coach of our men’s basketball team, received national recognition for a compassionate act his team performed during a game. In a heart-warming story, he orchestrated a scenario in which an opponent who had never scored a point because of a debilitating injury was allowed to hit a free throw and end his career on a high note. Rob and his team lost the game but in the process moved a world and helped coaches and athletes alike find a perspective.
He and the team were not the exception. They were the rule.
Across the country, college coaches do so many great, caring things. But so often those actions are unheralded, or they are overshadowed by the misguided actions of a few.
It is time for us as coaches to promote the good that our peers do. It’s time to show friends, administrators, fans and parents that there are a wealth of college coaches who care for their athletes’ development more than for their competitive victories.
It’s time to show that those coaches are not the exception.
Those coaches are the rule.
– Mike Davenport