What It Takes to Be a Good Coach
Coach Gordie Gillespie - Ripon College
1. You Have to Like Young People
This has to be number one: you have to like being with kids. Your
primary reason for coaching should be to watch young people grow,
mature and develop. Sure, everybody likes to win, but if winning
is the only thing that counts, you'll never get that deep feeling
of pride and satisfaction that comes from watching your kids
succeed at life. And it doesn't matter what age or gender you're
talking about. "Kids" range from the "Pee-Wee" stage of five
years old until they graduate from college. College coaches even
refer to their players as "my kids." You have to be in coaching
for the right reasons. You must like youngsters and want to teach
them proper values. These values include discipline, work ethic,
conquering fear and tension, pride in their team and teammates,
establishing reachable goals, and most importantly, the burning
desire to accomplish those goals.
A favorite expression of many people in all walks of life is: "I
have got to get organized." Jerry Kindall, the great baseball
coach at the University of Arizona, took a poll of his baseball
players and asked his team what they wanted most from Jerry and
his staff. Much to his surprise the players responded
"organization." I know of no one more organized they Jerry. He
has won NCAA baseball championships as well as being selected
NCAA Baseball Coach Of The Year on several occasions and
organization is one of his greatest strengths. You won't
accomplish half of what you set out to do without a concrete,
If we could bottle enthusiasm and sell it, we would be the
richest people in the world. Enthusiasm is a must in coaching
baseball. It is such a fantastic game to each and every one of
us. The thought of working with "your kids" should truly motivate
you and get you excited about what they are doing. Going back to
the first premise of being a good coach, caring and liking kids,
it would be a complete contradiction if you were not enthusiastic
about teaching them the game.
The gift of patience - what a virtue! The ability to go over
things time and time again, never losing your enthusiasm, is an
absolute for a great coach. Every great athlete had a mentor, a
friend who had the patience to teach him the fundamentals of the
game. Ted Williams, Roger Hornsby, Babe Ruth, all had someone who
took the time to teach them to hit. Vince Lombardi, one of the
great football coaches of all time, had this vital quality. The
Green Bay Packers would run the Green Bay sweep fifty times at
every practice and Vince would be teaching the "little things"
that made it work each time they ran it. That is why they were
champions year after year. Vince was a patient man. One of the
greatest joys of coaching is to see the least talented suddenly
blossom, and all because you never gave up on him or her.
Patience and persistence are certainly a marriage. It is
difficult to differentiate between these two virtues, and they
truly go hand in hand in the coaching profession. You must
persist, and you must teach your kids to persist. Yogi Berra's
quote, "It's never over until it's over," is an excellent
definition of persistence. Chris Evert, the great lady of tennis,
was taught at age four by her dad that every volley was match
point. Persistence, in simple words, is "never give up." Each of
us fail. It is what we do after we fail that is important. I
believe Abe Lincoln was defeated 17 consecutive times while
seeking public office. The beautiful aspect about defeat is that
it is a powerful learning experience.
6. Sincerity and Concern
We get back to a coach's most important virtue - caring. You must
be sincerely concerned about your athletes first as human beings
and secondly about their physical abilities. If it's vice-versa,
it won't work and resentment will be the end product of your
relationship. Being truly concerned, to listen as well as teach,
is not an easy virtue to acquire.
7. Being Fair
Being fair goes along with sincerity and concern. Everyone wants
a fair chance to show what he or she can do. They want the
opportunity! Each day the coach has to evaluate his personnel.
Each team member must be reviewed and analyzed. Great coaches
have the gift of being able to evaluate personnel quickly and get
them into the proper position and in the proper pecking order.
But even great coaches get fooled when a player comes out of
nowhere to make a great contribution to the team. An excellent
attribute of many coaches is that they will spend as much time as
possible with the "second stringers" and make them feel their
worth to the team. Championships are won in many situations
because the second team constantly pushed the first team to
8. Integrity And Your Relationship With Your Coaching Peers
Never compromise on rules. Rules are exactly that - rules! They
are not suggestions. Society today treats the Ten Commandments as
if they were the ten suggestions.
Never compromise on right or wrong. It is a black and white
situation, not a gray area.
In dealing with umpires, referees and those that govern the game,
we want the play called right at least 90% of the time. Instant
replay has proven time and time again that we can't expect more
than that. Officials are human and they will make mistakes. The
important idea here is that you must support your officials
rather they tearing them down or ridiculing them.
9. Coaches Are Human Beings - Don't Be Afraid to Show It
You are going to get angry and perhaps show it. You might get so
emotional that you cry. I'll bet John Wayne even cried. If you
care, you are going to cry. It is perfectly O.K. to show people
that you love them. Don't just say it, show it. Especially with
your wife and family. They are proud of you but they also miss a
lot of family time because of your long coaching hours. So you
must show them you love them at every opportunity. You are going
to fail and make mistakes. If you offend someone, apologize as
soon as possible, especially when you offend one of your players.
They are like family.
10. Be at Your Best In Dealing With the Press and Other Media
The media has a job to do, just like you. Try to make their job
easier by your cooperation.
11. Dealing With School Administration and Faculty If You Are
Coaching In a School Situation
I have never met an outstanding coach who was not an outstanding
classroom teacher. The great Knute Rockne of Notre Dame was an
outstanding chemistry professor. Vince Lombardi taught physics
and math at St. Cecelia High School. The great ones take special
pride in their classroom work and with especially working well
12. Your Best Friends In Coaching - Your Support Personnel
Recognize the importance of your support personnel at every
opportunity. They are the ones who care the most. Praise them
all, including the grounds keepers, the custodian, the student
managers. The grounds keeper is the difference in whether you
play or sit on rainy days. He takes pride in the field and makes
it a showcase. It is your Field of Dreams and he makes it tick.
Gordie Gillespie is college baseballís all time winningest coach
and was the first to achieve the 1,500-win milestone in a career.
Through 2003, he has compiled a 1,630-830 record in his storied
career and is currently the head coach at Ripon College in
Wisconsin. In his eighth season, he has made the Division III
school a nationally recognized program with three straight NCAA
tournament appearances. While at Lewis College and the College of
St. Francis in Illinois, Gillespie won four NAIA National
Championships and he took his teams to 15 World Series. He became
college baseball's all-time win leader in 1993 with his 1,333rd
victory and finished the year by earning St. Francisí only
national sports title. Gillespie is coaching his 50th season in
baseball. During that time he has signed 57 players to
professional contracts. One of the most renowned and
well-respected coaches of all-time, Gillespie has received
numerous honors during his coaching career, including induction
into 13 different Hall-of-Fames.