The greatest sports coaches have the power to inspire their athletes to be better than they’ve ever been and change the whole dynamic of a team. We’ve all seen what an amazing leader can do for an otherwise scrappy team, and here are just a few of the most remarkable examples of the last decade.
Build Teams with Great Players, Not One Great Player
Jill Ellis experienced incredible training as a young coach at UCLA when she was mentored by John Wooden. Now she is the manager of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team.
Ellis creates a clear team concept and teaches each player their role within it. At her father’s suggestion, she learned communication outside her sport. For a while, she was a technical writer. Now she can explain her team vision and help her players to be their best within it. Her background was able to prepare her for seeing a big picture and what each part needs to do to organize a working machine.
Leadership by Listening
Steve Kerr was the first rookie head coach in the NBA to win the championship since 1982. The Golden State Warriors were a team of current and future all-stars, but they needed someone who could pull all the pieces together.
Kerr created a system based on the strengths of his players to maximize the team’s performance. He also empowered his coaching staff to share their ideas and listened to everyone. Most significantly, in the NBA Finals, an assistant coach wanted to change the starting line-up to help them deal with the previously unstoppable LeBron James. Kerr accepted and implemented the idea. Not only did it work, Kerr publicly identified his assistant as the source of the idea. This is one example out of dozens of Kerr giving credit to others for the team’s success.
In Indianapolis, Inspiration on and off the Field
Tony Dungy was the head coach of the NFL Colts when they won the Super Bowl in 2007 and has been an inspiration for year.
He taught his players the power of habit and said players can make the best decisions not by thinking, but using the power of learned response. Practices prepared them for instinctual reaction during plays, and helped them to stay calm and focused even when things went badly. He sees coaches as teachers and role models, and being a leader of his team inspired Dungy to become widely involved in community and civic organizations.
Great coaches can inspire a single person or even millions, to be their best. Coaching as a profession has seen an increase as more teams require good leadership and trainings. A degree program like the Ohio University masters in coaching even utilizes real coaches as teachers like Dr. Bill Steffen of the University of Oregon’s head women’s Soccer coach. With sports programs and organizations getting bigger and more diverse each year, it will be interesting to see the inspiring leaders who emerge.