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Sports Then and Now



Examples in Excellence: Most Inspiring Coaches of the Last Decade 5

Posted on July 24, 2015 by Brooke Chaplan
Jill Ellis has been successful building the U.S. Women's Soccer Team into a team of stars.

Jill Ellis has been successful building the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team into a team where everyone plays their role.

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.
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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
      January 29, 2022 | 4:43 pm
      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

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