Coaching Through Love

By Shaun Jayachandran — Boston

Welcome back to Wooden Wednesday to kick off 2017! I’m excited to keep sharing my insights from an education and coaching perspective that spans from Boston to around the globe.

Monday night saw Clemson University win the 2017 College Football Championship in dramatic fashion with a “Friday Night Lights” Coach Taylor type win to knock off Goliath — University of Alabama. It will go down as one of the best championship moments in all of sports. Everything we expect out of a Disney movie took place — the new team returning back to the championship game, a lackluster nervous first-half, a vitalized effort in the second half, Alabama storming back to take the lead in the closing minutes, and then the star quarterback — passed over for the Heisman twice — shows true leadership and poise in leading his team down to a touchdown at the last second.

And then — Coach Dabo Swinney spoke…

“Well, it’s a blessing. It’s surreal. I love my team. I told them tonight that the difference in this game is the love they have for each other.”
Dabo Swinney after winning the National Championship

That’s right — Coach Swinney said it was about LOVE! And I couldn’t agree more.

LOVE is the game changer. LOVE goes beyond being a competitor. LOVE towards our athletes exists regardless of our views or history with sexual orientation, academics, discipline, and place of origin. LOVE doesn’t automatically lead to or guarantee success but does exemplify trust but it does result in long-term continuance and mentorship.

Coaching is a profession that can be come at from a vantage of points — is the coach there for their own ego, the mental sparring match, the competitiveness, or are they leading from a view that everything they coach and model is a teaching moment. Even better — is there a balance that exists and how far do they slide one way or the other?

Love is a tricky word — one that befuddles the most thoughtful and philosophical of theoretical giants. But love isn’t just romantic or familial — but also that which exists in having respect, empathy, and a meaningful bond for the success of another. And that has to be genuine. And it has to mean being honest and truthful without being a jerk, without resorting to the misconduct and abuse of power, and with acknowledging that what’s best for the player and person is not always going to coincide with what’s best for the “program.” When we are genuine in who we are in caring about our players, our students, our mentees — our example will be reflected in almost every one of them back to us. They will want to go through walls and fire to share that bond.

Coach Wooden and his lasting relationship with his players should be the goal of every coach. Pictured here with Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
“The most important thing in the world is family and love.” — John Wooden

If you are interested in reading and learning more about coaching with love — be sure to read “Season of Life” by Jeffrey Marx.

Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL football star and volunteer coach for the Gilman high school football team, teaches his players the keys to successful defense: penetrate, pursue, punish, love. Love? A former captain of the Baltimore Colts and now an ordained minister, Ehrmann is serious about the game of football but even more serious about the purpose of life.
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