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Tips to the Young Coach (From Me to Myself)

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Did you ever wish that you could go back in time? I do. I wish I could go back and slap some sense into myself at various points of my life. God’s been so good to me, no doubt. However, like everyone else, I’ve lacked some serious perspective from time to time. As I approach my 28th birthday, I get further away from my first job as a head coach. Five years has done so much to change my view of coaching, athletics, and Christian education.

In today’s post I give twelve simple thoughts I wish I could share with my younger self as a twenty-three year old varsity boys basketball coach at Old Suwanee Christian School.

If you are a young coach, take heed. If you’re not, take heed anyway. We can all fall victim to many of these mindsets.

Here they are.

God put you here for a purpose.

If you asked 23-year-old me if I truly believed this, he undoubtedly would have said, “of course, I know that.”

However, I didn’t act on this on a day-to-day basis. I believed that I deserved the job that I had, but truly it was nothing but His grace that led me there.

If only I realized that He had me there for a specific purpose, I would have been so much more impactful.

 

Spend more time with your wife.

I had been married all of five months when I was informed of my promotion.

My wife is cool, so cool. She knew going in that a Christian school teacher didn’t make that much money. She also knew that a Christian school coach didn’t make that much on top of working close to sixty hours a week.

She knew all this and still married me. I can’t explain it either.

If I could do it over again, I would give her the quality time that she deserved (and still deserves).

 

Pray more for your kids.

I’m not going to lie, I prayed for my guys daily. No exaggeration.

I prayed for them to be leaders. I prayed for them to honor God with their hearts and actions. I prayed for their home situations. I prayed for those of them that I thought were unsaved. I prayed for their dedication to basketball. I prayed for their skill-development.

But then ask 23-year-old me if I prayed for them when it wasn’t basketball season.

I should have prayed more.

 

Get over yourself.

I really thought that I was something special. I was very proud of my new position.

I wasn’t overly-cocky and arrogant. I think if you asked my first few teams about my personality, they wouldn’t say I was a jerk. I truly did practice servant leadership whenever I could.

However, I was proud. Deep down I thought that I had arrived and there was no place to go but up.

 

You are not indispensable.

I wish I could tell myself that anyone could have done my job. They may have done it differently, but the results would have been similar.

Very few people are actually linchpins to the success of an organization. Especially, in Christian ministry.

God does the work, and He uses whomever He wills.

 

Don’t run up the score; soon the shoe will be on the other foot.

I never purposely ran up the score on a team. That’s not to say it didn’t happen.

I played subs when we were up big, but I didn’t tell them to let off the gas too often.

We beat a team 80-5 once… in basketball. This past year at Victory, we lost a game 85-6. It wasn’t any fun.

I would tell 23-year-old me that games like this don’t teach anyone anything. Having been on both sides, I see more clearly now.

Karma isn’t in the Bible, but what goes around truly does come around.

 

Your success is not yours alone.

We only lost four games my first year as a head coach. We made the playoffs for the first time in three years. It must have been my expert coaching, right?

23-year-old me was clearly a tactical genius, capable of inspiring greatness in previously under-achieving athletes.

False, I had inherited a young team of talented basketball players and a transfer from the Proviso West basketball system.

On top of the nice set-up left for me by the previous coach, our school dropped into a lower classification due to lower enrollment.

Clearly the deck was stacked in my favor to succeed. Those guys could have coached themselves to similar results.

23-year-old me didn’t believe that, though. He was a basketball guru. You couldn’t tell him any different.

 

Good call on implementing the Read and React system.

Hey, 23-year-old me did something right! Blind squirrels find acorns too.

I stumbled across Rick Torbett’s Better Basketball's Read and React Offense
the summer before I started coaching.

After researching it more thoroughly, I bought the DVD’s and attended the clinic.

We implemented it immediately, and I really think it got us no less than six wins that season.

Without the R&R, I probably would have ran something that didn’t utilize my players’ skills correctly. I would have undoubtedly fallen onto a crutch of a system that I was familiar with but didn’t produce results.

The Read and React made me a decent coach.

 

Enjoy your journey, because few reach the destination.

23-year-old me was obsessed with winning the state title. I knew we had the talent. I also secretly knew my situation was extremely favorable.

I was so focused on achieving that goal, that I missed making some great memories in the process.

 

Don’t be scared to try new things strategy-wise.

With the talent that I had, I wish that I experimented a bit more. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but I think we could have done some more things defensively that would have made us better.

I’ve learned not to be scared to try new things. The only wins that truly matter are the ones that have post-season implications. Ask Coach Pop, he sacrificed about ten to fifteen regular season wins to get an NBA championship.

That’s a pretty fair trade.

 

Spend more time developing relationships.

I currently have a very good relationship with a core group of my previous players. They’ve helped me out so often. It’s because I invested time in them.

I wish that I invested the same time in the rest of my players, though. I should have spent more time developing relationships with them.

I also should have spent more time building friendships with opposing coaches. Too often I viewed them as the enemy. Really they are co-laborers in the Kingdom.

 

Hold all of your players accountable.

I didn’t let my guys get away with everything. I addressed issues. I dismissed a player from the team for a period of time. I benched guys for bad attitudes. I did all the coachy things.

However, I wish I held them more accountable in their attitudes and relationships. Especially their relationship with Christ.

 

In Closing

Looking back on all of these missed opportunities, it’s very easy to be depressed. However, I rejoice in knowing that God used that period of time to teach me many things about teaching, coaching, mentoring, and ultimately about Himself.

I certainly haven’t figured it all out, but I feel that this piece of advice would benefit all young coaches.

So please listen to 28-year-old me, because 23-year-old me wouldn’t have cared to take the time to talk to you.

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Comment by Jeff Peterson on August 5, 2014 at 1:03pm

David! I was just thinking about you the other day and wished I had kept your contact info. Good to hear from you! I really enjoyed (and tremendously miss) that tournament as well. I admired how disciplined and well coached your Tabernacle teams were. Josh is still hosting that tourney at OSC if you're looking for one for any of your teams. Anyways, yeah... Texas. It's different, but I'm enjoying it. Trying to get things rolling athletically at our new school here. I hope everything is going well for you and your family. Keep in touch. TheAthleticDirectors.com, jpeterson@vbainfo.com

Comment by David Corbett on August 5, 2014 at 12:54pm

Jeff, Great Article.  You aren't alone in your evaluations - I admire that you would look back and evaluate who you were...I for one don't like the idea of looking back at me at all.  God be praised, he's not done with us yet.  Always enjoyed the friendship at the Old Suwanee Classic.  My family is up in the Memphis area now...I see you are down in Texas?  Best wishes, David Corbett

Comment by Jeff Peterson on August 1, 2014 at 5:55pm
Thanks, Jim. Praise The Lord!
Comment by Jim Phillips on August 1, 2014 at 5:39pm

Jeff:  Any time we challenge ourselves to get ourselves out of the way ... it is a good word.  Thank you for your writing.  I was blessed, convicted, challenged and encouraged!  Live dead.

Comment by Jeff Peterson on August 1, 2014 at 7:39am

Thank-you, Gary. We always strive for practicality in our articles at TheAthleticDirectors.com.

Comment by Gary Garrison on August 1, 2014 at 7:36am

Thanks, Jeff.  Very insightful information that is valuable to all of us who coach...young and old alike!  Great practicality.

Comment by Jeff Peterson on July 31, 2014 at 10:30am

Thanks, Randy. I appreciate the compliment. I'm still just blown away that you, Coach Scott, and others find this valuable. Praise the Lord!

Comment by Randy J Krystowiak on July 31, 2014 at 9:57am

Tremendous insight from a guy who is still pretty young. Thanks for sharing with us.

Comment by Jeff Peterson on July 30, 2014 at 4:34pm
Thanks, Josh!
Comment by Josh Beers on July 30, 2014 at 4:17pm

Great article.  Thanks for sharing transparently and challenging my journey.

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