4 Minute Read or Listen

Why Do I Coach?

Whether we are in our first year or our 30th year of coaching, we need to constantly ask ourselves this question, and we need to have a good answer for it. If we don’t keep our “why” at the forefront of our mind, we will forget our “why” when we are faced with the current state of our sports culture.

People need a coach who cares more about others than they care about themselves. They need a team with a purpose that is bigger than winning.

Clarity of our “why” helps us in two big phases of coaching: First, in our planning. Our “why” guides our strategies, behaviors, and everything else we do, both as a coach and as a person. It helps us evaluate our actions and grow from our mistakes. Secondly, in our challenges. When we face critics, endure hard losses, or face ungrateful and entitled athletes and parents, we need to remind ourselves “why” we are here to help us keep moving forward.

Don’t Just be Passionate; Be Purposeful

I got into basketball coaching because it was my passion. When we know our “why”, we can align our passion with our purpose.

Now, at this stage, you might find all this to be over-the-top. Some coaches call me and ask, “Why can’t I just coach the game? I shouldn’t have to worry about bad attitudes, work ethic, and entitlement.” Other coaches just come out and say, “All this culture stuff and leadership development; it’s not my thing. I just like to coach my sport.”

What’s wrong with this approach? Well, it’s all about passion. Our world desperately needs people to coach with more purpose, not more passion! Passion is about “me”. Purpose is about others.

As coaches, we should be excited and grateful to work with athletes on their leadership and character. As coaches, when we align our passion for our sport with our purpose to serve others, we can create lasting, meaningful change.

Objective vs. Purpose

So, what about winning? I thought you might ask! Well, the best coaches—and I mean, the really great ones—don’t talk about winning much, and they do just fine!

Winning will come… just not typically as quickly as we want it to.

Still, when people start pestering you with questions about your goals for winning, or when you start focusing on winning, try what my good friend Nate Sanderson says: “Our objective is to win games. But, our purpose is that when they graduate; first, they need to know they were loved; second, that their value comes from who they are, not what they do; third, they were created uniquely for a purpose.”

What really matters in the grand scheme of life? The world doesn’t need more championship teams or Division One athletes. It has plenty already!

Just look around you. Rates of depression, suicide, shootings, and sexual violence are all rapidly rising. If you consume any news or look on social media, you see a world of people who are looking for love and acceptance. In the face of all this, does winning an athletic competition really matter?

No. It absolutely doesn’t matter. So, don’t waste another day of your coaching career pursuing the things that don’t matter. Instead, provide lasting fulfillment. Coach to win, but more importantly, coach for others.

Activities to Clarify and Define Your Why

  1. Coaching Timeline: Walk through your coaching timeline. Reflect on your earliest to most current memories. On a graph, write your positive experiences above the line, and your negative experiences below the line. The distance from the point to the line indicates the level of positivity and negativity. Where would you want your players to put you on their line?
  2. Purpose Statement: ‘Answer ”Why Do I Coach?” This should be one sentence. A simple statement to come back to: “I’m here for these kids.”
  3. Gather Feedback: Ask your players, “What was it like to play for me?” Start with the players you know and trust the most. Their responses will give you great insight into whether you are fulfilling your purpose or not?

-J.P. Nerbun