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Why Do You Coach?

By understanding the people and events that shape you as a coach, you will be more aware of who you influence and how.

cycling coach encourages a racer at a track cycling race

Besides a passion for sport, there were likely other life events or key figures that led you to coaching as a career path—whether that involved events from childhood, mentors or coaches who inspired, a taste of success, a desire for challenge, a crazy amount of luck, or a combination of it all.

We can certainly see this blending of life events and influential people in the lead-up to Doc Counsilman’s coaching career. His obvious passion for swimming provided direction and fulfillment throughout his unsettled teen years.

And, fortunately, the right person came along at the right time—Ernst Vornbrock, his first coach, who undoubtedly played a defining role. Doc also just happened to be at the right places at the right times, keeping him on a path of athletic success. Counsilman ultimately discovered that he could combine his passion for swimming with his equally strong passion for science by becoming a coach.

This mix of life experience transpired in such a way that it almost seems Counsilman was destined to become a coach, and it’s hard to imagine where swimming would be without his influence.

Your path to coaching might look similar to Counsilman’s; mine certainly does.

My own path to coaching

I had a passion for athletics right from the start. And since I also had considerable success as an athlete, I was influenced by a number of coaches who were key to my development from elementary school through college. In my teen years there was considerable chaos in my home life due to financial strife. Fortunately, my high school coach, Leonard Scotten, provided direction when I could have easily gone the wrong way.

After high school graduation, he maintained contact, following my progress in college sports and helping direct me toward a career in coaching. He went so far as to personally hold down a coaching position at my former high school for a year until I graduated and could take it as my first job.

This, however, was a perplexing decision for me as I didn’t want to go back to my former high school as a coach. I was intent on striking out on my own, which I eventually did. Looking back, I still feel badly about not taking the position Coach Scotten held for me. Life is full of such difficult decisions. And we don’t always make the right ones.

Coach Scotten is now retired. Only seven years older than me, he was the exemplary democratic coach in my life who was as concerned for me as a person as he was for me as an athlete. That’s the heart and soul of being a “good” coach. He had a tremendous impact on my life in many ways. In fact, I can say without reservation that had he not come into my life when he did, I would have never become a coach.

Now let’s get even more personal.

Your path to coaching

What led you to become a coach? Let’s start with a list of those things that led Doc Counsilman and me into this profession along with some reasons I frequently hear from other coaches. While checking off the factors below, pause on each and give some thought as to how that influenced your life and career decision. Then add any others that played a role for you. This will help you come to understand who you are as a coach while making you more aware of others you are undoubtedly influencing.

Why do you coach?

As a coach, you are in a position to influence other peoples’ lives. Your role as a coach is held in high regard by society, and especially by those athletes who you come in contact with, be they 8 years old or 80. Never forget that you are a role model for others and that your comments and actions help shape the lives of many people. Coach as if you are helping others to become coaches. Because you undoubtedly are.