The PCA Blog - New England

Empathy, Unselfish Leadership, And Making Mom Proud At Coffee With Coaches


Three World Series championship trophies gleamed in the brilliant sunshine overlooking Fenway Park at PCA-New England’s 4th Annual Sports Leadership breakfast Coffee with Coaches. Inside, over a hundred PCA supporters listened as Cat Whitehill, Greg Brown, Ted Minnis and Stephen Pagliuca shared the importance of empathy, unselfish leadership, and making mom proud as a coach, athlete, parent, and person. What did they have to say?

“Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard toward being a better coach is to have empathy for my players. Just take the time to understand what they’re going through on the field and off of it. During preseason one-on-one player-coach meetings the last thing we talk about is hockey.” - Greg Brown, Boston College Men’s Ice Hockey Associate Head Coach, NHL veteran, two-time Olympian, All-American, Boston College Hall of Fame

“A great coach assigns all the praise when things go right, and takes all the blame when things go wrong.” - Cat Whitehill, Boston Breakers Coach, professional, Olympic Gold medalist, 10 year veteran of the USWNT, All-American at UNC

"In the past, you have the sense that coaches, particularly in some of the big name college programs, might have attributed their team's success a bit more to themselves and their own mastery of the X's and O's. Today's college coaches . . . are more likely to understand that their team's success has to do with their players, both in terms of talent and in an ability to work together as a team. Today's best college coaches simply take more of an interest in their players as people . . . that's why we are seeing them have more success at the professional level if they decide to make that leap." - Steve Pagliuca, Co-Chairman of Bain Capital, Managing General Partner and Co-Owner of the Boston Celtics, coach of over 100 youth sports teams

A great coach is able to bring everyone along, and make everyone feel they are part of the team. This mindset is critical to giving players a reason to believe." - Greg Brown

“One of the easiest ways a coach can earn players’ trust is to get their input for on-field decisions. You may not use all of it, but the simple act of having your players be heard creates a stronger bond.” - Cat Whitehill

A great coach develops trust by showing they care more about their players off the field than on it. They take an active interest in players’ off field activities, and provide specific feedback to encourage players to be leaders on the field, leaders in the classroom and leaders in the community.” - Ted Minnis, Harvard Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Coach, USA Water Polo Development Coach, National Finalist for PCA’s Double-Foal Coach® Award

It’s all about getting players to do things for others, not for themselves. A great team has players who can look within themselves instead of pointing fingers when facing adversity.” - Cat Whitehill

“To me, one of the greatest intangibles a player can have is adaptability. Regardless of skill, he or she needs to be willing to learn and speak our team’s language if we are going to have success.” - Ted Minnis

“My coaches always drilled into me to find a way to be a better leader every day. As a player, and now as a coach, this advice continues to bear fruit in meaningful and unexpected ways.” - Cat Whitehill

“Some of the worst advice I heard comes from when Charles Barkley used to say ‘I’m not a role model.’ The fact is, in sports we are all role models, and hearing a player in his prime say that drove home that I am a role model, and I must always act accordingly. As a check, the standard I hold myself to, and the standard to which I hold my players, is about ensuring everything I do is something that would make my mother proud.” - Ted Minnis

And the crowd’s response? They wished they had had a coach like one of the panelists.

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