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Part II: Becoming a Double Goal Coach – The Process of Learning to Coach Life Lessons

by Adam Sarancik


In Part I of this post, I discussed how and why the first step in coaching a member of a team should be to see the team member as a person and then as an athlete before thinking of them as a player. A coach’s success in developing the player has a direct correlation to that coach’s success in understanding and being successful at improving the person and the athlete.

Once a coach can look at a player and see first a person and an athlete, then the coach must first begin planning how they are going to develop the person and the athlete. This planning is done well in advance of the season and then continues each week and each practice session once the season begins.

Developing the person by using the sport as a vehicle to teach life lessons is done proactively by design, not just by inference from experience.

When goal-setting for the season, a coach should use the same process-oriented methodology to teach life lessons as the coach would use to teach the mechanics of their sport. For example, if the ultimate goal is to mentor the person to be a better son or daughter, a coach should not just tell the person they should be respectful and appreciative of the parents. The coach should actually require such things as having the player go immediately after practice to their parents and thank them for bringing them to practice and for supporting them in their sport. They could require the player to volunteer to do at least one thing to help the parent prepare dinner for the family each night. The player could also be required to do such things as read with or help a younger sibling do homework for ½ hour each night. The coach should notify the parents that these are requirements imposed by the coach and the coach should follow up on whether the player actually is doing them. The list is endless, but you get the idea.

In my experience, words are very powerful. I have always used discussions of inspirational quotes as a designed part of each practice or training session with my athletes. I even wrote a book for use by other coaches for this purpose – Takeaway Quotes for Coaching Champions for Life. At the start of and during each practice or training session, I always use quotes relating to the sport that we discuss as a team to raise the Sport IQ of the players. I also assign homework to assist in this process. For example, in baseball, I assign each player to research a current All-Star in the MLB or a Hall of Fame player that plays their position and ask them to learn what made that player a great player and a great person (or not).

During practice, the commitment to teach life lessons must be at the tip of a coach’s mind constantly. Every coach in the program must be constantly looking for opportunities to relate what is happening in the sport to something in the players’ lives. Remember, always see the players first as people with lives you are preparing to be successful beyond your program and as athletes, i.e., student-athletes, and this teaching life lessons mindset will become second nature over time.

At the end of practice, I always discuss a quote that is a life lesson to mentor the player(s) how to be a better son, daughter, student, employee, and a person of high moral character and integrity. However, some of these life lessons need to be role played during practice occasionally, e.g., weekly, so the players learn how to handle these issues in a real-world way.

The sport and life lessons that can be taught and role played are not a mystery – they have been the same from the beginning of time. They include:
- Sport – injuries, bad weather, poor playing conditions, bad calls by officials, disputes about playing time, ineligibility of players by grades or conduct, bad language, bad attitudes, “helicopter” or unruly parents, disrespect from other teams, etc.
- Self – attitude, work ethic, leadership, adversity, self-confidence, self-pity, self-esteem, self-advocacy, self-awareness, self-image, self-control
- Relationships – peer pressure, bullying, envy, the media, filling E-Tanks;
- Temptations – smoking, drugs, alcohol and sex.

At the start of your season, a coach should anonymously survey the team, coaches and players, to learn what they feel are the positives, negatives, securities and insecurities in their lives. “Never assume self-contentment from athletic ability!” These responses will be a guide as to what are the timeliest issues to be discussed.

When it comes to role playing, the methodology should be the same as it is for mentoring the person, athlete, and player in all three parts of holistic development. Specifically, you should coach preparation, then reaction, and then action. This methodology for coaching the sport is too detailed for an exhaustive discussion here and will be the subject of a future post of mine. However, I will explain here how it relates to mentoring a player to learn life lessons.

In baseball, one issue that is a constant, of course, is dealing as a hitter with a bad call by an umpire. So how can we use the preparation, reaction, action methodology to mentor the players not only to handle it properly in a game, but to handle a similar situation as a student, e.g., being given an unfair test by a teacher?

Stay tuned for the final post in this series where I will explain to you how to do this!

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Learn more about Sarancik's book, Coaching Champions for Life


Adam Sarancik has spent most of his adult life mentoring youth ages 8-22 in baseball, softball, soccer, and basketball. He is a favorite speaker at and director of coaches' and players' clinics. He has also developed several youth baseball leagues. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from San Diego State University, his J.D. degree from the University of San Diego School of Law and his Masters of Arts in Teaching from Western Oregon University. Adam is also an Impact Trainer for Positive Coaching Alliance and the author of  two books: Coaching Champions for Life and Takeaway Quotes for Coaching Champions for Life.

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