The moment you first realized that you might like to make coaching part of your career.
I realized very early in life I wanted to coach. My best friends dad, Ray Harding, was the high school football coach and in fourth grade gave me the opportunity to “help” on the sidelines. What started out as something that was fun turned out to be one of the most impactful events in my young life. It was the first time I was a part of a team. I began to learn the importance of being a good teammate, and that we all had a job to do, no matter how big or in my case small it was, and that it was crucial for the teams success. We were all part of something bigger than just us. I also saw firsthand how important good leadership is. Coach held everyone to the highest standard, but also treated everyone with respect. Whether it was the starting quarterback, or the last guy on the roster, or in my case the “cord boy”. He treated us all the same. To see this respect passed between players and coaches was amazing. It was also the first time I began to understand the bigger picture of process. Every Friday night, after a big win or a tough loss his words were the same. “Practice tomorrow 8 am.” It was time to start preparing for the next game – never allowing the highs or lows of the night to affect the journey forward for his team. The consistency in his behavior and commitment to his players was something I’ll never forget. It made me want to have that same kind of impact as a coach someday.
Outside of mentors, talk about one or more ways you’ve learned some aspect of coaching.
The biggest lesson I learned early on was that there are many different learning styles for players. What you verbalize to one guy might need to be different to the next, despite the fact that you’re trying to get them to accomplish the same task. I had learned to do things a certain way, and had to figure out how to get results from players that learned a different way. It was challenging initially, but has become my favorite thing now. Watching players from all different walks of life improve their skills both on and off the field and communicating about these things is the most rewarding part of the job.
If you could go back to your rookie coach self and give one piece of advice, what would it be?
If I had could go back to my early days and give myself some advice it would be patience. Take the time to really get to know your players. Everyone has a story, a past, etc. Having more in depth knowledge of what exactly that is for each player will make you a more effective communicator. Ask more questions. There are many ways to go about accomplishing a task. The concept of being a constant learner is crucial in staying relevant and is something I love about what I get to do now.
What is one thing you didn’t know about what coaches do before you got into coaching?
The one thing I didn’t fully understand until I actually got into coaching was the amount of time you need to put in in order to help run a successful program. I was always a first guy there last to leave type player. I didn’t realize how much more time it takes to coach. Obviously practice planning, throwing schedules etc. – but the time you spend arranging travel accommodations, umpires, ordering equipment and maintaining budgets takes time. People think we are crazy keeping the hours we do as coaches, it takes away time spent missing family events, social gatherings etc. but the rewards are well worth it. I can’t imagine doing anything else than what I’m fortunate enough to do!
Your dream lunch date. One coach. Any sport. Any level. Living or dead. Who is it?
My dream lunch would be with the late Red Schoendienst. He was the subject of my first book report and since then has been my biggest hero sports wise. He did it all. Fought adversity by beating tuberculosis and an accident that nearly blinded him. Won a World Series as a player, coach, and manager. Was a 10 time All Star, and a member of the Hall of Fame. He wore a Major league uniform for 74 years, 67 of those with the Cardinals. He really did everything in the game, including changing as the game changed.