If you Google “coach” today, you’ll find the debacle of ex-coach Joe Paterno. But below this (after Coach handbags) you’ll land not on “sport coaching” but on personal or life coaching. These are people who will help you achieve your personal and professional goals. The word, I’m told, originated from the coach or carriage that carries people from one place to another.
This is what a sport coach is meant to be. One who carries people from where they are to where they want to go. Coach Joe Paterno did this for so many people. He’ll do this no more.
It is a sad, sad story. There are so many layers. So much yet to be brought to light. But one thing appears clear to me. Mr. Paterno lived by the principles of loyalty to team and this blinded him. He failed to speak up and speak truth when he knew it was being transgressed. We can’t afford this indiscretion, especially not when we speak for those who are without a voice, like our children and young people. Intimidated into silence, they suffer.
I recently shared a great story about Lisa Bishop and the difference she was making in the lives of her U19 players. Lisa is not a professional coach. She’s a volunteer. She’s a personal coach. She carries and cares for the young people in her charge. She’s a great coach.
So often we ask what a coach knows, what his credentials are, and how his team performs to decide whether he’s great. But shouldn’t we look beyond these things? And keep looking. Because complacency and doing things the way we always have with the staff we’ve always employed leaves us open to temptation. Sometimes the worst kind of temptation.
And our children are in the line of fire. Watching what a coach does tells us who he really is. And isn’t that what we really want to know before we entrust what we cannot bear to give up into his care.
Loyalty at all costs and taking one for the team are a great philosophy, but not a good lifestyle. I fervently hope that this tragic story will cause us a sports community to be rededicated to holding all coaches to the highest standards. It’s risky (Ask coach Mcqueary who won’t be at the Penn State game Saturday because of multiple death threats.) But isn’t bringing things out in the open the kindest thing to do? So those in the wrong can be set right. And all that is good takes its rightful place in the spotlight. It is amazing how well people behave when they know others are watching.
As a coach, I am so very sad today. Coach Joe was on a pedestal his career had earned him and it was a long way to fall. I am satisfied to be ferrying kids from where they are to where they dream of being. To me, that’s the best use of a coach.
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Thank you. For reading and for your kind words. It’s so good to hear that the human stories behind sports do connect us, even across continents and languages.