The 12 Absolutes of Coaching
Tony Wolfe, Head Baseball Coach, Buford High School, Georgia
#1 Great Assistant Coaches
• Model chemistry for the team.
• Have roles and are allowed to do them.
• Connect with players in a way that the head coach can’t.
• Have area(s) of expertise.
• Are the engine that drives the team.
• Are independent thinkers, but loyal followers.
• The best friends you will ever have in coaching.
#2 We Are Really Coaching Kids
• I started coaching baseball in 1983 but I learned over the years that I am really coaching kids.
• We get into coaching because of our love for the sport. To continue to be around the game after our playing days are over. But in time, you realize your love is really in coaching kids, not baseball.
• A great coach can coach anything, because he is coaching kids, not the sport.
• Teach/don’t expect. Correct/don’t criticize. Have more confidence in them than they have in themselves.
• We all have a coach that hooked us, made us love the game forever. It wasn’t because he taught us the game, it was the impact he made on us.
#3 Be Significant, Not Important
• I spent most of my life wanting to be important, but through God, I learned to try to be significant! It is not about Me! It is about making an impact on others.
• Along with backwards thinking about baseball and kids, my goals were backwards. I wanted to win everything- championships, coach of the year awards, fame, accolades. Slowly, I learned that impacting kids were much more significant than trophies, awards and fame. The greatest gifts are relationships, experiences, memories. Are you making your players better people, people of substance? Are you growing their character, their maturity? Do you value them? Will your relationship last when the games are over? What would our worst players say about us. We have more impact on our players than anyone else.
#4 Don’t Let Ego Get in the Way
• Ego will always get in the way of leadership. Anger and embarrassment come from ego.
• As a young coach, I put too much of my identity in the results of my team. I took it too personally. Coaching is what we do, not who we are. Pride can be a great motivation, but ego can also destroy connections, disrupt vision, and create a negative environment. Control your emotions! When we are embarrassed by our team’s play we create a negative culture.
#5 Work the Problem
• From the movie “Apollo 13”.
• In a crisis, don’t let emotions over-rule your thought process. Find a way, solve the problem. There is a solution to every problem, it is our job to find it.
#6 Focus on What Your Players Can Do
• “Focus on what your players can do, not what they can’t do.” (Jim Carter- GHS 1978).
• Too many times we focus on the negative parts of a player’s game. Focus on what each player can do and use them accordingly. We have gotten great results from players who had glaring weaknesses, by focusing on what they did well and then putting them in situations to be successful. See the strength, not their weakness.
#7 Prepare Your Players for the Path
• Prepare your players for the path, not the path for your players. Nothing ever goes as planned. “We don’t rise to the occasion, we sink to the level of our training”.
• Prepare your players to adapt, improvise, and adjust, to overcome. Too many times we try to prepare the path for our team with an easy schedule, routine practices, and controlled outcomes. Players have to be disciplined, and mentally tough, because something will always go wrong at a big moment. Try to prepare your teams for everything that can be thrown at them, especially end of game situations. Have emergency plans that you have covered in case of injury or ejection. We practice our emergency plan several times a year, especially as we enter the playoffs. Prepare your players to be tough, disciplined, play-makers. “Do they have enough bullets in the gun? Are they trained to adjust and over-come on the fly?
#8 Be a Leader
• Rules without relationships will lead to rebellion. Are you a leader, manager or ruler?
• It is easy to lead when things go well, but how we handle the bad times determines our true ability.
• Use unemotional discipline. Love them through the period of discipline. Have an end and a second chance.
• Never miss a chance to lead (includes discipline). Consistent enforcement of rules.
• The right words are as important as any physical punishment or loss of playing time.
• Lead, don’t manage. Display the poise and class you want your players to have.
#9 Invest in Your Best Players
• I coach good players better than the bad players.
• You can’t win without your best players playing well. The problem is many times they are the hardest to coach. You have to find a connection with them. You have to find the right buttons to push to get the most out of them. They want to be great, not just good. Convincing them that you can make them better is the key. Treat each player fairly, not equally. Don’t let them get bored, demand they become leaders, teach them to be selfless. Don’t let their talent and ego scare you. Give them ownership of the team. Responsibility makes them invest more.
#10 Sponge Theory
• Soak it all in, Pour it all out.
• We ask our underclassmen to soak in everything they hear and see. We want them to be seen more than be heard. Learn everything you can about the game, your position, leadership, work ethic, team and family.
• We ask our seniors to pour out everything they have learned over their first 3 years. Your legacy is what the guys behind you learn and continue after you’re gone.
#11 Build a Growth Team
• We all need to grow as a leader and a coach!
• No one achieves success alone. Surround yourself with people who make you better. I have learned so much about coaching/leadership from so many different people. Sometimes nuggets come in the 5 minute conversation at lunch duty. Most times, it has nothing to do with my sport. Spend 5-10 minutes with other leaders and you will walk away with something new. Have a group of people in your daily life who have leadership roles and you will become a better leader.
#12 Practice With the End in Mind
• If your practices are not preparing you for the end of the season, it is a waste of time. Practice fundamentals that win in the playoffs. Practice with tempo needed to win in the playoffs when things will be faster. Practice with pressure, because your team will feel pressure in the playoffs. Have emergency plans, because something will go wrong in the playoffs. Practice what you repeatedly do in playoff games.
Coach’s Wolfe’s last slide is something every teacher, leader, and coach needs to take to heart.