This is the second part in a three part series about acting as a coach to your college student. In our previous post we considered the shift in our role as our student heads off to college. In this post, we’ll listen to some advice from some of the world’s outstanding coaches, and consider how it applies to college parenting.
Many of the world’s greatest athletes credit their success to the influence of their coaches. They recognize that, while they may have certain abilities, they need the teaching, insight, and training that a quality coach can provide. This post is intended to inspire you in your new role as coach. You may have thought of yourself in this role before, as your child went through high school; you may have been, or currently are, an athletic coach – or this may be a new image for you. Either way, let’s explore some of the wisdom of the world’s greatest coaches and consider what it means to be a great coach.
“Probably my best quality as a coach is that I ask a lot of challenging questions and let the person come up with the answer.” – Phil Dixon – Director, Hoops Skool
We often think of the coach as the person with all of the answers – all of the knowledge to be imparted to the players. Maybe, as coaches, we need to try harder to ask the right questions rather than providing the right answers. Of course, if we’re going to “let the person come up with the answer”, we’re going to have to live with the answer. Even, sometimes, if we don’t agree.
“No coach has ever won a game by what he knows; it’s what his players know that counts.” – Paul Bryant – College Football Coach
This idea is similar to the previous one. Our wisdom and advice is important, but ultimately, the player is the one who needs to play the game. It’s a great feeling to impart wisdom, but the player – or college student – has to want it, and absorb it, for it to be useful. And sometimes, our students may know more than we realize.
“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” – Ara Parseghian – Football Coach
This short statement has two huge ideas of value as we think about our college sons and daughters.
First of all, we need to help them think beyond this moment in college. They need to live in the moment, enjoy their youthful spontaneity, and have fun, but they sometimes need to be reminded that they are on the road to somewhere. The journey matters, but the journey does lead somewhere. Whether they are focused positively on “who they are” – athletic hero, outstanding scholar, student leader – or whether they are currently experiencing some negatives – academic difficulties, romantic crises, or social awkwardness – it is a temporary stage on the larger journey.
Second, we need to help them look to the totality of who they may become. We often try to help our college students look to the future. But how often is that look to the future focused on job and career? Having a goal is important. We need to remind our student that having a goal keeps you on track. But we also need to help our student focus on “what they can be” in the larger sense of becoming the whole person they can become. Many of us define ourselves by our jobs or professions (and whether or not that is healthy is another discussion), but most of us realize that our lives are made up of more than our jobs. Helping our students think about what they can be in terms of their entire lives is important.
“Make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you.” – John Wooden – Basketball Coach
As parents of college students, we want the best for our sons and daughters. But we often need to remind ourselves that the goals for which our sons and daughters strive must be their goals. College students need an opportunity to explore the world and their own interests. We need to be there to support and offer feedback, but students should not be working for our goals for them. We need to allow them to find their own driving force.
“I never criticize a player until they are first convinced of my unconditional confidence in their abilities.” – John Robinson – Football Coach
How often, in our eagerness to encourage our students to strive for bigger and better things, do we forget to make sure that they know we believe – not just in them, but in their abilities? It’s not enough that we have confidence in their abilities, they need to be convinced of our confidence. We need to tell them, and tell them again, and tell them again, that we know they are capable. With that foundation, we can go ahead and point them toward ways to use those abilities more productively.
“Overcoaching is the worst thing you can do to a player.” – Dean Smith – College Basketball Coach
If coaching is good, can there ever be too much of a good thing? Apparently. Sometimes, taking a step back and allowing the player’s natural instinct to come through is just what’s needed. Sometimes, taking a step back and allowing the advice to sink in is just what’s needed. Sometimes, just getting out of the way and letting the player fumble the ball, may be the lesson that’s needed. Knowing how much is enough is important.
“Coaching is a profession of love. You can’t coach people unless you love them.” – Eddie Robinson – College Football Coach
In our final post of this series, we discuss some specific tips for coaching your college student through the college years.