Monday, April 30, 2012

InSideOut Coaching

My Friend, Pulitzer Prize winner, Jeffrey Marx wrote a New York Times bestselling book entitled A Season of Life.  It is based on his long time mentor Coach Joe Ehrmann.  More than a quarter-century after they first knew each other as a professional football star and a ballboy for the Baltimore Colts, Joe Ehrmann and Jeffrey Marx once again crossed paths. The outcome was a remarkable journey through the greatest football season of all. It was really a season of life more than anything else.

Joe was now a white-haired minister who also coached high school football and ran a program called Building Men for Others. He was changing lives by teaching boys how to be men of substance and impact by focusing on relationships and a cause beyond themselves.

Now, Coach Ehrmann has written his book entitled InSideOut Coaching.  An excellent book for the coach and parent alike.  Below is my summary of highlights that I hope you will enjoy.  

Book Summary: InSideOut Coaching
By:  Joe Ehrmann
1.     I saw the transactional coaches:  the kind of coaches who use players as tools to meet their personal needs for validation, status, and identity.  They held their power over us to elicit the response they wanted. 
I also saw the transformational coaches, who used their coaching platform to impart life-changing messages that I began to understand only decades later.  Coach-power, like all forms of power, can be used either for good or for bad, for self or for others.  Transformational coaches are other-centered.  They use their power and platform to nurture and transform players.  I followed these coaches because I sensed their authenticity; they have affected me for a lifetime.  Players first, team second, coach’s needs met by meeting the needs of players. 
No coach could teach his players critical life skills until he learned those skills himself. 
2.     If you want to be a better coach, you have to become a better you. 
You give your players memories, for better or for worse, that stay with them until the day they die. 
So I started to ask men and women I met this question:  When you were younger, what person made the biggest difference in your life: 
The answer was invariably someone who mentored, taught, advised, affirmed, or inspired.  That person was often a coach.   Sports could liberate young people from their shackles of fears, doubts, anxieties, and social pressures. 
3.     Coaching cannot be reduced to strategy and technique.  Great coaching demands introspection, integrity, and integration of the coach’s life history.  All three help me to step outside the standard “coaching box” and coach according to the needs of my players. 
4.      Somehow through the centuries—and at light speed in recent decades—organized sports have almost entirely lost this vision of sports as a tool for mentoring, teaching virtue, and fostering citizenship.  The moral code of the Greek citizen-athlete was devoured by the Romans’ depraved and commercialized approach to sports as an end in itself. 
Sports have lost much of the value and virtue needed to foster the healthy development of our youth.  Let’s face it:  Our “future” is in trouble, more than we care to realize. 
We hear the data regularly—but it never ceases to make me wince.  Every twenty-six seconds one of our children drops out of high school.  Thirty-two percent of all ninth graders do not graduate from high school in four years.  The rate is 50 percent for minorities, and that number jumps to 66 percent if the minority student lives in poverty!  When a child enters adolescence his or her mortality rate doubles; 26 percent report a sexually transmitted disease; 21 percent are diagnosed with mental health problems; 17 percent are obese; 28 percent engage in binge drinking; almost 25 percent are victims of violence; and 20 percent of teenage dating relationships involve physical or sexual violence. 
And don’t think it’s just poor and minority children who are struggling and suffering—it’s all our children.  In her book Price of Privilege, Dr. Madeline Levine writes that America’s newest “at-risk” group is children from affluent, well-educated families.  Her research shows that money, prestige, private school education, and material goods often offer little or no protection and can even contribute to mental illness and unhappiness.  Addictions, anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and self-destructive behavior are epidemic among “well-off” children and families. 
5.     In a groundbreaking study, Hardwired to Connect, thirty-three doctors, research scholars, neuroscientists, and youth service professionals issued a report most startling for the simplicity of its suggested solution.  These experts stated that much of what is causing the crisis of our youth is a lack of meaningful relationships and connections with moral and spiritual meaning. 
This report makes the case that young people have three basic needs.  One, they need someone to believe in them and to affirm and validate their inherent value and potential.  Two, they need a belief system.  According to the study, our youth are seeking some kind of spirituality to help them find meaning and purpose in life.  Third, they need a place to belong—a community built on well-defined principles with expectations and boundaries that provide structure and safeguards in the treacherous journey to adulthood.  They need to belong to a team!  They need a teacher-coach, a mentor. 
Bullies act tough in order to hide feelings of insecurity and self-loathing.  Coach Bully has an incomprehensible need to dominate his players. 
            Any person in a position of power or authority over young people has a moral and implicit contractual responsibility to protect and nurture those young people and strive to see them flourish.  Coaching affords a key opportunity to restore and honor this social contract.  To undertake this awesome responsibility, each coach can begin the InSideOut journey by asking and answering these four key questions:
Why do I coach?
Why do I coach the way I do?
What does it feel like to be coached by me? 
How do I define success? 

Coaching shouldn’t start with Xs and Ox but with Ys.  This “WHY should be a clear and concise statement defining the impact we are trying to make in our players’ lives. 
7.     If you were on your deathbed today and you wanted to measure your success in life, if you wanted to measure the kind of man or woman you were, it would come down to two things and only two things. 
First:  Life is about relationships.  It’s about the capacity to love and to be loved. 
The questions you ask at the end of your life are not what material things, awards, or applause you’ve acquired.  Certainly the question is not how many wins you’ve had.  The questions that will matter most on your deathbed are the questions related to your relationships.  What kind of husband was I?  What kind of wife?  What kind of partner?  What kind of mother?  What kind of father?  What kind of son?  What kind of daughter?  What kind of friend?  What kind of member of the community?  What kind of coach?  Who did I love and who loved me?

8.     It takes courage to build and maintain community:  going against the cultural grain, defying the messages we are almost forced to ingest as coaches, standing up against a powerful system of misguided values that we reject.  All these are courageous efforts. 
And yet, to try to build a program that strives to instill moral courage in our young people is really not an option as a coach.  Webster’s defines “courage” as “the attitude of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful instead of withdrawing from it; quality of being fearless or brave; valor.” 
Courage can be divided into two types:  physical and moral.  Of the two, physical courage is a well-recognized virtue held in high esteem in the world of sports. 
Moral courage is doing what you believe is right, even if others disagree; doing what is morally right even in the face of criticism, ridicule, rejection, or retaliation.  This means standing up and speaking our on behalf of your moral and ethical values and showing up to put them into action while encouraging others to do the same. 

1 comment:

  1. Coach, Ehrmann also sets out to redefine what it means to be a man and a woman in our culture. He blows up three myths for each gender: for boys, the ball-field, the bedroom, and the billfold; for girls, it's more complex: the Prince Charming Myth, Beauty and Body Type, and Abandonment of Authentic Self. Both genders need education on why these cultural myths are inauthentic, debasing, and destructive.

    He replaces them with that common definition that you describe from the deathbed. Relationships and commitment to a cause. Those are the enduring things. The things that matter.