Words of Wellness

September 27, 2010 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner

"Coaching Opportunities"

     Football season is in full swing now, at all levels, including high school, college and professional. As you cheer your favorite team on to victory, the one person that will probably have the greatest impact on the outcome of the game will not even be playing. They will not make a pass, or run with the ball, or make a game saving tackle. But without this person, the team would not have much of a chance of winning. By now you’ve probably figured out who this person is--it is the coach.

     Coaches, and their personalities, are as different as the players they coach. One of my favorite coaches at the college level is Joe Paterno, who in in his 45th year as head football coach at Penn State University (he has been a member of the coaching staff at Penn State for 61 seasons). All those years add up to a lot of young mens’ lives that he has influenced. A coach does indeed have great influence, not just in terms of the wins and losses of a team, but in the impact they have on the players’ lives and their values as well.

     Do you know the derivation of the word coach? The word can be traced back to the name of a small city in Hungary, the city of Kocs. In 1551, in the city of Kocs, the first carriages to be drawn by horses were created. These carriages also became known as coaches, which was a reference to the cit of Kocs. Over time, the word “coach” was also applied to other modes of transportation, namely the stage coach, the coach car on a railroad, an automobile and coach class on an airplane.

     The connection between the origin of “coach” and the person standing on the football sideline with a clipboard is clear: a coach is someone who “carries” a person, or a group of persons, forward, from one place to another. They do this through a combination of instruction and inspiration. There are of course other examples of coaches as well, such as a vocal coach, a drama coach or a writing coach. There is even now a whole new profession that has grown out of the counseling field called life coaching, which has within it specialities such as executive coaching, relationship coaching and wellness coaching.

     While most of us will probably never have the opportunity to coach a football team, we all have the opportunity to serve as coaches in so many ways in our lives. If we think of a coach as someone who helps to “carry” a person forward from one place to another, then our opportunities to coach are endless. We serve as coaches to our friends, especially when they are going through a challenging time. Parents obviously serve as coaches as they “carry” their children from birth to adulthood. Adult children often serve as coaches to their aging parents, helping to “carry” them through their later years. There are numerous opportunities to serve as coach in the workplace as well, even if we are not in an official leadership position. Great football coaches come in many different styles, but they all have one thing in common. Whenever their team succeeds, they give all the credit to the players on the team. Great coaches in the various other roles I have outlined above do the same thing--they always emphasize and celebrate the growth and success of the other person, and never focus on themselves.

     So while you may not have a whistle and a clip board, I hope you will think about all the opportunities you have to be a coach in your life. As you cheer for your favorite football team, give some thought to who else in your life you have the opportunity to cheer for, inspire and “carry” forward.

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