Derek Gentile: The value of a good coach



A few observations about getting rid of a longtime coach:

Principally, to me anyway, people like this are so hard to find that voluntarily removing him or her seems like folly.

It is very tough to replace a coach that understands his or her role. It takes enormous patience and tolerance and wisdom to coach young people in the 21st century. It is far, far more difficult than to do so say, 20 or 30 years ago.

The issue, in part, is that more young people tend to question authority. I understand it, and most of the time I appreciate when it's done. But a sports team, no matter what level, has to understand that you can only win as a team.

I often use former NBA star Michael Jordan as an example. Jordan once scored 63 points in a game (against the Celtics in Boston; I was there). But his team lost and the Celtics went on to win the NBA championship.

It was only when he understood that making his teammates better made him better made the Bulls better. And it was then that they won the championship -- six times in eight years, in fact.

It's the same at any level. I've been on teams with good coaches and I've been on teams with not-so-good coaches. And even then, I knew the coach in question wasn't very good. But I also knew that there can only be one boss.

The other difference is that parents feel they have far more license to be critical of coaches. That's fine. I can't tell you how many people I talk to on a daily basis that don't have a clue what's involved with coaching at any level. And they babble cluelessly about whichever sport they think they know.

I would say, "Leave coaching to the coaches." If they stink, they'll be gone soon enough.

Another point is that coaching takes an enormous amount of time for a relatively small amount of money. Certainly it's no secret that the money is lousy.

But it is very hard to find people who are still willing to put into the job what it is really worth. I think some coaches -- not all, but some -- believe that the relatively frugal salaries they are paid give them license to cut corners.

The main issue to me is -- and get ready, folks -- coaching at the high school level is not as much about winning as it is about many, many other things.

I will concede that winning is a factor, because successful coaches tend to be seen more favorably than unsuccessful coaches.

But again, I've been coached by a lot of different men in various sports. I took away from the experience far more than an appreciation of scoring more points than the other guys.

A good coach has to help kids keep winning and losing in perspective. If you lose the championship game, it's not the end of the world. The important thing is understanding that hard work brings results. That the teammates with whom you win or lose are people that you will be connected to, in some way, for the rest of your life.

And the important thing is to take advantage of that by maintaining friendships. Perhaps more importantly, at least to me, is to be a teammate for the rest of your life. Help out the other guy. Go out of your way to be a good person. Make a difference.

If you think that's too exalted a concept, then you haven't played for a good coach.

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile.


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