10 Ways to Become a Transformational Coach

Joe Ehrmann is a former NFL star and now “The Most Important Coach in America”, according to Parade magazine. Among Joe’s earliest memories is a recollection of his father swearing angrily as he tried to teach his five-year-old son how to throw a punch, and then slapping the little boy for his failure. The experience was typical of the older man’s parenting style — and of the methods too many other coaches would apply as Ehrmann pursued a life in sports.

Such “transactional” coaches are all too common in American athletics, Ehrmann writes.Their egos hinge on their team’s performance, so they train their players to believe that winning is the sole important thing and that self-worth should be measured by physical accomplishments. And often, the children who learn from these coaches go on to become coaches themselves and perpetuate the same harmful ideas.

Fortunately, Joe was blessed enough to meet a number of “transformational” coaches, who showed him another way, a style of coaching that puts players’ needs first — even the players who lacked ability — and ultimately contributes to building stronger, happier teams.

Be transformational, not transactional. Here are 10 ways to become a transformational coach:

Develop your personal coherent narrative (autobiographical history) and remember the role sports and coaches have played in your life – integrate your good, bad and ugly experiences.

Remember your masculine roles models growing up. In your family, neighborhood, movies and sports. Were they positive or negative in your own masculine maturation? Who are male role models of your players today? What kind of role model are you? Here are 10 Ways to be a Role Model to Your Children.

Be mindful of the almost unparalleled power, position, and platform you have in the lives of your players. The privilege of coaching comes with a responsibility to help boys become men and girls become women. Begin to imagine the coach you want to be. Develop a detailed description and vivid image of yourself as fully empowered to transform the lives of your players.

Contemplate whether you are a transactional coach – using players to meet your needs, wants and desires – or a transformational coach utilizing the “power of the whistle” to positively change the arc of every players life.

Explore why you coach. Write a single sentence stating the difference you are trying to make in the lives of your players. Example of Joe Ehrmann’s transformational coaching purpose: “I coach to help boys become men of empathy and integrity who will lead, be responsible and change the world for good.” You purpose statement should dictate every interaction with players, their parents and every chalk talk.

Examine why you coach the way you do. Are you coaching to transform lives or merely repeating the way you were coached? Be open to feedback from your loved ones, fellow coaches and players regarding how helpful/not helpful your behavior is. Before the season ask every parent “What is one thing you think I should know about your child that will help me coach him/her?”

Put yourself in your players’ shoes. With all the social and emotional developmental needs of young people and the peer pressure, performance pressure and parental pressures on young people – what does it feel like to have you as their coach? List the feelings you think your verbal and non-verbal communications are generating among your players.

Ask yourself if your coaching is worth imitating. Players come to practice and hang on your every word. Watch how you talk to them, their teammates and other coaches. There is a good chance when they become parents and take their own children on a sports field, they will coach the way you coached them.

Explore how you define and measure success as a coach. All Pro Dad can help with this article The Key to Success is Defining It! Your definition of success must flow out of your purpose statement. Joe defines his success as a coach over a twenty year period. When his players come back as men of empathy and integrity who are devoted husbands, committed fathers and contributors to society, Joe knows he has been successful. When someone asks Joe how his team will be this year, he always responds, “I will let you know in 20 years!” How do you define and measure success as a coach?

Have coaching role models from the past and present. Look to men who are champions on and off the field. They may include Joe Ehrmann, Tony Dungy, Joe Gibbs, Mike Tomlin, Jim Caldwell, Bobby Bowden, Joe Girardi and Tom Landry for starters.

The most important life lesson I want you to learn by playing for me is… I say that because…