My son, Morgan, calls me, “Dad.” It is my favorite name that I am called. I love hearing him call me “Dad.” I also realize that it is the most important name that I am called. While to just about everyone else in the world my name is “Scott,” I am “Dad” to Morgan, and I take the responsibility that comes with that name very seriously.
Other than “Scott,” “Dad,” and probably a few choice names people have called me through the years, the other name that I am most often called is “Coach.” Many years ago John Wooden wrote a great book called They Call Me Coach. The book is filled with many lessons that he learned throughout his life that made their way into his teaching and coaching of young people. The title, They Call Me Coach, is a good title, for it makes the reader zero in on the concept of who he is and how the title that people called him shaped his life. While this post is titled “My Name is Coach,” I am not claiming to be able to make John Wooden’s title or his ideas better or even add to them. Rather, this is my response to a thought that hit me numerous times over my career, and it has hit me hard recently. A few months ago, I was told by our school’s athletic director that I would not be re-hired as the varsity boys’ basketball coach. This post is about one of the thoughts I had as I realized that, for the time being, I am an “ex-coach”
As this new reality hit me, I realized that there is no such thing as an “ex-coach.” Once you are a coach, you are always a coach. This has been made clear to me at other points in my life when I stepped away from coaching for short periods of time. I started coaching at age 20, and for over thirty years, there have only been a few years where I have not coached in some fashion. Each time I stepped away from coaching for a while, I never felt like I was out of coaching. I was constantly watching sports with a coach’s eye, reading books by coaches, watching videos, and even attending coaching clinics. So the fact that I wasn’t coaching at those particular times didn’t make me feel that I wasn’t a coach.
But there is something even more powerful that hammers home the concept of “once a coach, always a coach.” People call me “Coach” whenever they greet me. Other coaches, teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and of course players who I have coached through the years all address me as “Coach.” When I talk to former players, the greeting is always, “Hey, Coach.” This happens often with players who have graduated. To them, I am not “Scott,” I am “Coach.” I have only had a few ex-players in my life ever address me by my first name, even those who are in their 30’s and 40’s now. I would have no problem with them calling me “Scott” – it is my name that everybody else calls me. However, just about every one of my players still calls me “Coach.” There are a few reasons why this happens. One is that they are uncomfortable calling me anything but “Coach” due to the respect that they have for me. Another is that they also have a level of respect for the title of “Coach.” Finally, one of the main reasons players still call me “Coach,” is that is my name to them. That is all they have known me as, and that is all they would ever consider calling me.
I still remember the first time I was ever called “Coach.” I imagine the young man who called me “Coach” for the first time doesn’t even remember me, but I have never forgotten the moment it happened, and I even remember the young man’s name – Matt Schuning – because of how powerful the moment was for me. I was student-teaching, and I was helping coach the freshmen boys’ basketball team. Matt was on the freshman team, and he was in my freshman English class. It was the day after our first practice, and Matt walked into the room and said, “Hey, Coach.” I was stunned. Here was a kid calling me, “Coach,” after one day of me being his coach. I thought, “That’s cool! I’m a Coach!” And then it hit me – “Whoa! I’m a Coach. These kids are looking up to me. They are taking their cues from me. They are listening to what I have to say and watching how I act. Holy Cow! I better do things the right way. I better behave properly. I better be a good role model. I better not screw this up!” I was 20-years-old, and the concept of “responsibility” had just hit me in the face with one 15-year-old boy calling me “Coach.”
That was 1981. For 34 years, I have never taken the title, the responsibility, or the importance of what I do for kids as a teacher and coach lightly. I have never taken the name that I am known by to so many people – “Coach” – for granted. Whether or not I ever coach again, I know that my name is “Coach” to thousands of people out there, and I have a huge responsibility to live up to being called “Coach.” Other than “Dad,” there is no greater name that I will be called. I have always loved and will always love being called “Coach,” and I will always keep in mind the great responsibility that I owe to that name. I hope any of you who are called “Coach” love being called “Coach” as much as I do. I also hope that you, too, will treat the name “Coach” with the dignity and responsibility that it deserves.
Do you remember the first time you were called “Coach”? Do you remember how that made you feel? I would love to hear from you in the comments section here or below this post on my website – www.coachwithcharacter.com.
About the Author of this Article
Scott Rosberg has been a coach (basketball, soccer, & football) at the high school level for 30 years, an English teacher for 18 years, and an athletic director for 12 years. He has published seven booklets on coaching and youth/school athletics, two books of inspirational messages and quotes for graduates, and a newsletter for athletic directors and coaches. He also speaks to schools, teams, and businesses on a variety of team-building, leadership, and coaching topics. Scott has a blog and a variety of other materials about coaching and athletic topics on his website – www.coachwithcharacter.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected].
Scott is also a member of the Proactive Coaching speaking team. Proactive Coaching is dedicated to helping organizations create character and education-based team cultures, while providing a blueprint for team leadership. They help develop confident, tough-minded, fearless competitors and train coaches and leaders for excellence and significance. Proactive Coaching can be found on the web at www.proactivecoaching.info. Also, you can join the 200,000+ people who have “Liked” Proactive Coaching’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/proactivecoach. Scott can also be reached through Proactive Coaching at [email protected].