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Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Algorithm for a Successful Football Coach

SportsProf always has wondered about this -- what makes a successful coach, and, particularly, a successful football coach. SportsProf occasionally reads books by coaches, although he doesn't buy into their management books because it's hard to think that what Phil Jackson or Rick Pitino does translate into the board room or into meetings of top management. They and their disciples may debate me at length on this, but there are limits to sports metaphors.

Still, SportsProf has drawn wisdom from books by John Wooden and Dean Smith, to name a few (and particulary loves the little blue book that Coach Wooden has written that is more a collection of wisdom and good stories than it is a narrative). Anyway, that said, SportsProf just came upon a great quote and wanted to share it with you.

SportsProf reads "The New Yorker", which is an amazing feat considering that many who subscribe to this magazine let their copies pile up in their living rooms because each magazine has more to read that you possible can in one week. Anyway, in a recent edition (I can't remember the date or the title of the article), Adam Gopnik writes of enticing a famous museum curator who once was a defensive backfield coach at Williams College to coach his eight year-old son's flag football team. Gopnik relates that when he asked the curator about why he didn't take up coaching football, the gentleman replied, "Coaching football requires someone who is smart enough to do it well but dumb enough not to realize that any of it really matters." I might not have nailed down the quote precisely, but that's the gist of it.

And it's a great quote. True, some great coaches have coached football, and it's great to quote Lombardi, talk about Bill Walsh's offenses, Bill Parcells' hardass quotient and all the rest, but you have to ask yourself, with all that's going on in the world, is football really more than just another extracurricular activity? Lest we forget other important things in life, like taking your kids for ice cream, helping on a community project to build a playground, volunteering at your child's school, or calling a friend or neighbor in need, football is a game and that's it. Enjoy it, yes, but if you're redecorating your house in your home team's colors, or if you start crying without pretext because your favorite team is having a bad year, please go seek professional help.


Blogger '69 Knicks said...

Yup- that was a terrific piece (several weeks ago now by my count) Gopnik (who, and this is a SportsProf-like digression, wrote Paris to the Moon, which was a really great description of an American family discovering the idiosyncracies of living in France and whose sister is, for all the new parents out there, a co-author of The Scientist in the Crib, which thanks to the VCR, features some v interesting observations about child and brain development that are only really intuitive after you've read them) also noted in his article just how well Coach showed his young boys that building confidence was just about breaking things down to their simple components -- and that maybe being a great coach wasn't about some mystique or "innate" coaching drive, but about helping your athletes to keep learning how to do what it is they need to do.

But on the coaching and mentoring front (and with a nod to the Moneyball reference in the blog re Youlilis), you'd have to read Michael Lewis' article in the NY Times magazine in late March about Coach Fitz. Highly recommended. I think there were 26-3 scores in those Louisiana games, but the kids all learned how to stretch to compete...

12:30 AM  
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