Monday, December 22, 2008

It's not what the coach knows, but what his players know that counts

Back in the late 1970s, my Dad bought a book titled "The Game-Makers," which is a series of interviews with eight top NFL coaches of the era about their philosophies.

[Throughout the book, there are pencil marks and notations my Dad made 30 years ago.]

The first chapter is devoted to the legendary Paul Brown, who emphasized the teaching aspect of coaching:

"A pro... coach is a teacher, no matter what. The players must learn. No matter what you teach, you must get people to want to learn. People think there are great mysteries attached to the game, but there are not. It comes down to fundamentals and they must be taught.

If we tell [our players] 'why' -- and I've always insisted on telling my players why, why we do everything we do, whether it's on or off the field -- they are more apt to accept it and get in the spirit."

Hall of Fame coach Don Shula (pictured here), who coached under Coach Brown early in his career, said that "Paul Brown was the greatest influence on me, especially in the teaching aspect of coaching."

"I've found that answering the 'why' has made me a better coach. It's not what you know but what your ball players know that counts. We make it as much like a classroom as possible, using all sorts of teaching aids, followed by practice on the field, followed by going over mistakes and improvements in the classroom.

The important thing is not what Don Shula knows or what any of my assistant coaches know. The important things is that we can transmit to the people we're responsible for. That's what coaching is... the ability to transmit information."