By: John Klessinger, Head Wrestling Coach - South River High School (MD)
Originally Published in: A Coach’s Manual
Provided by: Championship Productions
"If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, you did it. That is all it takes to win football games for you." - Paul "Bear" Bryant, 6X NCAA National Champion Football Coach, University of Alabama
Bear Bryant's quote sums up this chapter. A large part of being a leader is holding your athletes accountable to your program's mission, goals, and standards. It is the burden of leadership. Our society is quick to blame and find fault in our leaders. It is a modern-day problem. Not every problem you have as a coach will be your fault. But as the leader, everything within your program is your responsibility to fix.
"Pointing the finger at yourself first" is a leadership quality that all of the great coaches embrace. Watch interviews after the games. The great ones quickly turn it on themselves if things do not go well. Could you imagine Coach Wooden blaming his players for a loss? We admired him for his humility and personal accountability. You may think it was easy for Wooden to be humble and accountable when he won championship after championship. You may not know that it took him 16 years as the head coach of UCLA to win his first.
There are numerous benefits to adopting this leadership quality. First, your players will respect you more for taking responsibility after a poor performance. It builds trust and rapport. From trust and rapport, your players will work harder and be more open to constructive criticism. It takes the pressure off them and allows them to work on improvement. Pointing the finger at yourself first puts the onus on you to devise a way to fix it.
Coming home from a match, I go through the past few practices in my head. I analyze our drills, techniques, and conditioning to see what we need to do. I could blame someone for not performing well, but it is pointless and does not solve anything. In some way, the bottom line is that I did not prepare my kids, either technically, mentally, or physically. There is always something we could have done differently. At a minimum, this line of thinking and philosophy is more constructive and will lead to a quicker resolution than throwing your hands in the air and being angry.
I haven't always been this way, and still, right now, I will allow myself some time to be frustrated or vent to my coaches or athletic director. But, I will not let it follow me into the next practice. It is a conscious decision to get back to business as usual and continue to work and improve. No dwelling on the night before, only moving forward and making improvements for next time.