How to Develop your Own Coaching Philosophy
As a coach and teacher, the real question is not “what” but “why.” By this I mean all effective coaches are essentially master teachers. It doesn’t matter if you win your conference championship or qualify a team for nationals. Your goal is not met unless your success is measured by the attitude of your players, and their commitment to personal achievement. The newly published biography of master coach Percy Wells Cerutty of Australia by Graem Sims exquisitely describes the methods of a world-class coach who taught that the road to self-mastery is the best way to athletic achievement.
Sims refused to put Coach Cerutty on a pedestal; instead describing how he played to the crowd at the expense of his athletes on occasions, displayed an overbearing personality, and sometimes even had his own ambitions overshadow that of his athletes. As we read this book, we discoverer that even our greatest heroes have the same personal struggles we do. We can all strive to become master coaches with a deep and abiding faith in our coaching philosophies. It is the effort expended in putting the ideas into action that makes our coaching an art of self-discovery.
When Cerutty’s most famous runner, Herb Elliot, describes years later that his life is still changed by the ingredient of spirituality his coach placed into his training you get a strong sense that his type of approach deserves our attention. In reading the new biography of Coach Cerutty, I noticed a few wonderful points in his viewpoint of sport which had maximum impact. I’m certain that what any coach needs to do to make his activity one of personal insight varies, but all of them can create techniques and methods that can act as a mechanism to deeper and more personally rewarding coaching.
Team retreats offer one avenue for players and coaches to relax together and find common reasons for “playing together.” The proverbial “fireside chat” brings out the philosophical nature of most people. Cerutty’s mecca was a seaside rural resort in Australia, but all that is really needed is to find a quiet location for thinking and reflection. Biographer Sims says of Percy, “There was seldom small talk when Percy was around. They would discuss politics, philosophy and the great masters of history. It was talk of great seers and prophets, great artists and athletes.” Coach Cerutty firmly believed that when our thoughts are elevated and we strive in sport with larger ideals than just winning we free ourselves to become victors in many fields of our lives.
When you get bogged down by the pressures of winning at any cost and find you have lost connection to your team that’s the time to return to the basics. Not the basics of the techniques and strategies of your sport but the basics upon which you are choosing the meaning of your playing.
To learn more about the Cerutty theory of coaching and his personal philosophy of sport you can read the just released biography by Graem Sims called Why Die? It can be found at http://amazon.com, and is published in Australia by Lothian Books. The U.S. distributor is Starbright Publishers, 4226 28th Street, Suite 2C, Long Island City, NY 11101. The phone number is 718-784-9112.
I was the last coach to train with Coach Cerutty. I brought him to the United States in 1974 when I was the Director of the Esalen Sports Center in California. I have used his techniques at Georgia Tech and Life University where we won 12 national championships in the NAIA and I was named “Coach of the Year” on three occasions. If you are looking for a book that inspires you to have a larger philosophy of sport and receive the deepest satisfaction possible from coaching give it a read. You won’t be disappointed!