Coach or Educator? Identity Matters!

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Coach or Educator? Identity Matters!

When the Game Stands Tall opens in movie theatres this Friday. It’s the story of De La Salle’s (Concord, California) storied high school football program under coach Bob Ladouceur.

De La Salle won 151 consecutive games under Ladouceur. Yes, you read correctly— 151.

Here’s an article previewing the movie that ran recently in the Contra Costa Times—a newspaper whose property is a stones throw from De La Salle’s practice field.

Having lived a short four miles from De La Salle for years, I’ve admired the school and all they stand for—football program included. Since 1994 twelve of their players have been drafted into the NFL (think: Maurice Jones-Drew, Amani Toomer, etc). No doubt, De La Salle’s football program is special.

What’s their secret sauce?

The Contra Costa Times article mentions, among other things, their conditioning program. Yes, that (and many other factors) all contribute to their success.

Yet to me their secret sauce starts with the professionals (some might say adults) that oversee the program—on and off the field. Typically we’d call them coaches—for the lack of a better term. And no doubt the kids call them ‘coach’. Yet, as defensive coordinator Terry Edison mentions in the article, “Our coaches see themselves as educators. The football field just becomes an extension of our classroom. “ To me this is the central ingredient in their secret sauce.

In other words, the men running the program see their purpose as educating the young men under their stewardship. Their commitment transcends merely giving lip service to an arguably noble cause. The men running the program have an emotional commitment.

The ‘players’ education is values based—centering on life’s lessons that helps the young men mature and realize their true potential. Bottom line: the program stands for something more than winning football games. Not surprisingly, when the young men’s potential is enhanced, they win a lot.

There’s a huge difference in being a coach and being an educator. The educator seeks a higher purpose. The men who have stewardship for De La Salle’s football program are professionals. They are professionals who happen to be educators. Identity matters!

Bill Wiersma
Bill Wiersma
Bill Wiersma is the founder and principal of Wiersma and Associates—a management consulting and training firm. Bill is a trusted advisor to executive leadership on senior team development and organizational culture. A renowned thought leader, Wiersma’s The Power of Professionalism is driving the way people think about professionals and, more importantly, changing the way professionals view themselves.

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