They’re Called Coach

This is old enough that it is written in the masculine gender. Certainly, it applies to both men and women who coach…

It applies to coaches of all levels and all sports.  I think we can all relate to it in some way.

This was written by Bill Libby as the preface to his book “The Coaches.”

He is called “coach” in most sports. He is called the “manager” in baseball. He is the field leader or the court leader or the ice leader — the man on the bench or on the sidelines who practices his team, decides who will play, and guides them in action. He may have assistants to help him. But he alone is responsible for how his team performs. The coach may be the general manager, too, though most often he has a general manager over him in the front office as well as other executives, owners, and perhaps even stockholders who may try to tell him what to do and to whom he is held accountable. And he is in a way accountable to his players and to the writers and the broadcasters and the fans, too, for they usually have some say as to whether or not he keeps his job.

The coach seldom keeps his job for long. It is a difficult job, and there is no clear way to succeed in it. One cannot copy another who is a winner, for there seems to be some subtle, secret chemistry of personality that enables a person to lead successfully, and no one really knows what it is. Those who have succeeded and those who have failed represent all kinds — young and old, inexperienced and experienced, hard and soft, tough and gentle, good-natured and foul-tempered, proud and profane, articulate and inarticulate, even dedicated and casual. Most are dedicated, some more than others, but dedication alone is not enough. Some are smarter than others, but intelligence is not enough. All want to win, but some want to win more than others, and just wanting is not enough in any event. Even winning is often not enough. Losers almost always get fired, but winners get fired, too.

The better coaches may win more often than the poorer ones, all other things being equal, but all other things never are equal. The coach or manager is at the mercy of the talents and temperaments of his players and the judgments and moods of his bosses. He may have some voice in selecting the players he leads or he may not. He may have as good a chance to get top players as the next coach or manager, or he may not. He is in charge of up to one hundred performers, and he must lead them through up to two hundred contests a season. He is out in the open being judged publicly almost every day or night for six, seven, or eight months a year by those who may or may not be qualified to judge him. And every victory and every defeat is recorded constantly in print or on the air and periodically totaled up.

The coach has no place to hide. He cannot just let the job go for a while or do a bad job and assume no one will notice as most of us can. He cannot satisfy everyone. Seldom can he even satisfy very many. Rarely can he even satisfy himself. If he wins once, he must win the next time, too. In the end, almost certainly, he will be fired.

Usually he can get another job — coaching or managing another team. It is the only profession in which there is no stigma attached to being fired. It is said that coaches are hired to be fired. It is accepted as though it were right. So coaches move from team to team staying as long as they can hang on, winning some, losing some, succeeding sometimes, failing sometimes in a madness laughingly called “musical chairs.” They plot victories, suffer defeats, endure criticism from within and without, and brook rumors that they are on their way in here or out there. They neglect their families, travel endlessly, and live alone in a spotlight surrounded by others.

Theirs may be the worst profession — unreasonably demanding and insecure and lull of unrelenting pressures. Why do they put up with it? Why do they do it? A few retire, but most hang on desperately, almost unreasoningly. Why? Having seen them hired and hailed as geniuses at gaudy party-like press conferences and having seen them fired with pat phrases such as “fool” or “incompetent,” I have wondered about them. Having seen them exultant in victory and depressed by defeat, I have sympathized with them. Having seen some broken by the job and others die from it, I have been moved to write this book. . . .


You can read more from this book by clicking the cover above and to the left and then arriving at then click on the cover where it says “Look Inside.”

2 comments for “They’re Called Coach

  1. Bob LaTour
    September 19, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    I read the article and thanked God that, although I see much of what he said illustrated and “played out” in the world of secular sports, and in private and religious school athletic programs to a lesser degree, coaching has taken a much different path for me. I have been at the same place since 1978, with two shorter prior stints, the departure from which had nothing to do with records. I only wish more coaches had the opportunities that I have been afforded without having to “look over my shoulder” while I tried to use sports to emphasize integrity developed and displayed while practicing and playing the game, intelligence in knowing the game, intensity under control in playing the game and influence that is positive, constructive and lasting through the game. I’ve been blessed and I am truly thankful.

      September 20, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      Thanks for sharing part of your coaching journey with us!

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