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COACHES – THE REAL LEADERS IN SPORTSMANSHIP

When I was a young administrator, I listened to UCLA’s basketball coach John Wooden talk to a group of 400 high school coaches. I noticed two young coaches came late to the session. There were no chairs for them, so I found a couple. Coach Wooden talked for two hours and did not put one “x” or “o” on the chalkboard. He did not talk about zones, presses, fast breaks or screening. He did talk about building character, teaching and learning right and wrong, respect, and responsibility. Most of the high school coaches there were in awe. When he finished he said, “I will back after lunch at 1 o’clock this afternoon.” As the two late comers left, one said to the other, “I hope this afternoon he tells us how he wins!”

They both had missed the point! Yes, “x’s and o’s” matter but the most important thing a coach can do is teach the true importance of competition, citizenship, sportsmanship ands values. The coaching profession turns over rapidly and we must constantly remind young coaches of the importance and influence of their position and the real challenge of their job.

Citizenship and Sportsmanship is rightfully the bulkhead of any state activities association. As a state association we can send out materials on good sportsmanship, talk about its importance at rules meetings, and we can have camps and clinics to help coaches.

But it is the coaches and their associations who make the difference. They are the ones who have the courage to take a stand, no matter how unpopular. In doing so they make heroes out of the 95 percent in their ranks, rather than the negative five percent.

Taking any positive stance is difficult in this day and age. With the advent of kids wanting spending money, earning money, getting jobs outside of school, the alcohol problem, substance abuse issues, our coaches have more problems to address than coaches 30 years ago and ten times the number that coaches had to address 50 years ago. These issues impact participation first and foremost. But the 95 percent are meeting the challenge. They are doing a great job. They have the courage to realize that many times it is not popular to take a stance on what they stand for and won’t stand for, but they do. And in the process they win the respect and admiration of others.

by Bernie Saggau, Executive Director

Iowa High School Athletic Association

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