Coaches Corner: Next Level Coaching


Coaching is more than X’s and O’s…I’m pretty sure most folks reading this would agree to that. So what is it, if it’s more than the tangibles?

Coaching is about leadership, teaching our players how to work well within groups, to put the needs of the team ahead of personal desires. It is also about showing our athletes how to deal with the circumstances life hands us in a positive way.

I’ll start with an example of what not to do. I met with a recruit the other day and she told me the story of her club coach who was recently fired because he was constantly belittling, cussing at, and being unprofessional with the players. His tearful excuse with the team was his rough upbringing.

Now, without negating what is sure to be the truth of his tough past, part of our jobs as coaches is to show our players how to deal with adversity on a micro and macro level. Micro: a point by point level within a game. Macro: when life deals an extraordinary blow.

Melissa Wolter, the head volleyball coach at the University of West Florida, was able to model that macro level life situation for her team. She found out she had breast cancer at a very young age and used that adversity to become a better coach and mentor for her team.

4 ways coaches can use adversity to in a positive way

  1. Don’t change your standards. Wolter says that cancer didn’t change the standards she holds for herself or her players, but how she went about accomplishing them did. Our players are on teams because they want to be pushed and held accountable…adversity shouldn’t change that, but it could make you more relatable and human for your team, which would help build trust.
  2. Right any disconnects. According to Wolter, she was much more selfish in her pre-cancer life. More about the wins and accolades. In her post-cancer life, she’s much more about positively affecting young people’s lives. When we’re self-focused rather than other focused, our team won’t receive the best coaching from us.
  3. Motivate your team. After her cancer treatments, when she was back in the gym with her players, Wolter actually performed their off-season workouts with them. I haven’t spoken with any of her athletes from that time, but I can imagine that was both a humbling and motivational experience for them.
  4. Become a better coach. Wolter is more relational with her teams now because of the adversity they’ve dealt with together. She says she’s able to find joy in the intangibles of coaching instead of just the wins.

I can’t state enough how important it is for coaches to use the adversity in our lives to improve at our jobs. We can become better coaches, we can become better mentors, and we can become better leaders for our athletes if we let life’s journey mold us. The only thing it requires is that we take a critical look at ourselves, our coaching style, and what needs to be changed. What a valuable life lesson we can teach our athletes!

Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!