Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, recently retired as the Athletic Director at Loch Raven High School in Baltimore County, Md. One of the nation’s most highly respected athletic directors, he has published 360 articles in professional magazines and publications as well as presented dozens of times at various national and state conferences. He wrote a book titled “Blueprint for Better Coaching”, a sort of coaching guidebook. I recently asked him a few questions about both the book as well as his views on the profession of coaching. Enjoy!
Jim: I recently hosted a webinar with David Jacobson of Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA). One of the PCA’s tenets is that of the double-goal coach “whose first goal is winning, and whose second, more-important goal is teaching life lessons through sports.” Beyond instructing athletes at their particular sport, what role do you see a coach playing in the lives of student-athletes?
David: Perhaps it is only a minor issue of semantics with respect to the Positive Coaching Alliance’s coaching goals, but I totally ascribe to the philosophy of education-based athletics. Education-based athletics is the foundation of the National Federation of High School Associations and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association conceptual approach. As such, teaching life-long lessons doesn’t come second, it is just as important, if not more so than winning.
That being said, almost everyone can teach sport-specific skills. Coaches can attend clinics, work summer camps, read books, watch videos and go on-line in order to improve their knowledge, learn more about strategy, and expand their abilities conducting practice sessions and making substitutions during games.
More importantly, it is the major responsibility of athletic directors to find, hire and mentor
coaches of all ages and with varying levels of experience to provide the leadership for an
education-based athletic experience for the young people. When this is done, athletes can and should gain a wide-range of values, qualities and abilities through participation.
If we – administrators, athletic directors and coaches – are not helping young people gain
leadership skills, learn the value and importance of sportsmanship and get involved with
community service and so many other great outcomes, there is no reason to have athletic
programs in high schools.
In addition, from the moment that a coach is hired, he or she is a role model for young people – there is no choice! Being a role model is part of being a high school coach and it is a major responsibility!
High school administrators who simply hire and evaluate coaches based upon wins and
championships are being hypocritical, falling to the pressure of parents or the community, or are totally clueless. When coaches and administrators put the interests, development and well-being of the student-athletes first, you have a vital athletic program.
When an individual isn’t totally consumed with winning and adding to personal records, coaching can be one of the most important and rewarding professions. It may take several years – and in many cases, you may never know, but the impact that a coach has upon young people can be enormous and profound. But this only happens when a coach totally ascribes to education-based athletics.
Jim: What moved you to write a book? And can you tell us a bit about the book itself?
David: Since I totally believe in and am passionate about the concept of education-based athletics, it really was an easy and natural leap to tackle the project. Besides, several of my coaches often kidded that I should put the contents of many of my counseling, mentoring and educational sessions and efforts into a written form for other coaches.
The concept of the book existed for quite a while. Therefore, when Athletic Management asked if I would be interested and provided me with the opportunity, it was full steam ahead. As with a great deal of writing, the concept and ideas were easy. There were times, however, during the actual writing in which I struggled with wording, restructuring paragraphs and all of the technical aspects of the process. Producing a good, quality copy is hard work. But overall, it personally was a great experience and a labor of love.
The text is not a how to teach skills and it isn’t sport-specific. Blueprint for Better Coaching
offers coaches ideas and help with communication skills with athletes, parents, administrators
and the media. It covers areas of risk management, off-season responsibilities, the importance of planning and time management and many other aspects of coaching.
In the various chapters, there are numerous tie-ins and examples of the concept of education-based athletics. It covers the necessity of coaches serving as role models, instilling the importance of sportsmanship and using teachable moments with their athletes.
…And since Blueprint for Better Coaching has been well-received and I enjoyed the process, I’m well into writing the second one – to include topics and chapters not included in Blueprint.
Jim: What is one thing that you know now that you did not know when you began your career that you would share with a young coach or athletic director?
David: While this seems like a simple, straight-forward question, it is one that is almost impossible to concisely answer. It is quite natural for young, beginning coaches to enter the profession with enthusiasm, energy and chomping at the bit to create a winning team. Usually, the basis for their approach or coaching philosophy comes from what they did as a player – what they know, what they have done and what they are comfortable with. But is this fundamentally sound and good for the athlete?
Also as a young coach starts out, he or she quickly and suddenly is exposed to so many additional ideas, approaches, and individuals and soon realizes that coaching entails more than simply teaching sport-specific skills and strategy. He soon comes to a cross road – does he constantly look to learn more about the craft of coaching, improving his teaching and interpersonal skills or does he stubbornly, conceitedly forge ahead thinking that he already has all the answers.
Hopefully, a young coach embraces the former. The point is that there is always something more to learn, areas to improve upon in both coaching and athletic administration. Once you feel that you have all the answers, well … you’re in trouble.
One former principal, under whom I worked for several years as an athletic director, was fond of stating: Learning is a life-long journey and not a one-time destination. While this principal was obviously targeting students with this maxim, he occasionally reminded his teaching staff that it also applied to them. It also extended to coaches and athletic directors.
I absolutely love and have used Lee Iacocca’s, the former CEO of the Chrysler Corporation
during the 1980’s, quote throughout my career. Naturally, he was referring to the auto industry, but I honestly think that it applies to most avenues in life. “You are either moving forward or falling behind, because there is no such thing as remaining static.”
So … advice to a young coach or athletic director? Seek knowledge and wisdom from respected veterans, read, take courses and constantly challenge yourself to learn more and then to apply it. Oh, and listen! You learn so much more by keeping an open mind, gathering and processing information and ideas than you do from asserting that you have all the answers.
And what do I know now that I didn’t when I started? While I did have unbridled enthusiasm, energy and desire, in hindsight, I really didn’t know too much. I made mistakes and had a number of good people, who pulled me aside and helped mentor me. No one is perfect and you will make mistakes – learn from them and continue going forward. Always keep the primary goal in sight – all of your efforts should be directed at helping young people grow and develop – it’s not about how many wins that you amass.
And hopefully, I have more to learn!