by Paul Markgraff • Managing Editor • This Is AFCA Magazine
Before Stanford University head coach David Shaw first started coaching at Western Washington, he received some terrific advice from his father that he holds dear to this day.
“Coach to your personality,” his father told him. It’s just a few short words, but it speaks volumes.
“He knew I was going to work hard,” says Shaw of his father. “He knew I was going to do what I was supposed to do, but his advice was don’t try to be like anybody else.”
This sounds like great advice that a father might give his son in any situation, but the bottom line is that to be a great coach, you must be able to communicate with players, to instruct them in the finer points of the game and demand 100% effort from them.
“You need to be able to get a group of guys to play together,” says Shaw. “The only way that any of those things happen is if those players trust you, trust what you’re saying and believe what you are trying to relate to them.”
“However you are, do that and you will get the players’ respect,” says Shaw. “I haven’t changed much in how I relate to players since my dad gave me that advice.”
Trying to emulate another coach doesn’t work, because if players think you have other motives or agendas, you lose a little of that trust as their coach. They will feel like you are using them, instead of teaching them.
“This is a violent, fast-moving sport that entails so much and is so demanding of players,” says Shaw. “They need a coach that is on their side and giving them the information to be successful. I am going to communicate to a guy and tell him what he needs to do and how he needs to do it for his benefit. And when you can be honest and earnest with that, and your players feel that this guy is trying to help me be a better player, that’s when you get the best results.”
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