In light of the “Fire Hoke” chants raining down from the bleachers of the Big House all season I have wondered makes a successful head coach in today’s sports world. From the toughest and most disciplined coaches like Mike Ditka and Bob Knight to more approachable and compassionate coaches like Tony Dungy and Michigan’s own, John Beilein, both types have had their principles work towards triumph. Having played under many coaches myself and having followed teams who have seen both success and failure, I have come to the conclusion that a tough coach will bring more success to a team and establish a stronger relationship among teammates.
Every athlete has heard the line, “I’m not here to be your friend”. It may sting in the moment as the man or woman with the whistle sends you on another suicide or subs you out of the game, but its true. At the high school level of competitive athletics, we are past the goal of just playing to have fun. As former National Football League head coach Herm Edwards once claimed, “You play to win the game! You don’t play to just play it.” A tough high school head coach will drag every ounce of fight out of you until you have nothing left, while a softer one will take a more lackadaisical approach towards your effort.
Despite this concept, head coaches are responsible for adjusting to the times and recognizing what is no longer deemed acceptable in the art of coaching. We are past the days of coaches and teachers touching or hitting their players or students. As a result of the public seeing the graphic videos of Mike Rice, former Rutgers University Men’s Basketball coach, calling players diminishing names and physically abusing them will not and should not be tolerated anymore. Sadly, our generation is known for being snobby, soft, and wanting to believe that everyone is a winner. As a result the dictator-like coach is fading away, and with it, so are some of the overly aggressive coaching qualities.
A head coach studies how to pry everything out of his players, they should help them exceed expectations and they should improve the ability of every player on the team. When I have played under coaches who I could laugh with off the field and have enjoyed their company, I seemed to not be as successful on the field. In the case of Michigan football, Brady Hoke’s honeymoon period has ended. It doesn’t look like he is going to be able to stay in Ann Arbor by just being a “Michigan Man” with a warm smile and clapping hands. In general, players might find it easier to play for a head coach who wants to be their friend, but I’m sure they would rather win games so that down the road they have some kind of championship ring on their finger each year as opposed to a Christmas card from their former coach.