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High school coaches: responsible for student-athlete success?

Published 10:14am Thursday, March 20, 2014

Before I answer this question, I will first give you some personal history that I feel is relevant to the question.
To keep this pithy, I will just say that if it were not for my coaches in high school, I most likely would have gone off the deep end and become an unpopular statistic.
There is some misconception about how much influence a college coach has on a student-athlete, so I want to make this as perfectly clear as possible and also leave you with some questions to ponder.
First and foremost – how much emphasis is there on winning at the college level as opposed to the high school level?
Do you think the money flows into the university through the athletic programs if the programs are not successful?
It’s all about winning, and winning means more revenue for the college. Give me a five-star athlete, and I’ll give you championships. Give me a student-athlete who has integrity, character and, by the way, can enunciate complete sentences, and I may give you a winning season.
I briefly addressed this very topic in a recent column, but unfortunately, the average fan could care less about how educated or prepared a student-athlete is for life after sports.
Attending a college football game reminds me of how I perceive what the Romans and gladiators looked like in the coliseum.
Do you think for one minute a kid never understood what it meant to be motivated until they entered college?
Attitude, work-ethic, integrity and character-building begin in earnest at the secondary education level. To get a kid to do something they really do not want to do, or getting them to exceed beyond their own expectations, separates the high school coach from the college coach.
If the high school coach fails to motivate correctly, or the kid losses interest in any way, he or she never reaches the next level.
By the time an athlete arrives at the college level, he or she has been given every opportunity to be successful, and the groundwork began for most of them when they met the high school coach.
Today’s student-athlete wants to feel worthy and to have fun. The feel-good, “all is well in la-la land” mindset does not just happen. It is nurtured from an early start in high school.
At the college level, the reality is this, the most important need of today’s student-athlete is, “What’s in it for me?” or, “What will I get out of it?”
It was unthinkable to ever quit, but now, an athlete that is having a bad hair day can do just about whatever he or she wants, right down to quitting then transferring out.
How in the world can a college coach motivate someone who is spoiled, self-centered and is engulfed by narcissism?
Do you think a kid plays a sport in college to satisfy their parents, girlfriends or their friends?
These are some of the obstacles a high school coach must weed through, but not so at the college level.
Internal motivation is not taught, it is something within the person. Unfortunately, there are only about 10 percent of all athletes with internal motivation.
External motivation is where the high school coach/instructor can do the most good.
It is not how much you know about coaching a sport, but how you interact and understand the athlete and the kid.
If a coach can instill a proper work ethic, along with some character building, the kid actually has a chance in life, not just in their sport of choice.
The high school coach/instructor and I will go a bit further, by adding in the high school administrator, has the challenge of walking a fine line between being an educator, coach and in many cases, a parent-figure the kid may or may not have – none of which is in the job description of a head coach at a university.
When is the last time Nick Saban or Gus Malzahn drove a kid home after practice?
The next time you encounter a student or student-athlete in a successful situation, chances are, their lessons in life came from the high school coach.
Until next time …
Meyers is a sports columnist for The Outlook. You can follow him on Twitter at @brucemeyers11.