Recently a local basketball coach here in QLD posted on IG a reference to his “old school” trainings. As an old school style coach myself, I acknowledged his post with a positive comment. However, not all comments were positive. So I began to think, why the negativity around old school coaching in 2020?
I am heading into my 38th year of coaching men’s and women's basketball (in the U.S and Australia). When I am not coaching, I am a husband, father of 5, grandfather to 6 and for the last 18 years, a personal development and leadership facilitator traveling to 4 continents, 13 countries, 135 cities and touching the lives of over 10,000 people from all walks of life. My book Time-Out! Winning Strategies for Playing a Bigger Game in Life has been a best-seller for over 10 years.
So what’s so terrible about being an old school coach? You’d probably have to define what IS an old school coach first. When I grew up in NY in the 70s playing basketball and then starting my coaching journey in 1982, the likes of Rollie Massimino, John Thompson, Jim Boeheim from the Big East and Bobby Knight (aka The General) from the Big Ten were the coaches I watched, followed, heard speak at coaching clinics and were mentored by, that helped formulate who I became as a coach and what I believed in. And interestingly enough, they all won NCAA Championships. These men were and still are (Jim Boeheim currently at Syracuse University) coaches that were fiery, demanding, knowledgeable, intense, held a high bar or standard, coached for excellence, not perfection (there is a difference), vilified, respected, yellers and screamers and finally, extraordinarily successful. If you ask many of their former players, as I have from time to time, what was their greatest take-away from being coached by these great coaches, they’d tell you it was the life lessons as much as the basketball lessons they valued. Perhaps not what you’d expect to hear.
So here’s my definition of an old school coach:
Whether a player is 15 yrs old and playing on a rep or school team and has a desire to play college ball, 20 yrs old playing college ball or 25 yrs old playing semi-pro or pro ball in a competitive league, why are they playing? I’ll take a guess and say it’s to improve as a player and to win. Winning games and winning championships. To be successful. Anything more than that is a bonus. Like being the top scorer, or being the best defensive player, or being a better person/teammate, or having “fun”.
So why are old school coaches getting a bad rap? Is it because they set a high bar for their players? Is it because they ask athletes to be on time, attentive, disciplined, focused and to work hard when they come to practice or play in a game? Is it somehow ineffective to be demanding and ask an athlete for their best effort? Is it inappropriate to teach a player the value of being accountable and responsible on and off the court? Is getting someone’s attention or the team’s attention by raising ones voice and pointing out their mistakes to teach them better ways of developing their game not appropriate as long as it’s not personal or abusive?
The demanding nature of any old school coach seems to be offensive in today’s game. The expectations of the coach and his or her antics just don’t sit well with most players and some parents. Not every old school coach yells at players or referees in games and/or practices. Some do, some don’t. It’s simply an aspect of the personality of the coach. It’s what many of us experienced when we were being coached ourselves and we turned out pretty successful. Perhaps the demanding nature is the coaches way of testing the athletes mental toughness. I’ve always said, if a coach isn’t talking, cajoling, enrolling or yelling at you, he probably doesn’t care much about your success. Not always true, however there is some truth to that statement. (And THAT is an old school statement.)
Being old school about anything really comes down to a belief one has about how things should be done because in the past, you have evidence of success from the old school methodology or system. Does it mean it’s right or it’s the only way of doing things? Of course not. Teachers, including one of mine, used to hit children in classrooms. You could say that was an old school method of teaching. Does it make it right? Of course not. Old school is certainly a perspective a coach has that he or she believes will work best for their players to put them in the best position to win and be successful. It happens in business, with parenting, as well as on the basketball court everyday. And again, it’s just a different perspective.
So here’s the thing. Next time you experience an “old school” coach, and before you write him or her off, if you’re a parent, take a moment to approach them and ask,
I look forward to any and all respectful comments. Coach Tom Haupt
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Coach Tom Haupt has been coaching basketball since 1982. He is committed in supporting student athletes in achieving their goals and dreams on and off the court. These are his thoughts and insights to support them.