Coaching the Heart

One of the most compelling lessons I have learned from spending time with Kevin Eastman over the past five years, is to become a “Learn-It-All”; by reading as much as you can. If you’ve ever listened to Kevin speak, you know that he is famous for cutting out newspaper and magazine articles when he travels and keeps them in an organized folder by category.

This Fall I did a lot of traveling on Southwest Airlines. Southwest Air is undergoing a massive refreshment of its’ Brand. I came across this ad in one of their seat back magazines and thought it really hit home to coaching.


In today’s society, many times coaches are glorified as “GREAT” because they win games, hang banners, and show off their championship rings. That is not what coaching is all about.

Coaching is:

  • Transforming the lives of our youth
  • Being a father/mother figure
  • Being a mentor
  • Being a teacher
  • Pushing a player to heights beyond what they think they are able to achieve (or even envision)
  • Telling a team you love them, even after a loss

This list could go on for pages…Yes, you do need to know the game in order to be a coach, but the buck doesn’t stop there. Since I currently coach boy’s high school basketball I will use that as my reference point. Our team consists of 12 players; that is 12 sets of parent/guardians that have placed trust in us and our staff to treat their child with respect and develop them into young men that will be successful beyond the hardwood.

In order for any of this to occur, your players must first know and believe that you LOVE them. As a coach, you must genuinely love all of  your players and treat them as if they’re your own child. Would you want your child to be berated and cursed at in front of his/her peers? I wouldn’t.

Many times I hear colleagues say, “Man, I love coaching!”. Is it the coaching that you love, or the winning? As a highly competitive person, I want to be the best and win in everything I do, even if it is watching Jeopardy with my wife (where if either of us know one answer in 30 minutes we feel like Albert Einstein). However, as a coach, I know that before any winning can take place on the court, it must first take place in the heart. Once your players get to a level where they will run through walls for you, then and only then, can true winning begin.

Below is an article that my friend Lason Perkins sent me a few months ago that goes perfectly with today’s theme of Coaching the Heart.

Coaching, I believe, is not a job; it is a most important calling, a sacred and vital activity where we have been given the fortunate opportunity and privilege to guide and mentor others in a nurturing, selfless, passionate environment, instilling in them the profound sense that they can be something other than ordinary.

This calling may very well be one of the most compelling, significant, and honorable paths one could travel in a lifetime, the opportunity to cultivate and develop in others deep spiritual qualities of inspiration, excitement , fortitude, enthusiasm, loyalty, balance, courage, and self-reliance. Wow… can you imagine this? With such characteristics, those we coach experience authentic growth and development on the physical, emotional, and spiritual plane. This is not only possible but inevitable for anyone under the leadership of one who coaches with heart. In order to coach with heart we must nurture and develop in ourselves the same traits that we wish to instill in those we coach and lead. Traditionally, the work of a coach has been steeped in the left hemisphere of the brain, giving little or no attention to these heart-based attributes of their work and performance. I notice that good coaches are looking for ways to get help to coach with heart. They understand that without heart, a tone is set with a team, an organization, a family or individual that is often unloving, uncaring, and spiritless in a “results-driven” culture.

Compare this to the cultures under the guidance of highly successful leaders and coaches such as a Dean Smith or a John Wooden and you will see that these brilliant leaders have much love in their coaching, not of the romantic nature but love demonstrated by deep caring, warmth, positive regard, respect, and compassion, all essential absolutes for coaching and leading with heart.

(Lynch, Jerry; Huang, Chungliang Al (2013-12-10). Coaching with Heart: Taoist Wisdom to Inspire, Empower, and Lead (pp. 22-23). Tuttle Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Kevin Eastman goes in-depth with some of his footsteps to success in this Hardwood Hustle Basketball Podcast.

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