Coaching is an interesting profession. Winning games is the goal, and the more coaches win and the higher up the ladder coaches climb, the more important winning becomes.
As far as professional sports is concerned, former legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi had it right. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Whether it’s professional football, basketball or baseball, the sole goal of a coach is to win games. That, in turn, helps the franchise make money and helps justify outrageous salaries.
Professional coaches aren’t required to build character, although they often deal with characters.
In theory, the situation is different for college coaches. Winning games is still very important, but it’s only one of many objectives.
Major college coaches are expected to ensure that their student-athletes are actually attending class and earning a degree.
If the team does well, represents the school appropriately and attracts students and donations, a coach can have a good season despite a few losses. Of course, at the NCAA Division I level, a coach that doesn’t win enough will be shipped out no matter how many students graduate.
Winning may not be as important in small colleges as it is at the major college level, but it’s still important.
I’m not aware of any Tabor coach who has had to be concerned about ticket sales at football and basketball games. The crowd size doesn’t change appreciably whether the team wins or loses.
And coaches may be given more time to win games at Tabor than they might at KU or K-State.
Basketball has been relatively stable at Tabor.
Football is a particularly fascinating study. Only a couple of coaches have had success on the field. The nature of the sport, which requires a large roster and being able to recruit players who fit Tabor’s lifestyle, is a challenge not all coaches can balance.
I don’t know of a Tabor athletic director who demanded the teams had to win championships or else. Nevertheless, if a coach has difficulty keeping student-athletes in the program, has difficulty recruiting or being competitive, a change in coaches often results.
Every athletic director wants his or her teams to be competitive and at least compete for a title from time to time, but no more so than the coaches, who are competitive by nature.
At the high school level, winning shouldn’t be as important as it is for college and professional coaches. For one thing, the coaches are also educators. They are expected to teach classes. Coaching is supplementary to their main job.
They are expected to be good role models for student-athletes and not embarrass the school during games. They are expected to be good teachers in and out of the classroom. And the hope is that they help their team play up to its potential, which doesn’t always translate into a lot of wins.
That’s not to say high school coaches don’t take winning seriously. Most take it very seriously, and if they lose too many games, they likely will be asked to step down from coaching.
But the rope is typically longer for high school coaches because they don’t actively recruit or draft athletes. They can’t change the talent pool, although certain programs encourage the development of skills. And a winning program tends to create more interest among kids as they grow up in a community.
However, even at the high school level, coaches are sometimes pressured to step down because they don’t win enough, and a few parents with sufficient clout or connections to a school board may force a coach out.
Many coaches make a difference in the development of young men and women. Some coach because they enjoy the challenge of the competition. But I’ve never come across a coach who doesn’t enjoy winning.
As former tennis great Martina Navratilova once said, “Whoever said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost.”
The following quote by Colin Powell seems especially appropriate for coaches: “I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.”