Scott Baker’s Walkin’ The Sidelines: Reasons to Coach

In my previous column, I addressed some of the challenges of coaching.

I used comments from some coaching colleagues at Central Mountain to support my own thoughts and opinions.

Make no mistake, coaching is a challenge.

While many people try to coach, it is not something that just anybody can do effectively. Coaching can at times be very frustrating. So, given that coaching is very challenging in many ways and sometimes frustrating in others, why do coaches choose the gig?

I mean, seriously, why would someone actually sign up to be openly criticized by many people for many things?

Assuredly, there are a variety of reasons why people choose to coach. Some do it because they love their sport. Some do it because they have a desire to continue to compete after their playing days have ended. Still, others coach because it offers them the opportunity to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with players and fellow coaches.

Those are certainly valid reasons to coach.

Admittedly, a few in the coaching world might do it for the wrong reasons such as power, fame or money. Truly, I do feel that those who do it for those reasons are a very small group. In fact, those who are doing it for money would be better served getting a part time job making minimum wage. As for power and fame, hopefully they understand and can accept the criticism and ridicule that they might also face for their decisions and actions. Wait, on second thought, just forget the fame thing anyway. Also, if they are doing it because of some power trip that they are on, it is likely that their time in the coaching ranks will be short, as coaching can be a humbling experience.

Personally, while I have always enjoyed the game of basketball and the competition involved, it has always been the relationships that have driven me to continue coaching. Relationships that can be developed between coaches and players can potentially become some of the most meaningful that could possibly be developed anywhere. These are relationships that I’ve found in many cases to be long lasting. Ok, so that is why I enjoy coaching. That is what drives me.

Interested in seeing why others spend countless hours away from their families to coach, I asked a number of coaches at Central Mountain High School why they coach.

Head wrestling coach, Biff Walizer, closely mirrored me in his enjoyment of the relationships formed through coaching. Specifically, he stated, “The bond created with your student-athletes through coaching is something very special to me. As a coach, you are there for the preparation process and get to share in the highest of highs, after a big win, and the lowest of lows, after a tough loss or injury.”

As for why he got into coaching in the first place, he said it was a fairly simple decision.

“Growing up with a teacher/coach father and older brother, the only future career choices I can remember seriously considering were that of a teacher/coach and or a WWE superstar,” said Walizer. “Only reaching 5’6” made the decision easier for me.”

Surely, there are numerous CM wrestlers, parents and even fans out there who are glad he chose the route of teacher and coach over WWE superstar. On the other hand, seeing the coach in a raised ring wearing knee high boots and a singlet while fans cheered Biff “The Hammer” Walizer might have been quite entertaining as well.

In summarizing his thoughts on the subject of coaching, Walizer said, “Wrestling has been such a huge part of my life and I couldn’t imagine not being involved with the sport.”

Head boy’s basketball coach, Tyler Bardo, said that his reason for coaching is, “to hopefully make a positive impact on student-athletes and help them achieve goals. Coaching provides me so many avenues to make a positive difference for our student-athletes and community.”

First year boy’s soccer head coach, Billy Hook, said for him it is, “because I love the game. It gives me a chance to stay apart of it, while giving back to the sport and help young players develop that same love for the game.”

Hook’s reasoning is a common one in that many coaches still desire the competition of the sport after their playing days are over and coaching helps to fill that void.

Head baseball coach, Mike Kramer, who is the longest tenured head coach at Central Mountain was very thorough in his reasoning for coaching. Kramer said that for him “coaching is a very fulfilling and extremely rewarding profession. Coaching enables me to stay involved in the game I love. Coaching also allows me to share my knowledge of the game and an attitude of excellence with young players who have aspirations to improve each and every day, and possibly play beyond high school. It also fulfills my desire to compete.”

He continued, “The rewards I receive from the coaching profession are seen by the impact I have on the lives of others. Every day is an opportunity to create in a player and the team an attitude of excellence that goes well beyond the baseball diamond. ‘Winning the Day’ is a motto that transfers well beyond the field. The rewards and true benefits of coaching happen many years after a player leaves the program through witnessing them living productive lives as husbands, fathers, workers and model citizens.”

The enjoyment of the rewards coaches receive from coaching is something that I share with Kramer. It is true that as coaches we want to give. We want to provide the best coaching possible to our young athletes. We want to help them grow mentally, physically and emotionally.

However, what can’t be missed is that as we see the fruits of our labor, we are rewarded.

Are there sometimes frustrations?

You bet.

Are there sometimes athletes that we can’t reach?

Unfortunately, yes.

However, the rewards from those that are reached can be priceless.

Head Boys and Girls Tennis coach, Pete Wert, said of his reasoning for coaching, “I have coached many sports in my 30 years at Central Mountain and Lock Haven wrestling, baseball, track and boys and girls tennis. I have a passion for athletics and while I wasn’t a gifted athlete, I loved analyzing each contest and trying to find ways to improve others and myself on the team. It also has allowed me to see students in a different capacity other than just inside the classroom and get the chance to be a positive influence in their lives.”

Golf Coach John Lodek coaches because as he said, “I have always coached because of my love for the sport that I am coaching. I have coached soccer, softball and now golf. These sports have been a part of me as I grew up and enjoyed playing and watching each of these sports. Besides my love of the sport, I enjoy seeing the students make improvement in their skill level as the season and years go by. It is very satisfying to see these student-athletes work hard towards something and achieve their goals. To enjoy the good times and work through the hard times with the athletes means a lot to coaches. Beside the game itself, sports teaches so much more. Teamwork, social skills, cooperation, leadership are just a few things taught to our athletes during the season. Sports have changed my life and I always wanted to give back to the game and the students.”

Giving back, coaching is indeed about giving back.

Finally, CM football head coach, Jim Renninger, said, “I enjoy being around kids, seeing their successes and failures and helping them get through difficult situations.”

Clearly, most coaches are in the business for the right reasons.

They do it for the love of the game, the competition, the relationships, the lessons that they can teach and so many other reasons.

So, despite the many challenges and frustrations often associated with the profession, most coach because in the end, the positives outweigh the negatives.

More importantly though, the vast majority of coaches coach because they love their players. Yep, it’s the players and the lessons that they learn as well as the growth that they experience that makes it all worth it for most.