Remembering the Human Side of our Student-Athletes

How long has it been that you asked yourself, why did you get into coaching in the first place? Was it to win championships, to get accepted into the hall of fame for coaching, to make a ton on money OR was it to make a difference in the lives of young people?

In the midst of all of our planning and preparation, sometimes we need to remember that we are dealing with high school kids. They are worried about fitting in, academics, dating, iTunes/video games, trying to please their parents, peer pressure (drugs, alcohol, sex, you name it) and the list goes on and on. On top of all of that they are trying their best to be a high school athlete. As a coach, we may often forget what they are going through and forget our original mission of making a positive difference in the lives of young people. Our student athletes are not pawns to be used for our own ego gratification or success agenda. Many are trying to win college scholarships, but most are playing because they love the game and hanging out with their buddies. As coaches, we need to remember the power of our words and time. When was the last time that you sat down and talked with one of your players just about life or about family? How much time does it take to shoot an e-mail or text just to say “hi” or to see how things are going? These young people need coaches who care more about them as people then they do about them as athletes. We need to re-set how and why we do what we do. How do you want to be remembered after you retire and what impact do you want to leave on their lives? WHAT WILL YOUR LEGACY BE, HOW WILL YOU BE REMEMBERED?

Goal Setting For Your Athletes

In our program I request each position coach to sit down with their position athletes and set goals with their players for the next season both short and long term. Once the goal setting meeting has been completed then a home visit will be set up with their parents to share their son’s goals and desires with them. By doing the home visit you as a coach can start to build a personal relationship with the parents that will keep them better informed with the programs goals and overall objectives. The following information is what we have found to be very effective when setting goals with our athletes. Each position coach will sit down with his position players using the following form to plan and goal set for the next season. It should be pointed out here that home visits take time and depending upon your philosophy about this topic it is a big commitment but, one that pays big dividends.


Are you coachable? Can you listen, and are you willing to learn from the instruction which you are given, or will you insist upon doing things your way?

Commitment – Are you committed to team work or individualism?

Loyalty – Do you support your fellow players and the mission of the football program?

Work Ethic – Do you do extra work outside of practice to further your own skill to help the team. Going the extra mile, summer off-season strength program will be available during the summer months.

Responsibility – Are you always on time, bringing all your equipment everyday?

Can you accept criticism? Coaches will, from time to time, be critical of your actions on and off the field. If you can accept criticism, you should be motivated to correct errors which you have been making. Criticism is never anything personal against you; on the contrary, it’s a coach that cares enough about you to make you better. Take coaching.

Relationship with teammates – do your teammates respect you as an individual and as a team member? Do you do the things that will earn their respect?

Are you a team player? Do your actions on and off the field show that you are more  concerned with the welfare of the team then gaining individual glory? In a team sport, honors may be won by individuals, but they are earned by the entire team.

Are you disciplined? The greatest player is a disciplined individual, both on and off the field.

Academics. In order to play our student athletes must maintain passing grades throughout the eligibility period of competition. If a student/athlete becomes academically ineligible our policy is to have him maintain his presence on the team. Additional study hall times will be provided until he regains his eligibility back on the team. If not passing classes becomes a problem then a student athlete will be removed from the team so he can concentrate on his studies. Once a student athlete has proven himself in the classroom he then will be allowed to return to the team. The most important asset we all have is our education. You can take football from an athlete, but you can never take his education from him.

About the Author of this post:

Jerry Campbell has over 30 years of high school and college coaching experience. He has experience as a head coach, offensive coordinator, and various position coaches. He has written numerous football coaching articles in various publications, is the author of over 30 books on coaching football, and has produced 12 coaching video series. Additionally, he is a nationally sought after speaker on the coaching clinic circuit.

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