What the Best Coaches (and Dads) Do

The NCAA tournament is going full speed, and for many families spring sports leagues are ramping up—if they ever slowed down.

I’m getting ready to speak to college basketball coaches at the NABC convention at the Final Four in a few weeks, which is always a great event. Those guys face some unique fathering challenges, and it’s my privilege to try to help them in some small way. (If you’re interested, you can read my column in the latest Time Out magazine, published by the NABC, here—see page 20.)

I’m convinced that we dads can learn a lot from good coaches as we strive to raise our own budding all-Americans. One of my favorite coaching quotes actually comes from a football coach, the legendary Vince Lombardi. Looking back on his coaching years, Lombardi noted that what he missed most wasn’t the winning or the competition or the crowds. What he missed most was the camaraderie, the relationships that were forged and tested on the battleground. He said, “It’s a binding together…. It’s like fathers and sons, and that’s what I miss. I miss the players coming to me.”


The best coaches, including Lombardi and many of you, recognize that they also play an important role as father figures. There are many ways fathers and coaches have similar roles, and here are 3 ways I believe we can improve our fathering by imitating coaches.

1. A good father (like a good coach) is aware of his children. He watches closely and gets to know them well; he learns about their gifts, attitudes, weaknesses, and tendencies, then he helps them develop their abilities and perform their best. He tries to put them in situations where they can succeed, giving each member a role so he or she can make a valuable contribution to the team.

2. He builds strong relationships and a sense of family among the group. He leads in such a way that everyone wants to do well for the benefit of the entire group. They know they can trust each other in the heat of battle; they don’t want to let each other down.

3. A good coach (and father) provides motivation and encouragement. In life, as in sports, there are great plays and dropped balls, winning streaks and slumps, good seasons and bad. A good dad is ready to celebrate enthusiastically or exhort his children to keep fighting—to dust themselves off, learn from the setbacks, and get back in there. He tells his children, “I believe in you,” win or lose.

Dad, what have you learned about being a dad from your coaches or mentors in life? Encourage other dads by sharing your thoughts either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

    • Help your children set goals for their upcoming seasons. Then ask, “What’s the best way I can help you?”
    • Enter all your children’s games and some one-on-one practice time on your calendar.
    • Point out the coaches’ behavior to your kids when you’re watching on TV or in person. Ask them questions like, “Why did he do that?” “How would you feel if he said talked to you that way?”
    • Consider volunteering as an assistant coach or team manager, or fill another position of need for a youth sports team in your area—even if your children are grown or very young.
    • Talk with your children’s mother about a “game plan” for training each of your children in terms of morals and values.


Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.


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