Letter: Most Important Life Lesson

To the Editor:

I was a teacher-coach for over 50 years. As a coach, I took my cues from some of the very best, including John Wooden, from whom I learned never, as a coach, to talk about “winning.” The focus always was on the process — on learning and improving, on being a better teammate, on working hard and on respecting the game. There is no more important lifetime lesson. And I learned quickly that this is what the best coaches do. I was pleased to read that the very successful Hanover High boys soccer coach follows the same philosophy and practice.

Another thing I always emphasized was that my players learn never to make excuses — never to blame the officials, the bad weather, admissions, graduation or injuries. Our focus was always directed toward what we could control, and that was our daily preparation, the tasks ahead, the attitude we bring to the field or the rink and our own performance.

I greatly enjoy watching local teams compete. However, I am frequently disappointed with the comments (reported in the Valley News) coming from a number of the higher profile coaches; all too often their first utterances refer to injuries (everyone has them!) and to players lost to the team for other reasons (the norm at higher skill levels). Such comments are, in my opinion, demeaning to the young men and women who are there competing every day. This is not, in my opinion, an effective way to teach collective and personal responsibility. As a teacher-coach, one of the sayings I have always held dear and which continues to ring true: “Excuses don’t excuse. Explanations don’t explain. They just build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothing.” Listen to the post-game comments from John Farrell or Bill Belichick; they are always about what the team needs to do better in preparing for the next game. This is what good educators (coaches) do.

Jim Wilson