There is something magical about coaching. From dad’s coaching their daughter’s soccer team (ahem that may be me) to Bill Belichick leading the charge to multiple super bowls… we can all watch, judge, admire or hate the coaches we are surrounded by in our daily sports life.
It makes this career unique. No one watches and judges an accountant on their work. The public at large doesn't question the decision making of a mid-level manager at the local insurance company. Coaching at every level is an inherently vulnerable position where you will be umpired by parents, fans and media members on the daily.
The first couple of years I started working in the sports industry, in a way, I hated to talk to regular people, in regular industries about sports. It was frustrating. Everyone has an opinion on sports, everyone thinks they are an expert, everyone who watches SportsCenter or listens to some overdramatized debate show has an attitude about their sports knowledge.
When people found out I worked in the sports industry, they’d always try to quiz me or throw out some random fact that they knew and I didn’t. It was frustrating as hell.
It exasperated me because early in my career I definitely looked down on people, just being honest here. I looked at them and thought…you think you know stuff? I have access to the greatest reporters in the land, I speak with coaches, I hang out with players, NFL MVP Shaun Alexander is on my speed dial! How dare you!
But that’s the thing about sports in general, the information is so public, that everyone can be an expert on some level. As I got older, I cared less and less about who is the smartest in the land, but you get my vibe here.
Always being tested, questioned, and prodded by armchair experts can be irritating.
Coaching is even worse.
There are more subtleties and dynamics to coaching than just X’s and O’s and substitution patterns, game plans and rotations – but everyone thinks they are an expert. When I used to sit and chat with coaches who were analysts with our network, you’d be amazed at the depth of knowledge they have and how they seem like savants in their sport.
And yet - we all sit in a bar stools judging every move as is we have a vision into the future that they don’t.
This isn't to say fans and parents and media can't have opinions or judge the coaches they watch perform - that's part of the gig and every coach knows it - but it does mean sometimes we should all listen more than we judge.
Coaching is an art form, a fascinating one at that, which is why I wanted to have Dr. Amy Giddings from Temple University on the show. Her research into the dynamics of coaching is fascinating and represents a chance for us all to listen and learn...
1: I’m really excited for this conversation because your research and background goes deep into aspects of coaching, not only as a career but as it relates to gender and the needs of today’s athletes… but before we get into that, let’s dive into your background a bit.
You went from undergrad at the University of Dayton, right into your Masters at Temple and then your Ph.D. at Temple and now you teach at Temple – did you always know your future was in higher education and why this path?
2: I’ve always believed student-athletes make great employees – they are disciplined, competitive, have strong time management – you competed as a student-athlete at the Div 1 level, do you think it helped prepare you for the real world ahead?
3: You also had a lot of firsthand experience with coaches, you became a coach yourself, and much of your research in academia is in this direction as well – why the fascinating with coaching?
4: So let’s dig into this coaching world a bit shall we – At the NFL combine last month there was a forum for women to get more jobs in football, Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Bruce Arians was one of the speakers and when he was with the Arizona Cardinals he hired Dr. Jen Welter as the first female coach in the NFL.
Fast forward to now, and Arians just hired two female coaches full-time. Obviously, this is a merit-based decision, they earned it, but what kind of a road do you envision they have in front of them as coaches and trailblazers?
5: In your opinion do men and women approach the role of coaching differently?
6: My wife and I both played sports competitively and have had a multitude of coaches over the years. We both seem to have different expectations of the “role of a coach”.
I loved someone to push me beyond what I thought I could achieve, she wanted someone more into the strategy and techniques for success…
Is that something you see consistently, different expectations based on the gender of the athlete – or are my wife and I just weird?
7: Everything has changed so rapidly over the last 10 years. From a historical perspective, you can look back at the middle ages and see minimal change around the globe for hundreds of years, but in our current society 10 years ago the world was an entirely different place.
Through the prism of coaching – how does a coach meet the needs of today’s generation of athletes?
8: Can coaches that didn’t play at a high level still perform the task and be respected by the players? We can cite guys like Bill Belichick and Gregg Popovich all day, but they seem to be edge cases, it at least appears from my superficial view that more and more coaches are younger, connected, and former high-level players themselves.
Is this even an accurate statement – and is this about relatability or respect?
9: So then how does someone become a great coach? What is the pathway that leads them to the right skill set and strategy?
10: I guarantee there are people in our audience listening that want to be a coach – what do you see as the most common mistakes made by those who want to pursue coaching careers?
Listen in to the Work in Sports podcast for the answers to these questions and more from Dr. Amy Giddings, Temple University.