Coach the Player, Not the Product

Nov 30, 2019 | Leadership / Character Development, Program Development

By Malik Hall
Head Football Coach
Bates College
Twitter: @coachmalikhall



In football, as in many other professions, coaches are hired to solve problems. Some problems can be cultural, schematic, and or developmental. It’s the responsibility of the coach to generate answers for any problems that exist during games, practice, the off-season. Contrary to the belief of some, the coach’s responsibilities do not end with on the field solutions. He is also responsible for finding solutions for off the field questions as well.

Clinics can be a great source of information for coaches in regard to how they teach football schemes and techniques that are critical to the success of your program. That said, these professional development opportunities too often avoid talking about how we, as coaches, can grow in how we coach the person (athlete). The product can only be as strong as the person executing.

Here at Penn, we believe strongly in coaching the person, not the product. The person should always be valued higher than the product (i.e. wins and losses). 

“Winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing.” by Vince Lombardi is one of the most famous quotes in athletics.  A strong and definite quote from a men who revolutionized the game of football. It declares a view of, and what it means to, win. Not many coaches will ever argue against one of the greatest football coaches ever. 

Consider this, if you can win over people how can you not win games

I ask my children every day after school, “Did You Win Today”? I realize that it’s a human condition to want to win. It’s something that you don’t have to teach. Winning validates your work ethic and your ability to overcome obstacles. Who doesn’t want to be victorious in the heat of competition? 

Winning is the only thing, because losing isn't fun, in fact losing most often creates a desire and yearning to win. Victory can also confirm that you’ve helped your players/team reach their full potential.  John Wooden, another great coach (basketball), evaluated players based on the skill sets they brought to the game. Wooden evaluations were based on a player maximizing their innate skill set. That ultimately won him several NCAA national championships. Lombardi infuses winning as discipline, and Wooden coached his players to be true to their skills and attributes. Both philosophies resulted in wins; however, those wins were the result of winning over the players, community and fan base.