Guest Author, John Martin, Middle School Athletics Director at Harrisburg Academy and Head Coach of the Youth Lacrosse and Girls MS Basketball teams

After the beloved Penn State football coach Joe Paterno passed away earlier this year, it was clear that he was more than a football coach to his players. Penn State football players and supporters looked at Coach Paterno as a mentor, friend, and in some cases, as the father figure they never had. After realizing what this man meant to his players and the university, I started to reflect on how much of an impact my coaches had on me throughout my playing days. Sure, my coaches taught me the X’s and O’s of football, but it was the other actions they took that I will truly remember.

One of the fondest memories I have of my head football coach was during a time when I had missed a practice because of family issues.  I was worried that he would be upset with me for being absent. When I went back to practice the next day, I was taken back by his reaction – instead of scolding me, he put his arm around me. He told me he understood the situation and that if I needed anything he was there for me. His actions in that moment meant more to me than what he taught me in three years on the football field. I will forever be grateful for his compassion and understanding in a difficult situation.

As coaches, our role is much bigger than teaching a sport and winning. Our greatest purpose is for players to know they have someone who cares about them and all their successes. Players need to feel secure and know they have someone to talk with when times are hard .When coaches take this approach players will give all that they have for their coach. Coaches, remember to value the person more than the player.