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Kuemmel's Corner: Joe Ehrmann 'a great reminder of why we do what we do'

Recently I had the chance to take six coaches to hear Joe Ehrmann speak. Ehrmann is author of the book InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives and is a former defensive lineman for the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions. He was named to Syracuse University’s All-Century football team and also played lacrosse at Syracuse. Together with his wife he founded Coach for America, whose mission is to inform, inspire, and initiate individual, community, and societal change through sports and coaching.

Our coaching staff has been reading his book and discussing it throughout the school year. The focus of the book is four questions that every coach must ask themselves: Why do I coach? Why do I coach the way I do? What does it feel like to be coached by me? How do I define success?

Answering the first question gives every coach their purpose for coaching. Coaches may have goals of winning the conference, winning their section, or maybe sending an individual to team to state. But those goals are not the same as a purpose. If we are not intentional about our purpose, then our highest goal will become our purpose. While winning is certainly very important at the high school level, our coaching purpose must be about more than the outcome on the scoreboard. I am asking our head coaches to share their purpose for coaching with me, and if they are comfortable, with their players and parents.

The MSHSL has also turned their focus to Ehrmann’s transformational coaching. The League offered a “Why We Play” conference for all coaches last summer centered on the four questions from the book. This instruction will also become part of the League’s coaches’ education process for new head coaches.

Will you notice anything different with Park’s coaches? Probably not, since most of our coaches already had this type of coaching philosophy before reading the book. One thing the book has reminded us is the profound influence that coaches can have in the lives of high school students. I believe we cannot truly define how successful a coach is until five, 10, or maybe 20 years after their students have graduated high school.

There are many examples of non-transformational, or transactional, coaches in our society. Our coaches will continue to work hard to build relationships with their student-athletes, and hopefully transform their lives through sports. Hearing Joe speak was a great reminder of why we do what we do. I look forward to sharing his message with CGAA and the community next year.

-Phil Kuemmel, Park High School Activities Director