The late, great comedian and actor Robin Williams who died tragically and unexpectedly on August 11, 2014 was no stranger to sports.
He used soccer as a teaching tool in Dead Poet’s Society, played football in The Best of Times, boxed in Popeye, and was even a Denver Broncos cheerleader in an episode of Mork & Mindy.
Even though they were not written specifically for or spoken directly to coaches, several of William’s most memorable movie lines contained great nuggets of coaching advice. Here are some of them:
1. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys! (Dead Poet’s Society)
As coaches we are always looking forward to the next game, the upcoming class, and the next season. In the regular season we worry about the playoffs. During the playoffs we worry about spring workouts and summer league.
In the summer we worry about the first day of practice. The cycle goes on and on. What we usually don’t do is enjoy each and every day for what it is – a chance to still be competitive while teaching and influencing young people! The worst day of coaching is still far better than most everything else we all do! We should act like it!
2. You’re not perfect and let me save you the suspense: this girl you’ve met, she’s not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other. (Good Will Hunting)
You’re players aren’t perfect but let’s face it, neither are you. They need to get better at what they do and so do you. The question (and challenge) is can you take all of your collective strengths and weaknesses and combine them and nurture them so well that you become a great team?
3. You treat a disease, you win you lose. You treat a person you’ll win no matter what the outcome. (Patch Adams)
No matter what level or gender we are coaching, we are ultimately working with people who happen to play basketball. We are not working with basketball players who happen to be people. Coach them up? Of course! Critique their performance? Absolutely! Just always be respectful of who they are, regardless of what they do and always let them keep their dignity.
4. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must look at things in a different way. (Dead Poet’s Society)
This advice probably applies to older, more experienced coaches than it does to younger ones. “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” is not a good answer anymore. The game has changed over the years and so have the players.
The most successful coaches in the game are constantly looking for better way to do things while maintaining their own personalities and philosophies. For example, Coach K, John Calipari, and Geno Auriemma are all examples of coaches who are running different offenses now than they were 10 years ago with great success.
5. Never fight with an ugly person. They’ve got nothing to lose. (Mrs. Doubtfire)
Even though it might be tempting at times, arguing with a parent never turns out well or accomplishes anything. Don’t do it!
6. I yam what I yam! (Popeye)
You are not Coach K. You are not John Calipari. You are not Geno Auriemma. You are not Phil Jackson, Bobby Knight, or John Wooden. However, they are not you either! Each of the coaches listed above has a distinct personality and coaching style that works for them. Instead of being a cheap imitation of someone else, concentrate on becoming the best you possible both on and off the court.
7. I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself. (Dead Poet’s Society)
Too many coaches attempt to control every movement during every possession and while that might produce good short term results it often limits the growth and development of their players.
I’ve always thought that coaching is a lot like raising kids: the ultimate goal is to get them to the point where they don’t need you anymore. That can’t happen if you constantly control their every movement and never let them make a decision on their own.
Rest in peace Robin Williams – and thanks for giving a lot to think about in my quest to become a better coach!