... on True Coaching
D. F. K. Bertolette once wrote:
"A teacher is not measured by the number of bright students he makes brighter, but rather by the number of indifferent students he makes bright. The indifferent child needs the most encouragement. Many of our greatest men and women were considered dull or slow during their school days. Of course, it takes time and a lot of patience to teach an indifferent student; yet, the result may be ample reward. It is the duty, therefore, of every teacher to know his students, to find out in what they are interested, to associate the uninteresting with the interesting, and in doing so, should appeal to the higher and nobler qualities which serve to move each student."
(MOTIVES IN EDUCATION, 1916)
The same is true of coaching. Anybody having mediocre coaching ability can produce championship squads with the horses. But developing athletes from boys with minimum abilities is quite an accomplishment. Does this mean that the great coach produces champions from squads made up of participants with less than average athletic skills? No! (In truth, I've never seen it happen, in any sport.) However, the results with these kids, in the long run, might be much more rewarding for a teacher of sports.
As a former coach, I had the good, the bad, and the ugly as far as wrestling teams go. But I must confess that some of my more enjoyable moments as an athletic mentor came with wrestlers of lesser ability. There's a unique feeling of satisfaction watching a boy with minimum physical attributes develop into a competitive athlete. Let's face reality; some athletes are so self-confident and aware of their athletic prowess that they practically coach themselves. It should be hard for a coach to honestly accept the bows for such successful competitors. On the other hand, teaching youths of average ability to gradually become better and, at the same time, gain self-esteem is the true definition of a master coach. The public may never know this, but his athletes do.
In closing, I still hear from my former wrestlers of over 20 years ago. Ironically, the ones who were less skilled on the mats (and are now quite successful in life) often are more thankful of my efforts as a coach. Their comments are quite gratifying, making me realize that maybe I did "okay" as a wrestling mentor.
(Welker's note: After receiving his master's degree from Bucknell University in 1914, D. F. K. Bertolette wrote numerous educational essays and taught high school mathematics classes for the next 40 years. When he passed away in 1955, education lost a great student motivator and I lost a loving grandfather who inspired me to become a teacher and coach.)
Updated December 2, 1997