These days everybody, it seems, can or should be a coach, especially when they are sitting in the stands or watching games on TV.
From the major leagues and NFL down through the college ranks and filtering down through high school and youth leagues, other than politicians and game officials, being a coach is perhaps the most second-guessed profession in the world.
At any time during any game on any level, even the most successful coach will have many of his or her decisions questioned and criticized.
Not only do coaches have to deal with criticism, they juggle a multitude of tasks. On the high school level, it's usually done for little pay. On the youth league level, it's done on a volunteer basis.
Most coaches know what they are getting into when they make the decision to enter the profession. Regardless of the outside noise and the long hours and little pay, for most it’s the impact they can have on their players that keeps them doing it year after year after year. The coach-player relationship usually survives long after the games and careers end.
The TimesDaily talked to a variety of coaches across the area to find out why they coach. For some, that was their career path from early on. Others weren’t planning on becoming a coach, but had an epiphany along the way and now wouldn’t trade professions. All of them agreed though, that being able to have an influence on youngsters played a role in their choosing to become a coach.
Current Muscle Shoals girls basketball coach Blair Woods wasn’t planning on becoming a coach, but Jana Killen, her high school coach, offered her an opportunity with some youth league players. That opportunity changed her mind, and she’s about to begin her fourth year with the Trojans.
Woods said Killen, who is one of the most successful girls basketball in Alabama high school history, has given her many different tips on how to be a good coach, but building a team is one of the most important.
“Coach Killen’s biggest influence for me was the importance of viewing my basketball program as a whole beginning in the second and third grade all the way up to varsity,” Woods said.
Woods recalled Killen asked her to spend a day with her. That day consisted of a varsity shoot-around and then watching fourth, fifth, and sixth grade games. Woods said seeing how invested Killen was in the program made her start to see what she wanted to be like as a coach.
Although Woods now coaches at a rival school, Killen said she always enjoys getting to see her former player coach and cheers for her team as long as they are not playing Deshler.
While many see success only in wins and losses, coaching has much more under the surface. Red Bay baseball coach Richard Maggerise said being able to help his kids find their meaning in life is way more important than wins and losses. He said sometimes the biggest wins as a coach are the lessons learned in the process of the game.
Coaching can be made up of little moments that help make the picture clearer on why a person decided to coach in the first place.
Cherokee football coach Lymos McDonald is entering his 29th year as a coach. He said it will be his last go-round as he wants to spend more time with his family. McDonald said winning championships is fun, but not the main goal as a coach.
“You coach to win and get the championships, and I’ve been blessed as a high school head coach to win a championship,” McDonald said. “But what I’ve learned over the years is when those kids love you so much they will give everything they got for you, and when you love them so much you give everything you got for them. Nobody cares about self.”
Wilson football coach Matt Poarch has come full circle at the school. He played for the Warriors and graduated in 1999. After returning as an assistant, he took over the program as its head coach before the 2018 season. He said having played the game, he can empathize and sympathize with his players.
“Every one of these guys, I’m able to look in the eyes and tell them I’ve been where they are,” Poarch said.
A coaching myth says it’s not wise to coach where you played. For Poarch, there was no other place where he wanted to be than at Wilson.
“Being an alumnus, that’s the job I always wanted,” Poarch said. “I’m where I want to be, and I want to make the program as successful as it can be.”
Some coaches branch out in the summer. Brooks boys basketball coach Brian Wright coached his daughter’s softball team to a state title. Lauderdale County’s Whitney Owens coaches 8U and 10U baseball teams. It’s something he enjoys in addition to his high school coaching duties.
“It’s rewarding to see how kids improve and develop,” Owens said. “It’s fun to watch them develop friendships and memories they will talk about that they had on a baseball field. When you get them young and learning the game, it’s rewarding to see how much more they develop.”