PHILOSOPHY OF COACHING    Russell C. Smelley    Westmont College  (reviewed 7/31/15)

Professor of Kinesiology and Head Coach M/W Cross Country and Track & Field: Fall 1979 to present

Athletics is about competition and the relationships that result from a shared commitment to excellence. How a coach approaches these two factors is of the utmost importance and makes all the difference in the athletic experience of individuals. Athletics should be a transformational experience for an athlete that is guided by a coach who cares about the athlete’s personal development more than the transactional events of winning and losing. A coach is successful when he/she is able to influence the physical, emotional, social and spiritual development of students while producing excellent athletic results.

Athletics is not an end unto itself but an opportunity for training and developing character in the unfolding story of an individual’s life. Coaching should provide a transformative experience for young people by fostering the development of trust, confidence, self-respect and a positive self-image. Team members need to know they are cared about as an individual so that they can develop a sense of trust that allows them to take risks for improvement. A transformational coaching style is about relationships and should encourage, challenge and guide young people through an important transitional time in their lives. Competition is the vehicle of this pursuit. Relationships are the outcome of athletic endeavors.

Any student can participate on my teams regardless of previous experience or ability. Athletic competition offers every individual the opportunity to fulfill an innate human desire to learn whether one can be depended upon to perform to the best of one’s ability under pressure. In this context, winning is best defined and reflected in each team member learning how to train and compete to the best of his or her ability. When this occurs, the athletic goal of winning contests can be attained in a positive and affirming manner.  Winning is an anticipated outcome when every individual is committed to do their best.

It is crucial that I continually learn to put on the character of Christ in answer to his call to be a servant to others as a teacher and coach. Therefore, I am committed to mentoring each team member to encourage personal growth and an energetic faith in Christ. I believe that Athletics is an integral part of a liberal arts education as it adds breadth and depth to the academic curriculum and a student’s life. Athletic endeavors can provoke deep expressions of the soul that can reveal to young people their need for personal growth. My passion is to facilitate student growth through my coaching and personal care for the individual so they might be transformed by their athletic participation.

Excellence is encouraged in all aspects of an athlete’s life. An important character trait to engender for excellence is taking responsibility for personal choices and their outcomes.  They need to learn to be trustworthy to themselves and to others in a gracious manner. Athletics is meant to be a safe crucible of experiences for learning valuable life lessons through winning and losing. Athletics is a chosen form of adversity in the training and competition and this helps students learn to live with a sense of resilience and integrity that allows them to persevere and recover during the vicissitudes of life. Athletics teaches them to live in a disciplined manner and how to be patient for long term results.  This includes the perspective of how to relax and recover from the hard exertions of life through Sabbath.

The process of training and competing will help team members to gain insights into their character and provide a means for their personal growth. Through the athletic process, I guide team members toward becoming more cognizant of living transformational lives that are not defined by what they do in the transactional results of winning, losing, grades or personal prestige. Who they are becoming in Christ and the value they place on relationships are outgrowths of the athletic experience that reflects much more than winning and losing.  The process should reflect people who are grateful and exhibit a positive self-image full of character and living with integrity. In this outcome, God is glorified and Athletics has served its most subtle, yet noble purpose.

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