A Weekly Essay by Headmaster Palmer Bell
The NCAA has known many wonderful coaches, both men and women, over its history. I was blessed to play and work for one personally. The finest coaches have always mentored athletes to live lives of character and purpose with athletics as their platform. Such leaders seemingly stand on a different bulwark of foundational values and their players come to realize the gift they have been given. History records names like, Knute Rockne, Eddie Robinson, Pat Summitt, James Naismith, John Wooden and Bear Bryant as such coaches.
The Smart Take From the Strong, was written by Princeton University’s Men’s Basketball coach Pete Carril at the close of a career that included 500+ victories and 13 Ivy League championships. It summarizes in simple paragraphs the life lessons and coaching wisdom from Carril’s nearly 30 years at Princeton. As he collected his thoughts in writing, he had just finished his final season with the stunning upset of UCLA, the men’s national champions, in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament. More than a few of Carril’s tenets caught my attention, but his entry called “Behaving Wisely” seems especially poignant; sadly, it also appears archaic in today’s world of high profile athletics that lives and dies on winning.
Great philosophers of education have said there are two things important in learning. Both begin with a definition of the words to know. One is learning facts, data – information. The other is knowing how to behave intelligently. They are both important, but one is more desirable than the other. That is what discipline means: behaving wisely. It has nothing to do with saying, “Yes, sir,” “No sir.” Some guys know about things, but their actions are not wise or mature. Coaching is helping guys behave and act wisely – to do the smart thing. Anyone can teach a Shuffle Offense or a zone defense, but the quality that makes the exceptional coach like Vince Lombardi is the ability to get the player to do what he does not want to, and to do it well.
We hire such coaches and teachers at RPDS. I can only wish for you and your athletes that they will experience as I have, educators of character who are worthy mentors for life’s journey.