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Blogging from the NSCA Coaches Conference: Keynote Speaker: Joe Ehrmann

Last night I have the amazing opportunity to listen to a presentation by Joe Ehrmann.  Joe was an All-American football player and letterman in lacrosse at Syracuse.  He later played in the NFL for 13 years.  While his athletic accomplishments are impressive, they in no way define the man.  Quite the contrary.  Joe took his experiences as a player, reflected on the impact the various coaches in his career had on his life and thoughtfully and introspectively combined those insights with the very personal challenges he faced growing up to develop a philosophy regarding what he believes a coach should stand for and the positive impact a coach can have on helping young people to understand what it means to be a man or woman for others.  

As a former coach, I appreciate the role a coach can play in the build-up or break-down of self-esteem and belief in oneself.  Unfortunately I found that many coaches are in the profession for the wrong reason.  They are coaching for their own glory, rather than the positive development of others.  The former leaves no legacy behind when they are gone and often leave a road of destruction as the lives they touched veer off course without the positive reinforcement and instilled belief in oneself.  The later, however, leave a legacy that is passed through generations as those who were impacted positively by the transformational coach in their lives passes on the lessons learned and experiences gained to those who follow them.  

I was extremely moved by Joe's presentation.  As coaches gain more and more media exposure and salaries continue to climb, I fear that more people will enter the coaching ranks as transactional coaches who use players for their own glorification.  Those in the profession for the right reason owe it to the athletes who will be impacted in a negative fashion by those coaches to "close ranks" and ensure those coaches don't have an opportunity to continue to progress in the profession.  Coaches bear a tremendous responsibility as mentors and teachers.  Athletic coaches effect players mentally, physically, psychologically and spiritually.  No other profession in the world has such a platform.  

As Joe stated, this doesn't meant that winning doesn't matter.  Rather, winning and learning what it takes to win is one of the many life lessons coaches can share with their athletes.  It's not just winning on the field/court that matters, however.  It's winning as a father or mother, son or daughter, husband or wife.  When your life ends, what will you leave behind?  Why do you coach?

A few other notes from Joe's presentation are captured below.  You can learn more about Joe here. 

Joe is the author of, "Inside Out Coaching"

Coherent Narrative and sports coherent narrative.  Age and degree of intensity.

Two types of coaches:

Transactional or transformational.  Motivated by self-interest = extrinsic values or motivated by social/moral/ethical values & vision - intrinsic values.  Players needs first, team's needs second.  Transformational coaches meet their needs by meeting the needs of their players.

Transactional:  self-centered, extrinsic values. 

Transformational: Other-centered, intrinsic values

4 transformational coaching questions:

  1. Why do you coach?  About you?  About your players?
  2. Why do you coach the way you do?  
  3. What does it fee like to be coached by you?
  4. What do you want to accomplish by coaching?

InSideOut Coaching Philosophy:

Center is the Purpose:  What is your purpose?  (A clear concise statement:  Example:  Joe coaches to help boys become men of empathy and integrity, who lead, are responsible and change the world for good.")

Core values = Team Culture


  • Empathy:  Joe opened his heart to his players' feelings and situations every practice and every game.
  • Kindness:  Joe delivers and displays kindness throughout practices and games to his coaches, players and their families.
  • Service to Others:  Joe teaches his players how to serve their teammates, classmates, school, family and community.

What is your definition of success?  Example:  Defined over 20 years, as Joe watched his players become men of empathy and integrity, committed husbands, devoted fathers and contributors to the betterment of their community and society.

Joe has his high school athletes complete obituaries.  When will they die and what will they have accomplished in their lives.  After 20 years he is going to mail these go his former players.  The first set will be sent two years from now.  

Inside our Mind:  Two natures:

  • Inherited:  True nature
  • Acquired:  EGO
    • Culture:  Movies, music, media
    • Nurture:  Parents, siblings, peers, adults
    • Nature:  Internal messages, 
    • "You move toward and become that which you believe about yourself."
  • Self concept comes from our nature and what is acquired

Redefining masculinity and felinity (what does it mean to be a man, to be a woman)

Joe has spent a great deal of time with people who are near death.  He's learned that there are two questions that are asked more than others:  

Two criteria:

  1. Relationships:  To love and be loved
    1. What kind of person was I (father, husband, etc)
  2. Cause:  Make the world a better place  (Did I?)

If you were on your deathbed today, knowing you were going to die tomorrow what would you leave behind?

Redefining team:  Set of relationships for a cause:  Common purpose, performance goals and objectives, mutually accountable work ethic, trust, respect, integrity, dignity of all team members

Put in "100 greatest speeches" in an online search engine (Google):  You will find that the majority of these speeches are about relational responsibilities towards our fellow human beings AND commitment to a cause (make the world more fair, more just, more hospitable)

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