The Coaching Life

Lessons I wish I knew from the start

By Dan Hughes
Head Coach, Seattle Storm

In 1978, I was the youngest high school coach in the state of Ohio. I was fortunate to coach a team of great players and people that won a district championship. Forty years later, I was fortunate to coach a team of great players and people that won a WNBA championship.

The journey of those four decades of coaching has taught me so much. I started to think what would I share with my myself as I began this life we call coaching.

Winning culture. How you do things is essential. Begin and end the day with an eye on culture. The daily sets the stage for extraordinary.

Build relationships. They have a lasting effect. As a veteran coach reflecting on your teams throughout the years, your thoughts immediately go to the people who joined you on the journey. The relationships that can withstand changes over time and distance are founded on genuine moments. Have as many places and people who bring a smile to your face as possible.

Sometimes later is greater. Every young coach wants the position they dream of now. Don’t be comparative with your contemporaries. You will advance when preparation and timing intersect. Be over-prepared when the dream opportunity arrives.

Empower others. Your reach for success will be greatly enhanced if you can help others channel their talents towards the team's direction. Coach assistant coaches and staff with the same vigor you coach players.

Embrace the grind. Everything meaningful will include a period of grinding through tough moments to the Promised Land. Use the journey as a resource for preparing you and your team.

Actions are greater than words. Talk less and do more. You will have a video audience in greater numbers than an audio.

Master the art of teaching - We are teachers at the heart of coaching. This job goes beyond reciting the X’s and O’s. Consider the different learning styles of each member of your team when conveying your lesson plan.

Always be open to change for a better way. Get better all the time. It is impossible to move forward if you only look through your rear-view mirror. Instead, embrace the road ahead with a clear view of talent and structure.

Leadership is most on display when we develop leaders. Being a leader in your position is helpful, but developing good leaders and allowing them to grow is the essence of success.

Pursuit of excellence. A lot of factors go into a successful program, but if pursuing excellence is a common bond the action plan has constant direction.

Prioritize family. Activity and achievement are two separate things. Lasting achievement must include a respect for family with your team and yourself. The families of individuals of your team matter greatly as does the team family. They have to have a place of priority in the coaching journey.

Build the team with teammates. Ask yourself two questions as you build your roster.  What basketball skill or talent do they bring to the team? Will they embrace the culture and be a good teammate? Make sure you can say yes to both in your decisions on roster.

Communicate role delineation. Make sure you communicate the role each player, coach and staff member is expected to fulfill. The entire team matters and reaching a working relationship with each is vital.

Persistence and hard work. Talent and intelligence are needed on our trip but the vehicle that will get us to our destination is persistence and hard work.

Character wins. There are players, coaches and staff who give energy to the team, and there are players, coaches and staff who take energy from the team. Make sure you have an abundance of people who add energy. We will all be faced with moments when we must choose between what we hope and what we know to be true .

We are blessed to be coaches. I thank God every day that this way of life called coaching gives us a way to work with others in a special way.

Have a great coaching life.

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The Champions Series features articles written for the WBCA by member coaches whose teams have won national championships.

Release Date: 
Tuesday, July 2, 2019