Do you want to win so badly that you’re willing to sacrifice fundamentals? What is more important: winning or teaching? What should be stressed and emphasized in youth and high school sports? This week we’ll discuss these questions and more while explaining why teaching is more important than winning.

Imagine this scene, a highly competitive 10-11 year football game on a beautiful early autumn Saturday afternoon. While the game is being played a coach receives a call on the sideline. He listens, and then signals to his players on the field. The players adjust, seeming to know what and where the next play is going. After the game, the opposing coach goes back and watches the film. What he notices should come as a surprise, but sadly isn’t anymore. There was a man roaming behind his sideline, which he didn’t notice while coaching his team, who was calling the other coach to relay information to help his team win.

Yes, this is a true story. It happened to a friend of mine. It was obvious what the other team was up to on film.

It’s sad. Is this what youth sports has come to? Here you see the effects of the win-at-all costs culture promoted by the NFL. This is the mini version of Bill Belichek and New England Patriots.

If the spying team were to win, which they didn’t, would the win even mean anything? I would strongly argue no. Teaching is more important than winning because it lasts a lifetime. Coaches should focus on teaching the game along with life skills which can be learned through sport. If they do, they will be a winner both on the field and in life.

Here are five thoughts to help coaches ensure teaching comes before winning:

1.Hall of Fame Coach Jack Ramsay once said, “The coach is the teacher; his subject is the fundamentals.” As long as a coach remembers this and keeps it as a priority he or she will be a success. This should serve as a guiding principle throughout a coaching career.

2. As a coach you are helping a player build their foundation on and off the court. You are helping them “Build Their House.” The great Paul Brown said, “Most players stop their development because of their intelligence or lack thereof rather than physical ability.” Simply put: Teach the Game!

3. Players make plays. Do not forget that. Realize this and coach with it in the back of your mind. If you want to impact the game as a coach, impact the players. What would you rather have at the end of the game: three good plays or three good players?

4. The game was here first. It will be here long after you’re finished coaching. No coach is bigger than the game. Focus on teaching a love for the game. If you do, it will foster a desire to be better and a will to win.

5. Find your mission. It it’s solely to win, you’ll be empty and never reach true fulfillment. Victory comes from preparation. Want to be prepared? Focus on teaching players how to play the game. Focus on learning and teaching the trade, not the tricks to earn a W.

There is more to coaching than winning. John Wooden considered himself a teacher before a coach. I’d like to think the same of myself. How about you?


In the words of the late, great coaching legend Don Meyer:

Teach the Young

Share Your Affections

Leave Your Mark


As always, thanks for reading, have a great week and be an RGP today!


Coach Elmendorf is available to speak to your team, group, or organization. Message him for details.