Watts holding his jersey

If you’re looking to understand the reasons for coaching your team, imagine someone who sees the potential in us that we don’t even see in ourselves, and then is committed to leading us to achieve that potential.

I’ve been fortunate to attend a lot of great events as part of my football career. But one that sticks out is a roast I attended held to honor long-time NFL coach Wade Phillips, superstar JJ Watt spent a lot less time roasting and much more time honoring his former coach. It was touching. Phillips was the Defensive Coordinator of the Houston Texans for Watt’s first three seasons and went on to the Denver Broncos, where he won a Super Bowl, and then the Los Angeles Rams, where he coached in another.

JJ explained how Wade was the Texans coach who “stood up on the table” to advocate taking him in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He is right. I was there. The debate was narrowed to taking Watt, a self-described “big white kid from Wisconsin,” or Cameron Jordon, a fine defensive end from California (who has gone on to make six Pro Bowls for the New Orleans Saints, by the way). Wade won the debate, and the Texans took JJ Watt with the 11th pick.

“Wade saw something in me that nobody else did, and that I might not even have seen in myself!” Watt said at the roast.

“But that’s the type of man that Wade Phillips is,” he went on. “He leads you to be what you can be, not what you are.”

Wow. Can you imagine having someone speak of you in that way? What greater honor can a coach receive than to have a team member say, “And here I am today, thankful for everything that I’ve been able to accomplish in my career so far, because of Wade Phillips.”

JJ Watt, who recently went on to the Arizona Cardinals, has been the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) three times in his career. If you are unfamiliar with how difficult and rare this is, he is tied with New York Giants’ legend Lawrence Taylor and the Rams’ Aaron Donald for most career DPOY awards in NFL history. JJ has been mentioned as among the best defensive linemen of all time.

Now, I don’t know that even Wade Phillips believed that this would be JJ’s career path. How could he? But he did see something that others missed. Wade saw the potential in JJ, coached him to where he could be and watched the result. Obviously, JJ had the talent to play well in the NFL, but would he have had the measure of success he has now without the belief of Wade Phillips? I don’t think so.

If you’re looking to understand the reasons for coaching your team, just imagine if we all had a person in our lives like Wade. Imagine someone who sees the potential in us that we don’t even see in ourselves, and then is committed to leading us to achieve that potential.

Actually, I have had several. In fact, my life story is full of people who believed in me. Any success I might have enjoyed in life I like to call “the story of others.” Gerry Browne, Lou Tepper, Bernie Reid and Joe Collier are all names that mean nothing to you but everything to me. They led me to where I could be.

Perhaps you do, or did, have someone like that in your life. I hope so. What did they see? What did they say to cause you to discover this potential? What happened as a result? What impact did it have on you?

Now imagine being Wade—being that person for someone else. That’s what coaching is all about. It’s easy to think that one person doesn’t make a difference, but we have just discovered that’s not true. Coaching is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility. It provides an opportunity to leave your fingerprints on people’s lives.

Coaching isn’t just happening on the fields and in the gyms across the country. It’s happening in offices, hospitals, banks, factories and any place that work occurs.

Why should we coach? I think JJ Watt told us why.

About the Author
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Jim Ryan

As a valued Business Affiliate of Integrity Solutions, Jim is certified to deliver multiple Integrity Solutions training programs and is consistently sought after by our clients to conduct their training workshops. He uses the congruence of knowledge, skills, and experiences to bring a unique perspective to the world of sales training, sales coaching, and leadership development. Jim has also been a keynote speaker and had a 10-year career as an NFL linebacker for the Denver Broncos before also having several professional football coaching roles. He lives in the Nashville, TN area.
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