A Case for Coaching

By Jim Ryan
Business Associate

Imagine someone who sees the potential in us that we don’t even see in ourselves, and then leads us to that potential.

Recently, in a roast 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 is now with the Denver Broncos, where he recently won a Super Bowl.

JJ explained how Wade was the Texan 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 made two Pro Bowls, 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 has been the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) three times in his five-year career. If you are unfamiliar with how difficult and rare this is, he is already tied with Lawrence Taylor 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.

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 leads us to that potential.

Actually, I have 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 just told us why.