By Ken Reed

“Success comes in terms of relationships. Success is measured by the impact you make on other people’s lives. And I think the second criterion is that all of us ought to have some kind of cause, some kind of purpose in our lives that’s bigger than our own individual hopes, dreams, wants and desires. Life’s about relationships and having a cause bigger than yourself. Simple as that.”

Joe Ehrmann, former NFL All-Pro, motivational speaker, and volunteer high school football coach

One of my favorite sports books, Season of Life, by Jeffrey Marx, is also a book about coaching, parenting, and character building. The book is built around the coaching style of former Baltimore Colts defensive lineman Joe Ehrmann.

Ehrmann is now a motivational speaker and seminar leader who’s working to change the culture of sports. He is the type of youth sports coach you wish you had as a kid and certainly want for your children.

He truly cares about his players as people first and athletes second. Ehrmann builds strong personal relationships that create an atmosphere of trust, on and off the field. His players know that he’s more interested in building winning human beings than winning teams. They know that for Erhmann, winning on the scoreboard is a worthy goal to strive for but certainly not the end all. (Nevertheless, Ehrmann’s teams are consistent winners when it comes to win-loss records and have won multiple league titles.) Most importantly, however, under Ehrmann, the football field is a classroom where the game of life is taught.

Coaching – especially at the youth and high school levels — is as much about relationship building as it is about sport knowledge and the ability to teach fundamental sport-specific skills.

Ehrmann’s coaching style exemplifies this. He focuses more on building character and teaching sportsmanship than the proverbial X’s and O’s. His coaching goals are to foster relationships, develop other-centered young people, build a football family and maximize each player’s talent.

Ehrmann’s definition of success is noteworthy because it disregards traditional measures of success: money, athletic accomplishments, awards, and material things like houses, cars and clothes. It focuses on what you contribute to the major relationships in your life – husband/wife, father/mother, son/daughter, brother/sister, friend, etc. In the sports realm, it’s about being a good teammate. Ehrmann’s definition also emphasizes giving of yourself to a worthy cause that encompasses more than personal interests.

Joe Ehrmann has been called “the most important coach in America” by Parade magazine.

The more you learn about his coaching philosophy the more difficult it is to argue with that statement.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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