Lesson Three – Think, Feel, Discuss


Your Coaching Purpose Statement is a powerful tool. It probably contains words like “integrity”, “teamwork”, “discipline”, “positive attitude”, “perseverance”, “confidence”, “trust”, etc. Simply coaching with that statement in mind will quite likely make a significant difference in the way you view and go about your responsibilities as a coach. For me, I have certainly dealt with people and situations differently as a result of trying to have my Coaching Purpose Statement in mind at all times, and that’s a very good thing.

At the same time, we have an opportunity to take things a step further when we intentionally seek to take our coaching core values and build them into the minds and hearts of our players. One strategy for accomplishing this goal is to use something we call “Think, Feel, Discuss” (TFD).

The basic idea behind TFD is that we can use a relatively small portion of our contact time with players in a way that can make a world of difference. For example, if my stated purpose for coaching involved teaching my players integrity and discipline, doesn’t it make sense to take just a few minutes on a regular basis to make sure they understand what those qualities mean and how we can exhibit them in our lives? Practically, TFD can be carried out in a variety of ways. You will read about how Joe Ehrmann and his fellow high school football coaches spent the first ten minutes of practice each day to teach a short lesson on a relevant topic before they hit the field. For me, when I coached 9-10 year old baseball players after developing my Coaching Purpose Statement, I would share a quick story while our team stretched at the beginning of practice. These stories covered everything from baseball history to lessons on sacrificing for others. As the players finished stretching I would gather them up, and simply ask them what they felt about the story and how they might apply those ideas to our team and/or their lives at home and school. It wasn’t complicated and it didn’t take very much time, and yet the message was unmistakable — we are here to play this game as well as we can, and we’re also going to
understand that there’s a lot more to our time together than just playing this game.

In my experience, players responded very well to the TFD time at practice. They enjoyed hearing stories, learning and being challenged to put thoughts together and share them with their teammates. Parents were incredibly supportive and appreciative as they began to understand that their sons were being cared for. They saw that the healthy growth and development of their sons was a priority for me as a coach.  What will TFD look like for you? That depends on your Coaching Purpose Statement, the age of your athletes, the facilities you have access to, and the time constraints you work with. And as you are starting out, don’t be afraid to start small and build from there. Maybe this season it’s one three minute lesson each week, and next year you plan to double that.

The fact is, every coach can implement some form of TFD. With 4-5 year olds, you probably have about 30 seconds to ask a question and get a couple kids to answer it. With college athletes, you probably have time and a location to show a 15-minute video once a week and have your team discuss it. The specifics are going to depend on those variables, but the goal remains the same for us all. Using our Coaching Purpose Statements, how can we help our players learn to Think, Feel and Discuss.

One tool you might found useful is a list of articles, videos and other resources that we’ve made available for coaches at communityforcoaches.org/tools. This site has a growing number of links that are organized by category, and has instructions right at the top of the page.  Please use it however you’d like, and feel free to submit links to tools that you’ve used with your teams as well.

The great part about TFD is that we have seen that when we coach the whole person and young people begin to see that we care about them as human beings rather than just as athletes, they usually work harder and play better. They are more enthusiastic about being a part of our program and by listening to the thoughts and ideas of others, they develop a bond with their teammates that takes team chemistry to new levels. The reality is, for any coach who is willing to occasionally sacrifice just a couple minutes of physical drills, TFD might just be the best thing that ever happened to your team, both on and off the field or





Read p. 157-162 of InSideOut Coaching

For discussion/reflection:

1. Are you ready to embrace Joe Ehrmann’s assertion that coaches ought to see
themselves as teachers and that athletics should be viewed as an extension of the
learning/academic process?

2. Take a look at the list of topics that Gilman Football covers over the course of a season
(page 166-167 of InSideOut Coaching), and think about what would be the first two or
three topics you would like to guide your team through, taken from that list and/or your
Coaching Purpose Statement.

3. Oftentimes getting new ideas up and running for the first time can be the most difficult
part of the process. What obstacles could you face when it comes to implementing TFD?