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Coaching Trees and Legacy

All of us are familiar with family trees. 

At the bottom of a family tree diagram we can track a family’s pedigree by moving upward to parents, grandparents, great grandparents and beyond. The family tree is an interesting exercise with universal appeal. They have received added interest with the emergence of cutting-edge technology which allows DNA to link ourselves with our ancestry with remarkable accuracy. 

It’s true that to some degree, we are all curious about where we came from. 

For those familiar with sports, and especially football, coaching trees, though different than a family tree, have become an interesting phenomenon during the last few decades. A coaching tree shows the relationships of coaches instead of family members. 

There are various ways to define a relationship between one coach and another. Most typically, a link from the head coach to an assistant coach within the same staff for at least one season is the way to identify a direct coaching tree relationship. In this way, the assistant coach is counted as a branch of the head coaches coaching tree. 

But what does this have to do with mentorship?

Beyond the workings of head coach/assistant coach hierarchy pedigree, the influence and strategy which is passed from one coach to another can make remarkable difference in the career trajectory of the assistant, who can be viewed as a pupil or mentee in this case. 

The coaching tree is a lineage of sorts, where receiving tutelage from an esteemed coach has value in the eyes of other organizations which are relentless in their pursuit of championship success. Well trained coaches will always be in high demand.

A perfect example of the coaching tree in action is Bill Walsh. Walsh, best known for being the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers during the eighties, won three SuperBowls and is largely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. 

Walsh left behind some fascinating quotes on leadership. The sampling below captures his approach to leadership:

  • “Others follow you based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations.”
  • “Few things offer greater return on less investment than praise.”
  • “Hearing someone described as being able to ‘Fly by the seat of his pants’ always suggests to me a leader who hasn’t prepared properly and whose pants may soon fall down.”
  • “Your enthusiasm becomes their enthusiasm; your lukewarm presentation becomes their lukewarm interest in what you’re offering….When the audience is bored, it’s not their fault.”

The coaching tree which Walsh left behind is just as impressive as his outlook on leadership. Thirty one NFL head coaches are attributed to being a part of Walsh’s coaching tree. Many of those coaches adopted Walsh’s famed West Coast Offense, a revolutionary scheme for its time, which helped evolve the game closer to what modern football is today. Of those thirty one coaches with a direct link to Walsh, more than a third of them would go on to win world championships as head coaches themselves.. 

In a league where the average head coaching tenure is just three years, many head coaches lasting far less, identifying and duplicating success patterns of a proven, respected predecessor is a luxury that has significant value and meaning. 

The ultimate takeaway is an easy connection to make. Within this case, Walsh’s leadership and influence was significant. Because of it, he was able to make an impression on those who followed and adopted Walsh’s methods and approach to the game. Those fortunate to be members of Walsh’s coaching tree certainly had an upper hand in being able to create and nourish their own success story with greater overall direction. 

Similarly, mentors have the opportunity to create a coaching tree of sorts of their own.

In theory, mentors are put in the position to lead others based on past successes and acquired wisdom. Advising aspiring professionals within mentorship programs is a highly respected role. As should be the case, and especially on the LevelNext platform, one that is an appointed mentor doesn’t happen by chance. This role is bestowed through significant vetting and consideration. 

In return, the mentor has a stage to lead others while providing ideas, direction, and advice which empowers mentees with a stronger ability to make meaningful strides leading to their own success and goals.

What will your coaching tree look like? 

A final quote from Coach Walsh himself can help us to understand how to embrace the mentor role with proper focus and vision: 

“Concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results, the process rather than the prize.”

Yours is your chance to lead others to their own championships.

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