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6 Great Health and Wellness Program Tips From 6 All-Time Great NCAA Coaches
There were six teacher-coaches who left a lasting impression on me during my undergraduate years at Indiana University (IU), Bloomington (graduating in 1979). I took classes that each of them taught, and watched and learned from them as coaches. The only way to describe these people is the best of the best.
Here are their brief biographies and six health and wellness program tips inspired by them, along with a short story about each person:
1. James “Doc” Counsilman: Swimming, won six consecutive NCAA Division I championships. Olympic coach 1964 (Tokyo) and 1976 (Montreal), coach of Mark Spitz both at IU and at the Olympics (seven gold medals). Doc was the first to use underwater video to improve a swimmer’s technique. Doc swam the English Channel at 58. Coach at IU from 1957 to 1990.
Tip − Visualize. I often feel that a general tip, like “be more fluid in the water”, brings together all the correct techniques without the swimmer needing to think about every adjustment. Give people a vision, and they’ll find it easier to incorporate all the skills needed to achieve that vision.
Story: Of relationships with athletes’ parents, Doc once said, “The best coaching job in America would be in an orphanage.” There was also a time when Coach Knight (basketball) asked Doc to help an IU basketball player improve his vertical leap. Knight told Doc the guy’s vertical leap was about an inch high. Doc said when he was done assisting the basketball player, Knight complained that the guy’s vertical jump was only 3 inches high. But Doc pointed out that it was a 300% improvement!
2. Sam Bell: Athletics, 1976 Olympic Assistant Coach (Tokyo). He coached 90 Hoosier All-Americans, including seven who became Olympians. Coach at IU from 1970 to 1998.
Tip − Prepare and work together. Keep up your strength training, always use dynamic stretches before hard work, cool down gradually, change up your pace, and pace each other. It’s normal to have high expectations for improvement at all levels. Get people involved, keep it interesting, and get everyone moving together.
History: Jim Spivey was a sub-four-minute runner at IU under Coach Bell. At ground level, a run of less than four minutes resembles the average person’s full sprint speed, but maintained for the entire mile. I remember thinking that athletes looked like human muscle cars.
3. Jerry Yeagley: Football, won six NCAA Division I titles from 1973 (when football became a college sport) to 2003. All-time winningest coach in college football with 544 wins .
Tip − Attack and defend as a team. Don’t focus so much on calories, health risks, biometrics and calorie intake. Instead, think about broader strategies. Play to your strengths and use your playground (community) to its full potential. Consider how best to ensure everyone plays a role in building a healthy culture.
History: Coach Yeagley is perhaps one of the greatest coaches in all of sport. We shared a locker room with his team. But my memory of him was that you would think he was the towel guy if you didn’t know him. He led by example and the players revered him. The last thing IU soccer players were going to do was let their coach down.
4. Bob Knight: Basketball, won three NCAA Division I titles. 1984 Olympic coach (Los Angeles). Won 902 NCAA games, third all-time in college basketball. Trainer at IU from 1971 to 2000.
Tip − Be realistic. Stop being Mr. or Mrs. Sunshine. Wake up and start preparing for all kinds of things to go wrong. And don’t come complaining to me about the “lack of commitment”. Get out your @#%* and engage. Be prepared to overcome every obstacle to success you can imagine. Use a disciplined, mobile strategy that can keep everyone in the game, no matter what setback imaginable. Prepare to improvise.
History: Coach Knight was often critical of questions from the press. You may have heard this too because he would often say this to reporters: “That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard, next question!” Coach Knight had a colorful language, but for the most part he was clear in his communication.
5. Doug (Blu) Blubaugh: Wrestling, Doug was (himself) NCAA Division I Champion (1957), Olympic Champion in 1960 (Rome) and named World’s Most Valuable Wrestler that year. He was the toughest person I’ve ever known (I wrestled for him at IU and then was his assistant coach from 1980-82). He was considered one of the finest wrestling clinicians in the sport. He coached at IU from 1972 to 1984.
Tip − Stay nearby. A wrestler who controls the inside and presses does not have to move far to penetrate. Master your fundamentals, keep attacking, then use your resources effectively. It’s often the smallest of things that can make the difference between scoring and not scoring. If you stay close to the action, you’ll seem quick and nimble, but you’ll be close at just the right time.
History: Coach Blubaugh was a farmer from Oklahoma. At a time when he was in his prime, he went out into the field to retrieve a horse. The horse was running about 50 yards and wouldn’t let Blu catch him. So Blu just decided he was going to chase that horse until the horse gave up. This race lasted the next 13 hours. After that, the horse never ran away again. Anyone who knew Blu knows this is a true story.
6. Lee Corso: Football, you might know him as the popular host of ESPN’s College GameDay program. He’s the guy who puts the school mascot head on based on who he thinks will win the football game. He led IU to a victory in the Holiday Bowl (1979). He might be one of the funniest men I’ve ever met. He coached at IU from 1973 to 1982.
Advice − Respect the media. The media is the most powerful organization on earth. Learn how to tell a story, use humor to engage, optimize social media and realize that communication is your most important asset.
Story: Laughter is what follows Coach Corso. It’s fun to be around. Everyone is happy to be in his company. Not only is he funny, but he’s also smart. We all learned a lot from him, and not for a minute did we feel like we were working.
Coaches want people to reach the highest levels of human physical ability. They criticize weaknesses, encourage strengths, always push for improvement, and expect a lot from their athletes. It is natural that we take lessons from the best trainers for our daily life. I hope you find a nugget of gold in the six tips they inspired me for your program.
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