Buzz Williams: "Care for their hearts more than their skill"
By Greg Bach
Virginia Tech returns to the NCAA tournament tonight for the first time since 2007, led by Buzz Williams, their passionate, energetic and caring third-year coach.
We caught up with the Hokies head man, who dispensed valuable insight for volunteer coaches on being more than simply a teacher of the game.
Beyond the fundamentals and X’s and O’s, he encourages today’s volunteer coaches to focus on being positive influences on young lives.
IMPACTING YOUNG ATHLETES
Volunteer coaches have incredible opportunities to impact young lives well beyond the sport being played.
So never take the position lightly.
And always strive to be a difference maker in a young athlete’s life.
“Don’t just be a coach, be a father,” Williams says. “Treat each of your players like they were your own. You will be surprised by the influence you have on their life.”
Of course, teaching the skills of the sport is important. But so is weaving life lessons into your interactions with your players that they’ll carry with them into adulthood.
“Teach them how to pass, then teach them how to be polite,” Williams says. “Care for their hearts, more than their skill. That is where I find my reward.”
Coaches naturally want to teach their players – and there’s usually a lot to cover.
But don’t overwhelm kids.
And don’t fall into the trap of believing that a blanket approach will work in connecting with everyone.
Kids have different personalities, they learn at different paces, and they respond differently to instructions and feedback. One of your many challenges is figuring out what works with each child.
“Be patient,” Williams says. “Even at the college level we want our students to learn faster and compete harder. However, each player learns differently. It’s the ability to address those different habits in your teachings that will make you successful.”
Williams knows all about success. He’s been a winner wherever he has gone. In just his third year at Virginia Tech he has the Hokies back in the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade.
This year alone he has led Virginia Tech to wins over Duke, Michigan, Virginia and Miami.
And to help volunteers get the most out of their teams so they can enjoy success too he stresses the importance of running well-planned practices.
Young players need structure – and that doesn’t happen when coaches are throwing together a practice plan five minutes before the kids arrive.
“Be prepared and be organized,” Williams says. “Your practices must be very structured and do not be afraid to hold them accountable.”
Miles Simon – former youth basketball coach, current Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach and the Most Outstanding Player at the 1997 Final Four in leading Arizona to the national championship – shares tips for helping your young players have a rewarding season
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on teaching young athletes the value of leading, working together and supporting everyone on the team
Traci Callahan, professional beach volleyball player and youth coach, on the value of providing honest feedback to young players to forge connections, drive development and deliver rewarding seasons
During these unprecedented times coaches still play an all-important role in their young athletes’ lives. Use these tips from well-known psychologist Dr. Peter Scales to stay connected, involved and help players be ready once seasons resume.