By Greg Bach
The words were powerful – and life changing.
And they came from youth coaches who genuinely cared.
Terry Fair remembers them more than a quarter century later – and is grateful he was on the receiving end of them as a young athlete.
“They had an unbelievable impact on me,” says Fair, the former NFL first round draft pick and current cornerbacks coach at Colorado State University. “They told me I could accomplish anything and do anything if I put my mind to it. I think hearing those words at a young age and being able to listen and hang on every word that was taught to me at a young age did wonders for myself in terms of where I ended up.”
Fair was snatched by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft – he was the 20th overall pick – and he quickly made his mark with a spectacular rookie season that was punctuated with a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Monday Night Football.
It was a journey that began on the youth playing fields under coaches who shaped, molded and encouraged him along the way.
Fair urges you, the volunteer coach, to embrace your role and take full advantage of the opportunity to impact young lives.
Use these five tips from him to help make it happen:
TEACH THE ‘WHY’
“You have to be a great teacher,” Fair says. “You always have to teach the ‘why.’ Why are we doing this? Why are we doing that? Why don’t I want you doing it like this? You have to show them; you have to correct them; and you have to teach them. The biggest thing we do is we coach, critique and correct on a daily basis.”
EVERYONE IS WATCHING – AND THEY SEE IT ALL
Every word spoken is dissected by the kids, so be aware of your tone and body language at all times.
And know that players observe and evaluate how you communicate with their teammates, too.
“Understand that during your communication with one child everybody else is looking on as well,” Fair says. “So when you communicate with them you have to understand that everybody is looking at how you are communicating and hanging onto your every word as well.”
ESTABLISHING ENVIRONMENTS KIDS WANT TO BE A PART OF
“It’s got to be a great learning environment,” Fair says. “I think for us, as coaches, we’re just like that teacher that when you go into that class you excel in that class because that teacher communicates well with you and it’s a fun environment for learning. You’re being corrected and you’re being taught. You’re getting that arm put around you every now and then and being loved up also. So it’s about the environment that you create – the child has to learn to love the game because of how it was taught to them.”
MANAGING MISTAKES, APPLAUDING PROGRESS
“You want to influence and teach and build,” Fair says. “You coach them hard but at the same time you have to be able to put your arms around them and be calm and talk about the mistakes that are being made – and also when they do well you have to point that out also. It just can’t be the negative things all the time; there has to be recognition when there is marked improvement in what they’re doing so they can see the progress that they are making.”
CONNECTING AND TRANSFORMING – DON’T WASTE THIS OPPORTUNITY
“As a coach you have an opportunity to affect the lives of young people on a daily basis,” Fair says. “It’s being there for them as mentors and being there for them as a coach. You want to see them do well in life – not only on the field but off the field as well. Helping them so they can be successful in life is what coaching is really all about. It’s about the development of the overall young man. Any way you can impact that, that’s the beauty of what we do on a daily basis.”