A leader, as defined in the Oxford Dictionary, is “The person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” However, I believe that a true leader is someone that does not simply command or direct, but instead, works with people to support them and guide them so that they can achieve a goal, whether it is big or small. There are several types of leaders within a community that all have traits people admire. Personally, I find that some of the people I look up to the most are my coaches.  During every practice, they push the team to our limits and train us so that we learn to improve. They always encourage the team and inspire us to work harder so that in the end of the day, we are not only winning against our opponents, we are becoming a better person ourselves.

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For this project, Risa and I decided to interview Tony Scott and Patty Anderson, our school basketball coaches. Both Mr.Scott and Ms.Anderson first started teaching at Gleneagle Secondary 18 years ago when it opened; however, they have been coaching long before then. Our main question was: what motivates you to continue coaching? Since that was a large question, we decided to break it up into several pieces. In order to get some background knowledge, we started by asking them what first got them interested in coaching.

Ms.Anderson said that she started while she was on a College basketball team: “we had to go out and coach a [team] and I loved it. Right away I knew that this was what I wanted to do—to go into that field.”

Mr.Scott had a similar experience, and explained: “For me, I was playing for a long period of time, and after, I started coaching little kids and I got connected that way. I felt that after I finished playing, I’d probably like to do some coaching.”

Currently, they both coach the senior and junior girls’ basketball teams, and Mr.Scott is also an organizer of an out of school club called True North. As high school coaches, they dedicate a lot of their time to training players both during the season and during off-season. Despite putting so much effort into developing the team,  their work is completely voluntary and they accept success in the forms of experiences and the relationships they make, rather than as money.

“For me,  that’s normal,” Mr.Scott said, “When I grew up, there was no paying for anything. People just did it because they had a passion for it. They wanted to give back. They wanted to get kids connected in a positive way…money hasn’t been the issue. It’s about giving back and being able to help other people.”

This is one of the reasons I think they are such amazing leaders.  They help others, not because they profit from it, but because they want to give back to the community. Kindness is an important quality to have in a leader, and they definitely demonstrate this  since they use their own time to coach students.

Another valuable quality to have is the ability to overcome obstacles that come up along the road to success. We knew the obvious challenges basketball players must overcome such as mental and physical exhaustion, but we were curious as to what kinds of obstacles coaches would have to face.

“I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve found is trying to sustain a program within your community,” Mr.Scott said, “It’s very difficult now because you have so many schools and so many other distractions or things that students can be involved in. To be able to maintain something within your own school and own community is very difficult. And basketball is one of those sports that’s very difficult to actually acquire enough skill and knowledge and understanding to enjoy it.”

“Sports have become more expensive in general, Patty added, “And I feel the same way for basketball. It’s a little different from other sports in that kids don’t go out and play club programs. It’s sort of on us to do skill development on the off season … “

Coaching is definitely hard work, but there must be something that keeps them going. We were curious about what motivates them to continue even when they are in tough situations. We asked them why they are so willing to dedicate lots of effort and time to volunteer for their community when they don’t necessarily benefit themselves from it.

“I think for me, I’m competitive so there’s no point in doing something unless you are going to do it well.” Ms.Anderson said , “To do something part way through just wouldn’t fit the way I am.”

She also added that she values the relationships that come out of coaching basketball: Some of my best friends today are girls that I’ve coached and we’ve gone to their weddings and [see] them regularly…I think the relationships along with my competitiveness is what keeps me doing this.” 

I admire her determination and how she treats the players she leads as equals, rather than putting them below herself. A good leader knows the importance of putting themselves on the same level as the people they lead, instead of putting themselves above others.

Everyone has someone they look up to, and we wondered who our own coaches were inspired by.  Each person remembers something about a role model they admire, so we asked them where they had gotten their support from.

 “I think my mom. My mom coached and my dad also coached. They would be my two,” Ms.Anderson said.

“For me, it was my high school coach.” Mr.Scott said, “He actually gave me some guidance, direction, and [afterwards], I coached with him at University for ten years… Coaching wise, he was the person I looked up to.”

I am sure that both Ms.Anderson and Mr.Scott continue to carry on pieces of what they learned from their own role models, and use that to inspire themselves to be just as supportive as their mentors used to be.

During exam prep for the English Provincials, we were asked to write down an experience that we remember and to identify what we learned from it. I was thinking about the idea of learning from your experiences when asking the next question: What is your favourite memory that you learned something from or simply enjoy looking back on? Just as the Provincial Exam had stated, ‘People learn from a variety of sources,’ and personal experiences are one of them.

Mr.Scott recalled an event when he had made it to Provincials for track and field for the 400 meter race and simply could not run any more. His sisters tried to encourage him, but he could not do it and ended up dropping out. “I learned how [you should] never quit, no matter what. That’s why I try to encourage people. If you get there, you keep on going through it, no matter what. Even if your performance may be horrible, the fact is you keep going… I don’t know what I would have done in that mile. I could have done well, but [mentally], I just didn’t have anything left in me. “ 

Mr. Scott is a coach that never gives up on the team, even when they begin to give up on themselves. I know that he has learned from that experience because he always tells us to “never quit” and “do it to the best of your ability.” Both he and Ms.Anderson continuously show how determined they are, and it inspires me to work harder than I ever knew I could. Both coaches push us to work hard so that our effort will pay off, and I feel that this is what helps us keep going until we succeed.

While wrapping the interview up, we asked if they had any advice for aspiring coaches.

“[I think they] should build up relationships. I think they have to be fair, and consistent in what they do. I think that they have to understand that there’s different types of athletes these days. I think that you have to be able to motivate, and you have to be able to push people outside of their comfort zone. I think you have to be prepared to take an individual as an individual. Everyone is different. Even though you are trying to get them to the same endpoint, they’re bringing different skills, different attitudes, and you have to try and nurture some of that and try to bring the best out of them. At the same time, you have to be there to embrace and comfort them when things aren’t going well,” Mr.Scott said.

After that, we thanked both Mr.Scott and Ms.Anderson and reflected on everything we had learned.

In the start of the interview, our main question was: what motivates you to coach? After this interview finished, I concluded that coaching isn’t just for money or wins, it is for building relationships and building the players into a better people than they were yesterday. I realized that coaching is not simply about the game itself, but instead, is about the lasting effect you have on your players. I have learned that the definition of a leader is not just someone that commands a group, but is someone who is determined, supportive, positive and caring, and inspires others to be the same way. I hope that some day, I will be able to inspire other people in the same way that I am inspired by my own coaches.

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If you would like to see some of the work Ms.Anderson and Mr.Scott have done, you can follow the Gleneagle TALONS Athletics Facebook Page which is constantly updated with information about the sports teams at Gleneagle Secondary.

So, who do you find inspirational? And what types of traits do you think make an effective leader? Feel free to comment below!