Wisdom from the Penn State Coaches Panel

Last week the Athletic Director’s Leadership Institute (ADLI) here at Penn State hosted a coaches panel with four Penn State head coaches:

  • Rob Cooper (baseball)—first year at Penn State; seven 30-win seasons at Wright State and the USA Baseball Coach of the Year
  • Russ Rose (women’s volleyball)—winner of 5 of the last 7 National Championships
  • Beth Alford-Sullivan (men’s and women’s track and field/cross country)—138 NCAA All-Americans
  • Bob Warming (men’s soccer)—over 400 career victories and 2-time National Coach of the Year

Some nuggets of wisdom from my notes:

Leadership requires learning to adjust your communication so that athletes will understand. This requires listening. —Cooper

Leadership requires the ability to embrace change. —Warming

Leadership is a skill. It’s learned, grown, developed. Leadership happens when opportunity meets need. —Alford-Sullivan

Leaders must recognize that every decision has ramifications. Leaders can only function if there are good followers. —Rose

Changing the culture requires 1. clearly defining the vision (use a telescope to see the future, but a microscope for today); 2. maintaining consistency; 3. patience (stick with vision and values, especially when adversity comes). —Cooper

Captains are elected. Leaders emerge. —Rose

Hire people who complement your strengths, care and can teach. —Cooper

Hire people you like. Trust comes easier. —Alford-Sullivan

Recruit athletes who are comfortable being uncomfortable. They will grow the most. —Cooper

An athlete’s value to the team isn’t based on whether they play or not. We wouldn’t have won the National Championship without the 5 players at the end of the bench who never played. —Rose

If you’re always telling the truth, coaching is an easy life. —Rose

Sometimes you win with the best team, not always the best players. —Rose

Players need to know you’ve got their back. —Warming


What wisdom have you learned from another coach? Please share below!