This excerpt is from an article with Fredonia’s diving coach, John Crawford, that was published in the Fall alumni magazine. I’ve pulled out what I think are the most meaningful passages.
The bolded line below, for whatever reason, still brings tears to my eyes (and I don’t cry all that often):
Maloney: I hear older coaches bemoan the lack of teaching ability in younger coaches. Do you see that as a big problem?
Crawford: I think the big problem is coaches getting caught up in results. It’s not about the results. It’s about the process and focusing on the preparation. That’s the key: we should prepare for success and expect success.
Maloney: In the back of my mind I would love to win a national championship (Crawford coached a national champion diver, Kelly Sponholz, in 2009).
Crawford: But do you know how many excellent coaches there are who have never done that? I mean excellent coaches. Yeah, I have a girl who won an NCAA Championship, and I know I’m blessed. You may never win a national championship. It’s great if you do, but if you don’t it’s not going to change the opinions of the kids you coach. If they have an excellent opinion of what you did for them in their formative years, I think that’s more long lasting than the national championship.
Maloney: That’s good stuff.
Crawford: But I understand why you’d want to win a championship. I do too. But with Kelly, I never thought of winning the national championship as a goal, I just wanted her to do well.
Maloney: My first memory of you was when I was 22 years old. I was training a few athletes and you saw us doing an exercise that you thought might help your divers, and you stopped to ask questions. Here’s someone who’s been coaching for close to 30 years asking questions to a recent college graduate. There’s so much humility in that.
Crawford: For my whole career I’ve never been afraid to ask questions. Part of coaching is that you want to compete and you want to win. But if you really want to be a good coach you need to continue to learn to help your athletes, and if you can convey that passion you’ll find winning will be the by-product.
Maloney: In terms of winning, does it keep you up at night? Trying to win?
Crawford: No. What keeps me up at night is, “What can I do to help (a diver) do a better two and a half,” or, “How can I help (her) stay positive coming back from an injury?” or “How can I help (him) not be so tough on himself?” The best moments aren’t necessarily when you win but those intimate moments when you see them grow.
Maloney: Is this a constant process of needing to put aside the striving for accomplishment?
Crawford: Human relationships last longer than the accomplishment. Some of the coach of the year awards I got back in the 80’s, I don’t even know where they are anymore. Maybe they’re in the basement somewhere.
Maloney: So what is it that motivates you right now? Has it changed over time?
Crawford: It’s definitely changed. I think its changed into serving others. There’s a business concept called, “Servant Leadership.” I can summarize it as this: “How can I help you today?”
Maloney: How can you help?
Crawford: Right. I’ll often ask it to the divers: “How can I help you today? Is there anything that I can do for you?” Did I have that at the age of 22 when I started? No. But eventually if you’re a good teacher you find yourself going into that mode.