Notes From “Inside Out Coaching”

Inside Out Coaching

By: Joe Ehrmann and Paula Ehrmann

Pg.6 Instead of looking back in despair, I quickly decided, with Paula’s help, to look forward with hope.  I wanted to become the kind of coach I had craved all those years under transactional coaches.  I wanted to be transformational.  A transformational coach is dedicated to self-understanding and empathy, viewing sports as a virtuous and virtue-giving discipline.  Transformational coaches believe young people can grow and flourish in sports in a way that is more liberating and instructive than can be achieved through almost any other activity.

Pg. 6 I saw transactional coaches: the kind of coaches who use players as tools to meet their personal needs for validation, status, and identity.  They held their power over us to elicit the response they wanted.  I obeyed these coaches out of necessity but I never accepted their belief systems or bought into their programs.  Coach first, team second, and a player’s growth and needs last, if at all, were their modus operandi.

Pg. 42 At these weekly breakfast meetings, we had heated discussion about seemingly irreconcilable issues.  Is football violent or merely aggressive?  Can you really love your players and win? What do you replace the so-called killer instinct with and will a player and team be as effective if they learn true competition instead of a winning-is-the-only-thing approach? Can a cohesive team built on brotherhood and a new form of masculinity and empathy win championships?

Pg. 8 An InSideOut coach is one who has done this sort or arduous interior work to answer such critical questions as, Why do I coach?  Why do I coach the way I do?  What does it feel like to be coached by me?  How do I define and measure success?

Pg. 44 The keys to redemptive sports are the thousands of potentially transformational coaches, the numerous men and women who understand the importance of coaching from the inside out and the power that comes from understanding their own past in order to coach wholly in the present. Coaches have to get their own story down as coherently as possible before turning to the sacred task of transforming young people.  The best way to start, I realize now, is to pick some heroes—some InSideOut coaches from any field who helps us understand our own stories, go beyond them, and show us how to COACH FOR OTHERS.

Pg. 47 But I wonder if we have any idea what these coaches’real purposes, missions, or values are. What kind of men and women are they off the field and out of the limelight?  What is the moral and ethical composition of their program? What are they teaching about living an honorable life?  Or do they focus only on the win-loss record, mastery over the X’s and O’s, promotion of their own images and reputations?  When I started coaching I hadn’t thought through the need to clarify why I was coaching or how I was coaching.  I just coached the way I had been coached—for better or, more typically, for worse.  I occasionally connected but usually transacted with my players.

Pg. 59 I began to realize a fundamental truth about sports, coaches, and athletes: Players will do what they’re told by a coach but they will only truly follow someone whom they believe in and who believes in them.  Coaching is all about relationships.  It doesn’t happen on chalkboards, with titles, or in newspaper articles.  Transformational coaching occurs only when people believe in you and choose to follow because they know what you believe in them, too.

Pg. 92 One of the BIG MYTHS in our culture is that sports builds character.   Unless a coach teaches and models character and encourages its development in his athletes, it is more likely that organized sports and contemporary culture will spoil play and undermine the development of the very character and virtue they claim to build.  With plenty of encouragement from a sports-crazed adult culture, I bought wholeheartedly into three sports myths: acceptance, status, and performance-based identity.  I viewed my athletic prowess, and the plaudits it produced, as a way to receive acceptance—a false acceptance because it was based on my performance and not on my character.

Pg. 110 Joe’s WHY he coaches statement: “I coach to help boys become men of empathy and integrity who will lead, be responsible, and change the world for good.”

Pg. 112 If you were on your deathbed today and you wanted to measure your success in life, if you wanted to measure the kind of man or woman you were, it would come down to two things and only two things. FIRST: Life is about relationships.  It’s about the capacity to love and to be loved. What does it mean to be a man? It means having the capacity to look somebody directly in the eyes and say, “I love you.”  And then being able to receive that love back.

Pg. 112 The questions that will matter most on your deathbed are the questions related to your relationships.  What kind of husband was I?  What kind of wife? What kind of partner?  What kind of mother?  What kind of father?  What kind of son?  What kind of daughter?  What kind of friend?  What kind of member of the community?  What kind of coach?  Who did I love and who loved me?  Now, think about that.  Think about how we raise boys in this country.  We don’t raise boys to be successful in their relationships. We tell them to be independent and be their own men, to take pride in individual accomplishments, compare and compete with other men, and earn their manhood.

Pg.113 The SECOND thing people want to know is what kind of difference they made in the lives of others, their community, and their country.  People want to know that they lived for a reason, a cause, and a purpose that was bigger than themselves.  I call this a transcendent cause; transcendent in the sense that it motivates one to get up every day with a vision that is bigger than one’s own personal goals, desires, and ambitions, a vision that serves the needs of our teammates, community, and society and recognizes and enables a spirit of brotherhood, sisterhood, and the responsibility we have to each other. Life, I’ve learned, is a team sport and ultimately is unsatisfying if it is lived solely for self.

Pg. 115 CHART: I share with them how I built my coherent coaching narrative.  I create a graph and plot out all the coaches I played for. I then grade these coaches.  How positive was the experience?  How negative?  I then pose a series of questions regarding each experience I had with each coach: What did I learn?  What did I learn that I wish I hadn’t?  What did I wish I had learned?  What were my developmental needs at that age and how were they addressed, if at all?  How did that coach make me feel about myself?  Did the coach mold or shape my character in a positive or negative way?  How did the coach treat my teammates?  Was there a consistent moral or ethical dimension to the coaching?  How did I feel about that coach now that I am a man?

Pg. 120 By building my coherent narrative, I got in touch with the feelings my coaches had generated in me as I passed through the developmental stages of my youth. I wanted to create an atmosphere in which I could connect with and transform my players.  I thought about all the pressure young people battle every day.  They get up early in the morning, grab something to eat, commute to school, endure full days of academic learning, competitive grading, SAT prep, parental pressures, and homework.  Between classes they walk the halls dealing with peer pressure, social pressure, sexual pressure, and all the difficulties negotiating the uncertainty of adolescent development.  At the end of the day they walk out on the athletic field and are coached by me. How does that feel to them? What feelings do my words, actions, and interactions create within my players?

Pg. 120 Three highest VALUES as a coach: EMPATHY, KINDNESS and SERVICE TO OTHERS.

EMPATHY is the standared bearer of my coaching values.  Literally means “feeling into another,”to understand another person’s feelings, thoughts, and desires.  Empahty validates a boy’s emotions even as the maile socialization process encourages him to deny them.  Empathy creates the foundation for a player to feel known, understood, and accepted for his or her authentic self.


Pg. 122 KINDNESS encompasses a vast range of words and actions, and I often tell players that kindness has a ten-word vocabulary.  One word—“please.”  Two words—“thank you.”  Three words—“I love you.”  Four words—“Can I help you?”

Pg. 122 SERVICE TO OTHERS is empathy and kindness put into acts and actions.  It gives meaning to life and helps sustain and dignify the lives of others.  Service to others is never a quid pro quo—doing a deed to receive an equal or similar deed in return.  It means selflessly putting the best interests of my players and team first. Service to their players gives coaches the moral authority and power to transform lives.

Pg. 123 I like John Wooden’s definition: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of SELF-SATISFACTION in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”  Coach Wooden believed that true success comes when we simply to the best that we can do, no matter what the outcome.  Between the lines of his definition, we can read that true competition lies within ourselves.

Pg. 124 Defining competition this way challenges us to measure our own best efforts.  The challenge involves learning how to compete with ourselves.  How does someone now when he or she has given his or her best?  It is much harder to give our best than we think. As coaches we are constantly seeking to achieve and produce success.  The problem is that so few ever sit down and define what success is for them.  We have to define success before we can measure it.  If we measure ourselves against ourselves, we can determine if we are truly successful.  This is especially important in our“win at all costs” sports culture where success is defined only by winning and, in the vast majority of situations, we are left to feel that we didn’t measure up.

Pg. 124 Success is defined and measured by the content of their character, their leadership, and their contribution to the betterment of their families, their communities, and the world.  The challenge presented with this definition is the amount of time it takes to determine success. I give myself a 20 year window. I will assess the quality of the lives of the men I helped produce 20 years later to determine if I fulfilled my WHY as their coach.  When my players come back and are committed husbands, partners, and friends, devoted fathers, empathic men of integrity, contributors and leaders on all levels in various communities—then I will know.  People often ask what kind of success my team will have this season.  I tell them I will let them know in 20 years.

Pg. 125 I am a transformational coach who has the position, power, and platform to make a positive difference in the lives of my players.  I coach to help boys become men of empathy and integrity who will lead, be responsible, and change the world for good.  I allow for accountability and take responsibility for my actions.  And then I go out and execute my WHY.

Pg. 131 As a staff, we coaches Xs and Os and we helped boys become men with an InSideOut coaching approach supported by these pillars.  Winning was the by-product of teaching, nurturing, and prioritizing our players’ developmental needs and honoring the sacred journey of each boy.  With one hand we did our traditional game plans that helped us win games and with the other we defined, modeled, and integrated the virtues that helped us transform lives.

Pg. 137 The five questions Biff and I agreed to strive to help each of our players answer during his time with us.  Identity: Who am I? Integrity: What do I stand for?  Intimacy: Who will love me and whom will I love? Interdependence: Whom will I stand with? Industry: What can I do with my life?  Think of all the ways that a coach with power, platform, and position can help players discover the answers to those questions.

Pg. 141-143 We belong to each other.  Full acceptance is the rule.  We need each other.  A team is a complex organism.  We are interdependent; no teammate can function without connection with other teammates.    We affect each other.  Oneness—a team is One.

Pg. 150 “Being on the TEAM vs. Being a TEAMMATE” T-CHART

Pg. 175 Contemplation is a key virtue and is absolutely essential to an InSideOut coach. During the coaching season, our hectic lifestyle ramps up to warp sped with almost no time left for self-care, rest, renewal, or recovery.  Coaching demands and drains the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy needed to connect with our players and stay aligned with our purpose statements as coaches.  I see too many coaches who violate almost everything they know about rest, recovery, and performance.

Pg. 176 We become rejuvenated when we step out of the business of coaching and take time to reflect on the values and virtues that inspire and motivate us to coach. Contemplation, silence, solitude, and centeredness are critical work required of a transformational coach.  We can’t construct our coherent narratives without contemplating our personal lives methodically and rigorously.

Pg. 177-178 Contemplation is the conscious and methodical analysis of the experience we have as people, and then the integration of that analysis into a larger, comprehensive understanding or story.   For inside work, it is the contemplation of a coach’s formative experience in sports that helps him understand how he coaches.  For the outside work it is the linking of the coach’s self-awareness with his player’s behavior, needs, and growth that translates into a coach’s methodical contemplation of each young life on his team.  Contemplation, the inside work, generates self-understanding. Self-understanding leads to understanding others, which can lead to life-changing transformation.

Pg. 186 Clarity is precision—using words and inflections in as precise a fashion as possible. But clarity is more than that. Clarity in coaching revolves around the communication of mutual expectations, desires, needs. Clarity is a by-product of purpose-driven coaching, of knowing where you and the team are going.  Coaches need to ask themselves: What message do I need to send to my athletes today at practice?  What do I expect from them thi s week and how will I design our lesson plans to deliver the message?  What sort of behavior do I expect from them off the field when they interact with their friends and families and in the community? What do I need to communicate to empower them and prepare them to flourish as fathers, friends, and citizens of a community, country, and world?  And likewise, what are their clear needs from me?  What can I do for them to help them develop as athletes and thrive as people?  How can I connect with them?  How can I help them connect to me and others?

Pg. 198 Here are three habits we strive to develop to ensure that contact, connections, and communication take place every practice with every players. 1. Welcome each and every player onto the field, letting them know we value and appreciate their presence, contribution, and commitment to the team.  2. Commit to making sure every player is personally addressed at every practice.  3. Engage the student-athletes with questions related to the players’ interests and problems off the field and develop conversations that affirm the worth of each student-athlete.

Pg. 205 NINE REASONS I SWEAR: It pleases my mom so much, It is a display of my manliness, It proves I have great self-control, It indicates how clearly my mind functions, It makes conversations so pleasant, It leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind as to my upbringing, It impresses people, It makes me a very desirable personality to women and children, It is an unmistakable sign of my culture and refinement

Pg. 207 ROARS Acronym: Communication with athletes

R-Reflective Communication

O-Open Ended Questions


R-Reflective Responses


Pg. 209 There are three things going on in any communication: the message we intend to send, the message we actually send, and the message our players hear. Clarity and discipline are critical tools in life-changing and life-affirming communication.

Pg. 213 The root word for competition is the Latin word“petere,” meaning to search and strive for.  Most often is used in the context of striving or searching for something of value or excellence. The preposition “com” means together.  So, literally, competition can be defined as a “mutual quest or striving for excellence.”  It is more process oriented than outcome oriented, whereby competitors strive together or with each other to bring out the best by presenting a worthy challenge.  Competition, therefore, is not defined by winning or losing, but by the degree to which all competitors realize their fullest potential. Since true competition is a “mutual quest for excellence,” there are no winners and loser; everyone who competes wins.  This cooperative sense of competition is a value-driven process that leads to respect for others, personal and team integrity, and justice and fairness.

Pg. 225 PLAYERS LEARN BY HOW I COACH! If I coach with  hostility—my players learn to be hostile.  If I coach with ridicule—my players learn to disengage. If I coach with shame—my players learn to be ashamed.  If I coach with sarcasm—my players learn to hide.  If I coach with love—my players learn how to be loved. If I coach with tolerance—my players learn to be patient.  If I coach with encouragement—my players learn to encourage.  If I coach with empathy—my players learn to express their feelings.

Pg. 246 All young people need to know three things before they graduate from high school. One, they are loved.  Two, they are loved and accepted for who they are, not what they do.  Three, they need to know that they have something of importance and significance to offer the world.

Pg. 248 To me spirituality is the quest for self-transcendence—moving beyond self-preoccupation and self-aggrandizement.  Spirituality is enhanced when we can rise above ourselves and connect with others in the pursuit of a higher purpose. Spirituality in sports is often referred to as “chemistry”, but it is much richer and more holistic than these terms suggest.  Sports are a ceremony: a season of life containing all the rituals and exercises necessary to internalize and publicize each hero’s journey.