Coaching vs Managing

by JR Griggs

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Football Field

At the age of 16, I transferred to a new high school. I was starting my Junior year and my first year of Varsity Football. I was excited to play for a new school and get a shot at a new position. The last 2 years I had been a linebacker and always wanted to be a running back. I saw this new school as my chance to break into that position. I even called the head coach that summer to introduce myself. We had a quick talk and he let me know what dates I needed to be there for practice.

This school was different than my last one. Two a day practices in the summer before school starts. Booster clubs. Meals before games and after. Big difference from the broke school I came from. This student parking lot was loaded with 4×4 trucks, as well as a Mercedes or BMW sprinkled in here and there. Those expensive cars probably wouldn’t have lasted too long at my old school, at least not without coming out to your car and finding an empty space with broken glass instead.

So the first day of practice came up and I rode my bike down the street to the school. Nope, no car. My first car was broken beyond repair and we didn’t have much money. So a bike was my transportation for most of that year.

I got to the field and introduced myself to one of the assistant coaches. He looked at me like I just interrupted his soap operas and told me to go stand over by the fence. Throughout that first day I talked to the head coach maybe once. I was confused as to where I was supposed to be and who was supposed to be coaching me. I simply identified the running backs and followed them through drills.

Throughout the next few weeks I continued through running back drills and learned a couple plays. My multiple attempts at getting a playbook or a list of plays or anything to learn the system was useless. I went most of the summer never learning the entire system and not getting a whole lot of help from the coaches.

During the season not much changed other than that my running backs coach started helping out more and taking an interest in me. I was getting faster and keeping up with the rest of the running backs. Aside from the plays, there were things at that time I just didn’t get yet. Like lowering a shoulder and hurting the defender more than he hurts you. Mental toughness. Confidence. Determination. I was going through the motions but had no shot at ever really playing.

The season went on and I never got on the field. That summer I broke my arm really bad playing football at a park and was not ready in time for the following season. The only one who seemed to care was my running backs coach who thought I had a shot that year. After high school I actually played in a couple different football leagues and excelled. My confidence was up. I was fast, hard hitting, and had an pretty good grasp of the game. But that was all too late of course.


Some coaches simply know how to manage talent. If there is talent, they excel. No talent, they flop. They have no ability to pull talent out of someone. To teach it, encourage it. They only know how to manage the talent they have.

See, when I joined that football team there were a bunch of managers. They were hoping to get a bunch of talent to manage. I must not have looked like the talent they were looking for. When they got talented players they could manage a team and get some wins. But what I didn’t see was any coaches who could draw the talent out. Who could go beyond managing the team and into creating great players out of average ones.


A real coach doesn’t just manage the talent he is given, he can teach players to be great. He can motivate. He can get the best out of every player and teach the average players what they need to be great. You won’t always have the greatest players, but when you have the ability to really coach you can always have a great team.

You don’t see a lot of movies made about coaches coaching teams loaded with talent. You see movies about coaches taking players who aren’t considered the elite and winning. Coaches who overcome the lack of talent and draw out the talent and will to win. Coaches who can get a team over adversity and playing well together.

I have coached on my son’s baseball teams for a couple years now. I see even at this stage that some of the coaches are simply managing the talent. They may be great managers and really know the game. But they have not mastered the ability to draw the talent out of the other players.

Coaching and Managing are two interesting words when you look at what they really mean. They can be applied to the same person but many times are not. Sometimes coaches manage as well but not all managers can coach.

When you hear professional athletes today talking about their childhood coaches you hear about the coaching, not just the managing. I bet there are a ton of people out there that with better coaching might be living a different life right now. And not just in sports.

As a business owner, just managing talent and hoping you can find all the greatest talent won’t cut it. You need to be able to coach. Your managers need to be able to coach. If you can’t coach, find someone who can. But know that you have a much better chance at success when you can coach your team, not just manage it.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

JA Griggs

I am enrolled in a program in leadership. In one of my courses, Maximizing Potential in Organizations, we are talking about coaching and how it differs from managing. I enjoyed reading about your experiences. I agree with your statement that managers need to be able to coach. I had some great coaches and mentors, and would embrace the opportunity to coach or mentor others.

Could we possibly be related?

My family (Griggs) settled near Boston (Brookline MA) in the early 1800s. I have the geneology mostly Williams, Philips, Charles and Johns.


JR Griggs

Would be a good possibility. I have traced back my family history to the first person ever to use the last name Griggs. Every Griggs that I know of has come from John Griggs in England. My family line settled in New Jersey but there were quite a few Griggs families that settled all over.



hi im mary im trying to find my origin of my last name and guess what my last name is griggs.

Mary Griggs


JR Griggs

Hey Mary, is a great place to look.


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