A lot of attention has been paid to college sports in the last month. March Madness had people around the country filling out brackets. A court ruling on the potential unionizing of college athletes led by a group of students at Northwestern also got a lot of buzz.
But I couldn't take my ears off of a conversation on a radio call in show here in New York on station WNYC. "The Brian Lehrer Show" brings in all kinds of guests and puts them on the phone with people listening in their cars and at home and work. Like many shows like it around the country, this call in program is more of a community service than straight entertainment programming. I think Lehrer does a hell of a job.
Anyway, he did a segment on "Coaching" that got me thinking about Teachernomics.
Lehrer asked people to call in about great coaches they had and the responses were telling. We heard folks talking about track coaches, soccer, trumpet, baseball coaches... even life coaches. Nearly everyone who called in told the story of someone from her past who gave never-diminishing advice. Aside from the wise words of a mentor, what other kind of work doesn't diminish or lose its value over time? Invention? Art?
That's got to be the topic for another article.
What got me thinking about the value of a coach, however, had less to do with the lasting emotional/psychological impact on a player or more to do with the actual price tag. How much is a great coach worth, financially?
The answer, of course, depends. Little league coaches often get paid nothing or close to it. On the other hand, college football coaches of elite or enormous schools can get paid millions of dollars a year.
Both render incredible value to their teams. Some of those little league coaches (or middle school or high school coaches) will do the best coaching the players will get their whole lives. Some highly paid professional coaches will be the subject of great derision. Some coaches, no matter the level, will give advice and instruction that will be cherished for decades. Others will be forgotten.
What a coach gets paid will have almost no correlation with their effectiveness.
The point is: we have a huge problem figuring out how much coaches are worth, financially, despite the fact that their players can often easily estimate their impact value on them. Culturally, we don't know up from down on the value of good instruction. Remember that when you hear parties from unions to governments to parents to business talk about the cost of education.
What is the difference between a great coach and a bad coach? Depends on what you mean by "great." For must of us, it's an important personal question that weirdly has no bearing on financial ramifications.
What is the difference between a coach and a teacher? Nothing, of course.
Check out Brian Lehrer's awesome show here
Image from WNYC's "The Brian Lehrer Show"