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Beating the Odds

Great Players, Failed Coaches

Diego Maradona’s ouster as Argentina’s soccer coach renews the debate over great players and their potential to be great coaches.

As this Sports Illustrated article points out, Maradona’s recent experience as a World Cup coach ended far less successfully than his stint as World Cup player.

And so it is with many athletes. So often the great coaches and managers are people who had to scratch to survive during their playing careers. Phil Jackson, who recently won his 11th NBA title. He was far from a legend as a player.

Same for Tommy Lasorda, who led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a pair of World Series titles.

By contrast, it’s difficult to name many superstar athletes who matched their playing achievements after crossing over to the other side of the bench. Joe Torre is one of the exceptions, putting together a stellar managerial career after being a star player.

Those who must work hard to be great managers bring to mind the subject of praise, and how important it is for coaches to focus on the right thing when they praise their athletes.

This article in New York magazine  — it’s called “The Inverse Power of Praise” — looks at the work of Stanford researcher Carol Dweck, who says that praising a child for intelligence can backfire. It’s better, says the article, to praise hard work, progress and achievement.

And that’s perhaps how average athletes become great managers. They understand hard work better than superstars. They must work harder than the stars to progress and achieve. They can never rest, which is good practice for when they coach!


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