The Cycle of Coaching
At the end of the day, a team plays to win. As teams reach high school the days of participation trophies end, and the days of state titles and banners enter. The competition becomes real, and records matter. A fair argument to make is that better players make a better team. While this is true, coaching is a key aspect of team sports, such as football.
The effect of good coaching is observable throughout higher level sports, from the Bill Belichick [NFL], to Nick Saban [NCAA football], to coaches in Oregon’s high school conference [OSAA Football]. Coaches set the tone for the whole program, and the program is what holds players accountable, keeps them up to speed, and keeps them competitive. Omitting serious obstacles, a team with talent and a solid coaching staff will compete for titles, 9 times out of 10.
People can look to football fans to see why coaches are often the first to by “cycled” in and out of various teams as opposed to pushing for bigger budgets and more training hours for the athletes. The head coach is often the first person to leave when a team is underperforming. This is not based on some sort of sports science, but is completely a consequence of fans pressuring sports administration.
The Freakonomics website released a study, done by E. Scott Adler, Michael J Berry, and David Doherty, looking into how changing coaches between seasons affected a team’s performance. They did this by looking at coaching changes in football from 1997 to 2010.
“We find that for particularly poorly performing teams, coach replacements have little effect on team performance as measured against comparable teams that did not replace their coach,” the authors of the study said on the Freakonomics website. “However, for teams with middling records—that is, teams where entry conditions for a new coach appear to be more favorable—replacing the head coach appears to result in worse performance over subsequent years than comparable teams who retained their coach.”
Changing coaches never helps short-term performance. Yes, a good coach will eventually help a program significantly. South football fans should be thankful that their football program has had no major changes to head staff in over 20 years, regardless of what critics may speculate. South’s football team is not exempt from the rules of athletics. Like any other team, they will have good years, and not so good years; they will be successful, as they have been in the past.