Jim McConnell speaks to Jim Brownfield about his health, football and life lessons

By Jim McConnell, the man we call King:
YOU’D be surprised how much you can learn – when you listen. And when Jim Brownfield calls, you really need to brush up on your auricular skills. Brownfield, 80, currently is experiencing some health problems, but they haven’t slowed him down. His mind is as sharp as ever.

Remember, this is a man who coached from 1956 to 1996. Everywhere he went, he won. In fact, his teams won 50 championships, including CIF-SS titles in both football and girls track at Muir High School. With those credentials, you pay attention when he talks.

“One bit of wisdom I can tell you right now,” Brownfield said when I called him last week. “No matter what hospital you’re in, the food is terrible.

“About all I can eat in here are eggs and soup. And I’m getting pretty darn tired of both. The doctor asked me what he could do to help me. I said, `Get me a cheeseburger.’

“But I’m come out of here OK – as long as I don’t starve to death in the meantime.”

Brownfield then moved on to the topic at hand, coaching. He is of the belief that the profession is hurting right now. But he also isn’t the type to sit back and talk about the good ol’ days. The problem is fixable, he said.

“Coaches are made, not born,” Brownfield said. “You can make yourself into a winning coach, but only if you have the right approach. Like any profession, when you look for role models, look toward the best.

“Who’s the best coach ever? Johnny Wooden, right? So that’s who I looked up to. Once I started to use John’s Pyramid of Success, I started to win.”

Brownfield also noted he has taken a little bit of wisdom from virtually every coach he’s been around. For example, he was an assistant coach on John McKay’s staff at USC in 1972. From McKay, he learned the KISS (Keep It Simple) theory.

“Winning doesn’t just happen,” Brownfield said. “There are reasons why programs fail or succeed. But it does all flow from the head coach.”

Through the years, in addition to preaching the virtues of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, Brownfield has developed what he calls “The Ten Commandments of Coaching.” They also apply to teaching. In fact, they apply to most everything you might attempt in life.

Here they are:

1. Safety First, Last and Always. “The worst thing a coach can do isn’t to lose,” Brownfield said. “It is not being attentive to the things that can prevent injuries. That’s why I made this commandment No. 1. You have to take care of your kids. Injuries happen, but you can do a lot to minimize them.”

2. Just Do The Right Thing. “You need to know the rules, and obey them. Once you start trying to cut corners, to cheat even a little bit, your players know it immediately. And you lose their respect. Once that’s gone, you’ve lost their attention.”

3. Teach Life Skills. “I had winning teams and was lucky enough to have some great athletes. But nothing makes me prouder than to know my players went on to have productive lives. You coach football, or basketball, or track but you also can do so much more. Nothing is more gratifying than to have a positive impact on a kid’s life.”

4. Know Your Clientele. “You should never expect more out of an athlete than they are capable of giving. This is especially true of young athletes. Coaches have to know their players’ strengths, and weaknesses. It’s just unfair to the kid not to.”

5. Their Bodies Are Their Temples. “This is where proper training and conditioning come in. Other teams may have had better athletes, but I never wanted a team of mine to lose because of lack of proper conditioning. And that includes making sure your athletes understand the dangers of substance abuse.”

6. Good Coaching is Good Teaching. “What works in a classroom will work on the football field. A great coach is always first and foremost a great educator.”

7. Be A Student of the Game. “You should always be learning. Attend clinics. Talk to other coaches. Watch game film. If you aren’t really interested in the sport you’re coaching, how in the world can you expect your athletes to be interested?”

8. Plan Ahead. “Sounds simple, but I am always amazed at how many in coaching and teaching are so disorganized. You have to have a plan. You should never be surprised or caught off-guard.”

9. Develop Your People Skills. “Hey, you’re not coaching donkeys, you’re coaching human beings. You need to learn how to communicate. You need to keep your commitments. Treat your players right and they will do right by you.”

10. Be a Pro. “You’re getting paid, act like it. Strive to better yourself. You want to get paid more? Better yourself first.”

Get well soon, coach!


(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306

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