Goodbye Coaching

Coaching…

Wow.

What a privilege…  What an honor…

What a journey.

Where did it all begin?

Did it begin when I got that call the spring of my senior year in college?  I remember it vividly.  I was a student teacher at the time observing my host teacher, Mr. Keenoy.  I saw the call come in on my phone and stepped outside with great anticipation.  My dream had come true!  My first real job.  I was the new head basketball coach of the Windsor High School Greyhounds…

Windsor

Or did it begin when I was contacted by my high school coach, Coach Roger Stirtz, earlier in my college career?  My alma mater was scheduled to play state-ranked Columbia Rock Bridge in an upcoming game.  Seeing that Rock Bridge was two hours from my hometown but only a short ten-minute drive from my dorm at the University of Missouri, Coach asked if I’d be willing to scout the Bruins on his behalf.  As soon as I sat down in those packed bleachers to scout that Friday night, I was hooked…

Rock Bridge

Or maybe it began the year before when Coach Stirtz called me into his office my senior year of high school?  It’d been a big dream of mine to be a starter for the Liberty Blue Jays—a program steeped in rich basketball history and tradition.  I’d worked so hard for so many years and was very nervous as I entered his office.  I knew Coach was meeting with each player to let us know the role we’d earned to begin the season.  I recall the moment he told me I’d be a starter for the Blue Jays.  I was overcome with feelings of pride and joy…

Liberty

Or perhaps it began even earlier—at some point playing for my dad between when I made that first granny shot for my kindergarten team to when I hit those 4th quarter three’s as a teenager in that Kansas City AAU Tournament?  My dad spent countless time, energy, and resources coaching me throughout my childhood.  He’s the reason I developed such a love for the game…

Rockets

After further reflection, I think I know the exact moment where it all began.  It’s my earliest basketball memory.  I’m not sure how old I was—maybe 3 or 4?  I was sitting on the stairs.  My mom had just finished tying my brand new, first pair of basketball shoes.  I had a ball in my hands and was staring at our front door with such excitement.  As soon as that door opened my dad would be walking in from work to take me…we were going to play basketball at the YMCA.  My dad and I.  Sharing a passion.  Together…

Colts

Like I said before…what a journey.

And regardless of where this beautiful journey began, it’s now time for me to announce with bittersweet emotion that I’m stepping away from coaching high school basketball.

This decision is not easy, but I know it’s right.

One thing I make a point of discussing with my team at the beginning of every season is the importance of priorities.  It’s my belief to be successful, we must have a good sense of recognizing and giving everything we can to what’s most important.  Part of this process requires us to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others.

Right now, as hard as it is to admit, I simply cannot continue saying “yes” to coaching high school basketball.

It’s a blessing really—having so many things in my life that are more important than my great passion for coaching.

My faith is more important.

My wife Alyssa and daughter Emery are more important.

Family

My friends and family are more important.

And a new desire to narrow my career focus is now also more important.

I’ll never lose my love for the game of basketball, but God has made it clear the time has come to say “no” to coaching.

Ten lessons I’ve learned and want to share especially for my fellow coaches.  Some of these will sound cliché but I’ve found them to be true and wish I fully understood them when I first got into the profession…

  1. Though coaching is a great passion, never let it define you. If coaching is the most important thing in your life, it’s my belief your priorities are out of whack.  You’re more than just a coach and are measured by more than a win-loss record.
  2. Never make coaching about you. It should ALWAYS be about the kids.  Even in those difficult moments, conversations, and decisions—it’s about the kids.
  3. Always be yourself. You’ll hear a million different ways of doing things and a million different people saying you should do this and do that, but when it comes down to it…be true to yourself, who you are, and what you believe.
  4. Never stop learning. I remember when I accepted my first head coaching job at Windsor thinking I had coaching basketball all figured out.  I couldn’t have been more naïve.  Eleven years later and I still learn a significant amount every season.
  5. Control the “controllables.” There’s lots of things that affect winning outside of your control.  Don’t get overwhelmed and stress out unnecessarily worrying over them.  Give everything you have to controlling what you can and you’ll be able to live with the results.
  6. Coaching attitude and effort should ALWAYS be what you coach first. No matter how much basketball knowledge you have, it’s irrelevant if your kids aren’t giving winning attitude and effort.
  7. Stay steady and humble. Understand you’ll get too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when things are not.  Don’t overreact to either.
  8. Expect and accept criticism. Coaching is a very public profession with lots of people who have strong opinions (right or wrong) on how you should do it.  Understand criticism comes with the job.  Don’t take it personal.
  9. Be honest and accountable. When you see an issue, confront it.  When you make a mistake, own it.  If there’s anything our kids should learn from us it’s that nobody is perfect and making mistakes is a natural part of learning and growing—no matter who you are.
  10. Be grateful. There’s a lot of people out there who’d love to be in your shoes coaching this game we all cherish.  You’ve been given a great honor and privilege to do this.  Not everyone gets the opportunity.  Be grateful.

I remember thinking back when I was a high school player how awesome it’d be to someday have a job like Coach Simpson.  Coach Simpson was Coach Stirtz’s varsity assistant at Liberty.   I really looked up to him because he was such a cool guy who clearly had a love for basketball.  His passion allowed him to play in college and even have an opportunity to tryout for the NBA.  I remember thinking how amazing it’d be just to become an assistant like him but never thought I’d get the chance because I didn’t think I’d ever measure up…

Back at Liberty

As I reflect upon those thoughts and where my journey has led me, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude and thanks.  Coaching has been a great joy I never really thought I’d get to experience at such a high level.  I have no regrets and am so very grateful.

There are so many people to thank…

I want to first thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  There are no words I can say to adequately describe what You’ve done in allowing me to experience this journey coaching basketball—let alone all else You’ve given and done in my life.  Thank you Lord…for everything.

I want to thank my wife Alyssa.  People underestimate the sacrifice it takes to be married to a coach.  The time away, the emotional toll, and the distraction that coaching can take from a marriage can be very difficult.  Your sacrifice hasn’t gone unnoticed and I’m excited you no longer have to share me with basketball.  Thank you for your love and support through it all.  I love you!

Alyssa

I want to thank the original “Coach Hammond,” my dad Tommy.  As stated earlier, you’re the reason I have such a love for the game of basketball.  If you hadn’t advised I be true to myself and follow my passions when I was younger, none of this would’ve happened.  You are why I became “Coach Hammond.”  I love you!

Dad

I want to thank my mom Nancy.  It isn’t possible for someone to have a better mother than I have–so loving, so sacrificial, so truly wonderful in every way.  Wow.  What a blessing you are to me and our entire family.  I love you!

Mom

I want to thank my brothers—Daniel, Ben, Tyler, and Jackson.  Without having the privilege to “lead” you as your older brother, not to mention all the times we played ball in the driveway growing up, there’s no way I’d be who I am today.  I love and admire each of you.

Bros

I want to thank all my players (past and present).  Each of you have meant so much to me during my career.  Whether you agreed or disagreed with how I went about things, I hope each of you know I care deeply for you and am so thankful I got to work with you.  I can only hope you learned from me a percentage of what I learned from you.

I want to thank all the coaches I’ve worked with.  Whether I worked under you or had you on as my assistant, I really cherish the moments we got to experience together in what is without a doubt one of the most rewarding yet challenging professions there is.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey.

I want to thank my friend and mentor, Coach Roger Stirtz.  You’re a big reason I developed such a love for high school basketball and there’s no way I would’ve become a varsity-level coach without you.  Thank you Coach.  My admiration for you is immense.

I want to thank all the schools who trusted me with the honor and privilege of leading/helping lead their basketball programs (Rock Bridge, Windsor, Liberty, Smithville, and Belton).  I did not take the responsibility you entrusted me with lightly and gave everything I could to help our students be their best.  I’m forever grateful for the opportunities you gave me.

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I want to thank the principal of Belton High School, Mr. Phil Clark, for giving me the opportunity to become a school administrator and mentoring me these past three years.  I’ve never met someone who works harder at what he does and it comes from a sincere place of wanting to make a difference in kids’ lives.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your team.  I’m eternally grateful.

To all those who’ve helped me along the way who I haven’t mentioned—friends, family members, colleagues, and others—from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

And finally, I want to thank you “Coaching.”  What an incredible calling you are.  You brought me great love, joy, and excitement.  You also brought great humility, frustration, and tears.  You brought me great confidence yet also great doubt.  I’m thankful for it all and can’t imagine a greater experience in responsibility and leadership than what you’ve given.  I’m a better husband, father, and man because of you.  And though it’s become clear I’m now better off without you, you’ll always be a part of me and I’ll miss you more than words can say.

Thank you for the ride.

Hammond

-Coach Hammond

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