Although athletes ultimately make the plays that decide a game, an effective coach puts a team in a position to win. Better still, a coach who is engaged in his players’ development can put those individuals in a position to succeed in life. Educating coaches to both win and motivate is the guiding premise of the Texas A&M University Coaching Academy, part of the College of Education and Human Development.
Established in 2013, the goal of the Coaching Academy is to prepare and support 21st century coaches at the public school, university and practitioner levels. (Practitioners include volunteer youth and adult coaches and those who coach at private schools or specific sport or athletic skills.) The academy provides support for Texas coaches at every level to facilitate their success.
“Whether a full-time coach, a classroom teacher with coaching responsibilities or a parent working with their child’s team, all coaches need support so that they can do the best job possible for their student athletes,” said John Thornton ’75, academy director and a second-generation coach. “The Coaching Academy’s resources will help them become more effective coaches.”
Off the Court, Field and Track
Thornton knows from experience that the path from accomplished student athlete to successful adult coach is well traveled. A dual-sport athlete in high school, Thornton played basketball and football at Holmes High School in San Antonio before focusing on basketball. He went on to play forward at San Antonio Junior College, transferred to Texas A&M and later led the Aggies to a Southwest Conference Basketball Championship in 1975. These milestones paved the way for Thornton’s career in coaching and later as an athletic administrator.
Two special people inspired Thornton’s career: his father, Bill Thornton ’50, was an important role model; and his high school basketball coach, Paul Taylor, greatly influenced his life.
“Coach Taylor encouraged me to dream big and work hard,” Thornton said. “He was my coach, but also an inspiring adviser and mentor.” It was Taylor’s example that spurred Thornton to consider how he might better support coaches at all levels.
“Effective coaches make a tremendous impact on the lives of their players that extends beyond the court, field or track,” said Thornton. “While the coaching discipline enhances the skills and strategies of a given sport, the lessons learned through competitive athletics develop character, work ethic and personal identity. The relationship forged between players and their coaches is an integral part of that education.”
“Effective coaches make a tremendous impact on the lives of their players that extends beyond the court, field or track.” - Dr. John Thornton '75, executive director of the Texas A&M Coaching AcademyTweet This
Former Texas A&M defensive tackle Kirby Ennis ’13 learned this powerful bond at an early age.
“When I was 11 years old, my football coach guided me to become the man I am today,” said Ennis. “He helped me expand my understanding of the game, learn plays and develop discipline. He also demonstrated compassion and tough love when I needed it. He was like a father to me, and the reason that I want to become a coach.”
When a knee injury during his senior year, in 2013, ended Ennis’ dream to play professional football, he enrolled in graduate school at Texas A&M to focus on the transition to coaching. “I took coaching classes and met with Coach Thornton to develop strategies for entering the profession,” said Ennis. He received his master’s degree in health education in December 2014 and plans to apply his experience, education and passion to teaching and coaching.
“The Coaching Academy is a great resource for students who want to become coaches,” said Ennis. “Coach Thornton’s reputation and networking skills in the profession help students define opportunities. The academy will elevate Texas A&M not only as a place where student athletes can compete, but also where they can prepare to transition from player to coach.”
Career Path for Future Coaches
While the Coaching Academy creates opportunities for Texas A&M students, it also supports the interests of high school students exploring the possibility of a coaching career.
The academy has developed partnerships and continues to make inroads with school districts and certifying agencies to help students prepare for, find and get jobs in coaching. Reciprocal arrangements in which the academy hosts high school students on the Texas A&M campus and offers student leadership programs related to coaching and teaching on high school campuses are already underway.
The academy is also developing seminars to support parent coaches who often shape a child’s lifetime view of exercise, sports and competitive athletics.
“We hope to elevate the technical and interpersonal skills of coaches at every level,” said Thornton. “We provide effective player support to transition players into coaches, and to help good coaches become better coaches – at whatever level they choose to coach at.”
To learn how you can support the Coaching Academy in the College of Education and Human Development, contact:
Jody Ford ’99
Director of Development
Texas A&M Foundation
(800) 392-3310 or (979) 847-8655