What is Impact?

There is a marked difference in influencing someone and truly impacting them.

You can encourage, motivate, command, or even manipulate someone to act or behave differently.


You can educate, edify, and inspire someone to be different.

No matter how good your instruction may be, communication and consistency determines its value and beneficial effect on others.

The bottom-line difference in influence and impact is the later is lasting while the former is but a temporary effect.

Communication and consistency are the deciding factors of making impact or not.

When you communicate, you connect; and consistency in communication develops respect, trust, and relationship. No matter how good your instruction may be, communication and consistency determines its value and beneficial effect on others.

•Does the way you address an athlete embrace them into positive action or only push them in hopes something different will happen? 

When you correct, or discipline, an athlete, is there follow-through and consistency with the importance and urgency of the message?

• Do you just motivate someone to move,
or inspire them to make the decision to move?

• Do you just get someone to change their behavior, or communicate to the degree  that they exchange behaviors?

The above answers reveal if the influence you have on an athlete has them just wanting to avoid unwanted consequences, or impacts them to make constructive decisions in their life that lead to what is wanted.



Protecting Respect

As a coach, you don’t have to be liked to be respected. Matter of fact, a coach who compromises authority to try to “make everyone happy” will lose what they think they are protecting: Their Influence. You can communicate in way that brings charisma, but you cannot depend on charisma to communicate.

You can communicate in way that brings charisma, but you cannot depend on charisma to communicate.

It’s not a coach’s job to be an athlete’s “friend”, but a trusted, reliable source of consistent guidance in their life. And, respect will develop from this.

An athlete needs to respect a coach to unconditionally listen to instruction, and trust their counsel and guidance in the way of producing positive outcomes. An athlete may hear authority, but only listens to (and with) respect. The primary difference in authority and respect is empathy. Empathy must not be confused with the counterproductivity of sympathy. Empathy says “I’m in it with you” rather than comforting with patronization.

In relationships, patronization is the opposite side of same coin as condemnation.

Coaching includes confrontation, yet not in the way most assume. The true purpose of a coach is not in pointing out problems, but in finding solutions. An effective coach confronts issues in a proactive, empathetic, way. The confrontation does not attack the athlete’s self worth, but reinforces it via solution-oriented communication.

As idealistic as it may sound, the art of coaching is using an individual’s “strengths” to eliminate “weaknesses”. A coach who is skilled in making accurate assessments of situations, on and off the field, and is consistent with their principles, will be in the best position to find and implement solutions.

Productive coaching leads athletes– individually and as a team– to see through the self-limits of inferiority, doubt, and fear, and into the process of uncovering and realizing their true potential. Again, it’s empathy and respect that brings clarity and trust to a coach’s voice.

The true purpose of a coach is not in pointing out problems, but in finding solutions.

Fear of failure and fear of success are simply bookends of counter-productivity. Once we, as coaches, realize that, we can be a stronger part of the solution by getting to the root of destructive patterns.

All disciplinary issues with athletes– such as disrespect, rebellion, indifference, to name a few– have their origin in fear. As well, there are performance issues that are also founded in the spirit of fear. Consistent communication leads the path through these challenges

Productive coaches inspire confidence without complacency; pride without conceit. They continue to “raise the bar” just enough to sustain confidence in the perpetual process of fulfilling potential. They do this by being consistent in their expectations, values, and standards.

Coaching: The Perpetual Influence

Over the years, I’ve found it irrelevant to write or talk about “my impact” on others. There’s a difference in having an athlete perform well on the field or in the weightroom, and instilling quality principles that impact a young man or woman’s lives.

I believe that we, as coaches, are not qualified to assess the degree of actual impact we have on our athletes. This reality will be revealed via the lives of those young men and women for an extended period of time, and the life they lead long after our time with them, rather than weight room numbers or a weekly stat sheet.

Yes, there are always checks and balances in our work to keep us on the right track, but we must not waste time worrying about what’s not in our control, and this includes our “popularity” with colleagues, social media, or our athletes. What we do control are our values and principles, and how consistent we are in expecting and enforcing those.

I believe coaches have the most practical opportunity to have amongst the greatest constructive impact on young men and women’s futures. Yes, that’s a strong statement, but one that has plenty of examples to support it.

In effective coaching, every moment is a potential teaching moment.

I state this purely to express the infinite impact coaching can have on a life, and it can be even more relevant in this current generation by fully understanding our potential influence in a young man or woman’s  life. In effective coaching, every moment is a potential “teaching moment”.

From the weightroom to the classroom to the field to the home, we can play a key role in being part of solutions for each young man and woman we work with.

There is no such thing as “neutral” influence as a coach; ineffective , yes. But neutral, no. We are either a constructive presence or it’s opposite. We are either part of the solution, or part of a problem.

In my experience, I can recall “defining moments” with certain coaches that I had in my early years that have stayed with me throughout my life, and positively impacted how I coach athletes, and the principles I choose to live by.

Some of these experiences were positive, and some were not. But, they were each constructive in the outcome of their occurrence.  Later in this article, I will share one personal example that stands out.



I believe that a coach’s primary purpose is to be a constructive presence to each athlete in their circle of influence. That known, it must clarified that there is a difference in being  just a “positive” influence and being a constructive presence.  

While constructive coaching is about positive outcomes, we, as coaches, are not to be a form of cheerleader that tolerates counterproductive attitudes and behaviors.

There will be times that reprimand, critical input, and unpopular decisions will be necessary to sustain the primary objective, both for a team and the individual athlete. While constructive coaching is about positive outcomes, we, as coaches, are not to be a form of cheerleader that tolerates counterproductive attitudes and behaviors.

Throughout a coaching career there will be personality clashes, misunderstandings, and other aspects out of our control that affect whether we connect with a particular athlete or not, but we must not allow those situations to change our values and the expectation of being part of solutions in athletes’ lives. 

Yes, we are to learn and progress in the ways we empathize and communicate with our athletes, yet when there are issues beyond our control, we must not permit personal feelings or emotions to justify indifference or compromise of our intentions, principles, or primary objectives.

Foundation of Success

When I was a young coach just starting out, I was more identified with an athlete’s performance– as this served to confirm that I was succeeding in my work– however, I no longer allow this to determine the benefit I have to an athlete. 

Winning and in-sport success will never become truly insignificant, however as we mature as coaches, there will be the realization that our true success is based on how we influence the young man or woman as a human being more than it is with any specific outstanding performance.

The irony here is that when we take this perspective, we actually lead these individuals to fulfill their potential in all aspects of their lives, which includes athletic performance.

We are to use the perpetual path of pursuit of athletic excellence as a medium of teaching, and implanting, the life principles of commitment, consistency, and confidence. This is the unfailing path manifesting from the impact of constructive coaching.

Teaching principles of excellence leads to a life that exemplifies and produces those qualities in all areas of life.

When we teach our athletes to prepare in the expectation to be their best, and to set new standards, we instill character values and principles, and develop work ethic qualities that are applicable to any and all areas of life beyond athletics. Teaching principles of excellence leads to a life that exemplifies and produces those qualities in all areas of life.

By teaching our athletes to take accountability it leads to refusing intimidation. When a young man or woman embraces responsibility and accountability they also connect with empowerment, which repels being intimidated by any opponent, condition, or circumstance.

It’s About Balance

Rather than getting fixated on isolated situations, it’s infinitely more constructive focusing on the day-to-day process of the coaching relationship. And, there’s plenty of modern-day challenges to that daily operation.

In our present era, it’s a different challenge than in generations past. Each generation has its innate trials, thus it’s not better or worse today than it was 25 years ago; it’s just different.

We earn an athlete’s trust by unconditionally sustaining our principles. General rules can be taken into a case-by-case consideration, but principles must remain intact regardless of circumstances.

Kids are exposed to more off-the-field distractions, near non-stop stimuli, external input, and clutter than in former times. And, we are more effective coaches by understanding, yet not succumbing to, this reality. Empathy with discipline is a powerful combination to inspire constructive actions.

Where in eras past, a coach could simply show up and bark commands with an air of supremacy, and athletes would comply with a sense of reverential fear, today it’s essential to connect with the athletes through a balance of discipline and communication– along with consistency of principles–  to build trust and respect. Constant reinforcement that success is a never-ending process is a major part of having athletes buy-in to your program, and to coaching success.

We earn an athlete’s trust by unconditionally sustaining our principles. General rules can be taken into a case-by-case consideration, but principles must remain intact regardless of circumstances. 

Principles and boundaries are not the end itself, but a means of expectation and direction that leads to a desired result.

We must not compromise those values with modern-day-tolerance that is so prevalent today, but use effective ways of enforcing those standards in an understanding, yet still firm, way.

As any parent can attest, most young men and women don’t like “rules” and the discipline that is associated with them. However, they each internally desire and need the stability it provides. In this “era of entitlement”, which is destructive, we can be the key part of the solution.

Discipline is not a reaction to athletes’ lack of it, but a reliable, guiding quality to insure the primary objective is sustained. Effective discipline is proactive, not reactive.

Principles and boundaries are not the end itself, but a means of expectation and direction that leads to a desired result. Our job is to communicate this truth, and that only occurs with consistency of expectations.

Coaching is a balancing process that includes factors outside the limited time we have with our athletes. Our job is to clarify our expectations and boundaries to such a degree that our athletes fully understand the lines that are not to be crossed. 

By doing this, we are impacting these young men and women with self-worth to the degree where they eventually discipline themselves rather than needing the threat of a penalty to guide their decisions.

Our ability to get our athletes to understand that the present moment is the only time that they have true control of, will be the most important aspect of getting them on track to moving in a productive direction. Matter of fact, that may be “the secret of success” to life in general.

Not Our Concern

In truth, our success as coaches, teachers, and leaders is not the number of “followers” we have, but the individuals we constructively impact. Our impact through the quality of our work will always be more relevant than just our popularity through the quantity of contacts.

All coaches may be heard, but constructive coaching is listened to.

As coaches, our primary objective is in leading an athlete to find, follow, and fulfill their potential. I see the preparation for the sport as a microcosm of life.  Integrity and consistency are the substance of those worthy to follow, not charisma, intelligence, marketing skills, or P.R. savvy. All coaches may be heard, but constructive coaching is listened to.


The overwhelming majority of our athletes will not earn their living playing a sport. They will go on to other career paths, including coaching, and we want the principles we infuse in them to be universally applicable to their lives regardless of its specific path.

Again, when we as coaches, truly realize that sport is nothing more, or less, than a great teaching opportunity for life, the principles we impart, expect, and reinforce can also have great impact on athletic performance and success as a very exciting benefit.


Built-in Discipline

Making impact as a coach is about illuminating the ‘path of the process’. It’s not just getting athletes to do what they are “supposed to do” but having them buy-in to the greater reality in that process; the why of what they are doing. Getting athletes to understand the why is the foundation of buy-in to the what and when. Again, this is impact.

The most successful coaches in the world of Strength and Conditioning are the ones that inspire the highest degree of personal accountability rather than those who just yell motivational mantras, have drill sergeant persona, design the most technically-savvy programs, or wear the _____ out of the athletes. 

It’s common to preach that team sports are “not about I“, however we must convey the truth that there is an “I component” that requires each individual to be accountable to. While it may sound humble to say “I don’t matter“, it’s discounting that there is no “we” without personal responsibility. 

The best teams are made up of the highest percentage of accountable individuals. Our job as coaches is to clarify that truth in an constructive way.


Excellence Expected is Excellence Expressed

We are to teach our athletes to take command of what they do control 100% of the time, and this will provide them better command of what they do not have control of.

When we clarify expectations we are clearing the path-of-process, and impacting our athletes. Nothing destroys potential as assuredly as indifference. Nothing engages potential as reliably as clarity of purpose does.

Indifference comes from confusion of what is expected in the immediate. When there’s no clarity in what’s expected now, there’s confusion of what to expect ahead.

Simply stated, consistency of expectation in the present paves the path of excellence in the future. We are best to teach our athletes to take command of what they do control 100% of the time, and this will minimize any adverse effect of what they do not have control of. The badge of leadership is “being a thermostat, not a thermometer” in your present environment.

Accountability is constructively contagious, and teaches athletes to impact their teammates in the way that goes beyond a random winning season and into becoming a winning program. There’s an undeniable spiritual law: Excellence expected leads to excellence expressed.

Leadership is being a thermostat, not a thermometer.

For one a prime example many will be familiar with, the University of Alabama football program has sustained a high level of excellence over an extended period of time. 
While this success can be attributed to aspects such as Head Coach Nick Saban, recruiting, and on-field coaching, in actuality the most vital component is due in large part to the work of Strength Coach Scott Cochran.

Having relationships with several highly-respected collegiate strength coaches, I consider them “the heartbeat” of their respective programs, and Scott Cochran is one who exemplifies this with his unrelenting influence, impacting young men to become men who positively impact their entire environment.

I’ve observed Coach Cochran’s work over the last 10 years and also worked with many athletes who’ve also been under his guidance at some point. All you have to do is ask any of those men if there’s any substantial carryover from their time in Coach Cochran’s program to their daily lives today, and the unanimous affirmative answer reveals the true significance of a coach’s impact.

Winning programs refuse complacency by building accountability from the inside out, and Scott Cochran has mastered communicating this principle year after year.

Consistency of optimal performance, and its lasting effect into life after one’s playing days is the product of commitment, a quality that comes from a proficient coach’s impact.


Coaching is

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink

The reality is that there will be some athletes that we have invested the most in, who will choose to take a counterproductive path and and we will not be able to understand why we did not have the impact we intended.

 As well, there will be those we may have thought we did not connect with, who we will find out later,  the significant impact we had on their lives. We must refuse to allow our present perception to change our passion, purpose, and responsibility of expecting to be a positive impact on each athlete’s life.

A successful coach will be secure in their values and principles while also secure enough to continuously assess the methods of implementing and enforcing them without being attached to them in a counter-productive way. Just as we expect from our athletes, effective coaching is forever a process that knows no complacency.

Simply stated, impacting athletes is not about any particular training method or playbook, but about how we use those tools to communicate life principles with our athletes. Successful coaching uses our systems to impact athletes rather than just trying to use athletes to validate our system.

On the field and off, I’ve witnessed coaches use the most simple principles imaginable to generate huge impact, and I’ve observed some of the most intelligent, yet “pre-packaged”, systems fail miserably.

Remember, the key is in consistent constructive communication. Even the most critical input can, and must, connect with an athlete to inspire positive action and output.

When there’s a situation that calls for us to use a stronger, louder, reprimand to get the attention of an athlete (and there will be), we must follow it with input to bring solution moving forward.

In other words, there’s no benefit in leaving someone “in the problem”. No one has ever made positive progress while identified with the problem. Once it’s acknowledged, teach taking ownership, and then using that powerful position to move forward.

We must keep in mind that our vigilance in reprimanding an athlete isn’t us just showing our disapproval in the isolated situation, or thinking we can make an athlete “feel bad enough” to make the correction, but it’s bringing light to an issue that needs correction for the greater good moving forward.

Condemnation has never led anyone to constructive change.


Who’s Impacted My Life

When it comes to others impacting my life and career, like most coaches, I consider the key mentors I’ve had in the athletic preparation and fitness fields over the span of my 30+ year career as playing vital roles in setting examples, confirming my path, instilling the values of the continuous process of learning, integrity, genuine humility, and communication that are essential for both success and longevity in coaching.

The first mentor I had in my career is Clarence Bass. Many will know of Clarence as a highly successful bodybuilder and author of books on physique training and living a healthy lifestyle. What many may not be aware of is that he has been a practicing attorney through all the years of his training, writing, and exemplifying the strength-based healthy lifestyle.

Clarence’s ground-breaking RIPPED book series has never been surpassed in its practical content, and his monthly columns in Muscle & Fitness magazine were way ahead of their time. Clarence has entered his 9th decade and continues to live his life’s message of strength, physique, and health.

I first connected with Clarence back in 1983, and he has been a consistent source of encouragement, edification, and accountability nearly 35 years. 

Clarence has sustained a level of consistency in our relationship that has impacted me in unspeakable ways. This is the take-home from Clarence’s impact on my life, it’s often the subtle consistent principles you live that lead to the most powerful impact.

Even though my career has taken a path more towards athletic preparation rather than emphasizing bodybuilding, the principles I learned from Clarence have applied to every aspect of my work, and will continue to. 

Probably the most important principle I learned from Clarence is to rely on intelligence and healthy skepticism, instead of physical capabilities and traditional practices, to make the best training and nutritional decisions.  That’s the power of impact.

I am beyond appreciative of, and honored by, Clarence’s generosity, and blessed by the fact he recognized that I had chosen the right path for my life even when successful careers in the fitness field were about as rare as a solar eclipse.


The Coach’s Coach

The list of others who’ve impacted my life also has its roots in the coaching world. I started playing multiple organized sports at a very early age and was fortunate to have many great coaching influences in my life.

I was into everything from Skeet Shooting to Baseball to Swimming to Track & Field to Soccer to Basketball to Martial Arts to Football to Tennis. I was fortunate to have parents who exposed me to a large variety of sports. It certainly set the path I am on to this day.

One coach in particular, Coach Ralph Pierotti, stands out among all of the coaches I’ve had over the years. There were numerous moments in my time with Coach Pierotti, that I vividly recall to this day, that have positively affected my career, and my life.

To create a better visual, you could put Coach Pierotti in the lead role of any good inspirational movie involving a coach and just tell him “be yourself” and you’d have an Academy Award winner.

Many of you can relate to this one particular “life lesson” I’ll share. It’s relevance to this article is in the example of how even one relatively simple coaching moment can provide the positive impact of a lifetime.

Before my 7th grade year my family had just moved from the city and school where I’d lived since I was 4 years of age. It was literally like starting over, and during that transitional time in a young man’s life where I was still a kid but beginning to think more as a “young man” in terms of the ego, self identity, and dealing with authority outside the home.

Playing sports was probably second only to breathing in importance at that time in my life. Along with that, I had difficulty tolerating anything less than near perfection from myself and that carried over to what I expected from my teammates. I loved to win but my distaste with losing was even stronger. I’m not saying this with any sort pride or satisfaction but to set up what was one of those most impactful moments for me as that naive 7th grader.

My new school was playing my former school (where I had gone since Kindergarten) in basketball and on their court. Considering I was only a few months removed, my friendships with the opponent were still quite close. I wanted more than anything to beat my old school in front of my former teammates and their parents. However, what started with great hopes quickly went in another direction.

We got behind early, and the cocky, embarrassed, and immature kid in me began to let the frustration escalate. My mindset was “just get me the ball, so I can score“. I had no interest in encouraging my teammates in a way that would positively affect the team. I only wanted save face by being the one who stood out. I did eventually “stand out”, but not for the reason I wanted.

As the game continued to go in the opposite direction, on one of the trips down the floor, a teammate did not see me open and again failed to pass me the ball. He threw the ball away and one of my best friends, on the other team, scored another easy basket. This happened time and again, and in an obvious show of frustration, I looked to our bench, emphatically put my palms up, shook my head at Coach Pierotti as if to say “someone needs to fix this”.

On the very next in-bounds, I passed to a teammate who had just entered the game; he took the ball under our basket, picked up his dribble, was immediately covered, and shot the ball into our basket, scoring two more points for the opposition. I looked at Coach Pierotti and again threw my arms in the air with that look of “can you believe I’m having to go through this?”

Coach Pierotti immediately called a time out, motioned for me to come to him, grabbed the front of my jersey, quickly assisted me to a seat on the bench, looked me straight in the eyes, and firmly stated “if you ever do that again, you will never play another second for me“. Now I got to “be the star”. I thought I was already embarrassed, but this took things to a whole new stratosphere. Everyone in that gym was looking not at my teammates, but at me. 

It went from me thinking I was being embarrassed to me being truly humiliated, and justifiably so.  This moment of strong critical input from Coach Pierotti was a time of constructive coaching that was actually one of the most impactful lessons in my life that I can recall.

Coach Pierotti had given me several opportunities get rid of my frustration on my own by not outwardly confronting me until that point. However, my body language only got more counterproductive to the team. He finally stepped in and clarified his expectations for me. 

This became one of those “life moments” that has impacted my life, taught me the reality of leadership, and influences how I coach young athletes nearly 39 years later, and counting.

Coach Pierotti

Coach Pierotti and Vince, 40 years later

Other key lessons that I learned from Coach Pierotti that has impacted my coaching career is the fact he coached every soccer team in that school, from 1st grade through the 12th. This means he had to manage every level of physical, psychological, and emotional development in those age ranges. He masterfully met each kid at their level and communicated his expectations without fail.

Considering I’ve worked with kids as early as 8 years of age all the way through pro athletes, I fully appreciate the unique challenge that is. I refer to my time with Coach Pierotti quite often to best handle it, to say the least.

Another foundational principle I learned from Coach Pierotti is the expectancy of excellence through preparedness. He taught his athletes to respect every opponent, and be intimidated by no one. He had us so prepared, physically, tactically, and psychologically to compete for our best rather than against some opponent.

He had us strive for perfection while not depending on it playing out that way to substantiate its effectiveness. We were winners before the game started. He was way ahead of his time as a leader, having us consistently believing in our selves individually and as a team united.

We consistently won championships throughout my time with Coach Pierotti. But, this is not what led to Coach’s values; it was the product of them. I can honestly say, I never went into a single game (the aforementioned basketball game withstanding) with Coach Pierotti without believing I was ready to compete, prepared to win, and confident enough to respond to failure or adversity without being defeated.


Successful coaching is about understanding how to lead people more than it is a sport or training methods. Coach Pierotti exemplifies a coach’s coach, in that he’s the type coach who could take a team in a sport he has no direct experience with, and coach them into winners.

This experience has continued to impact my daily life, nearly 40 years later. And I’m fortunate enough to personally share those impactful experiences with others and thank Coach Pierotti for the foundational impact he’s had on me, and through me on all of the athletes I have the opportunity to work with and coach.

What is the take-home impact from the influence of Coach Pierotti?

• We are always leading in some way or another

• Our presence affects everyone around us, and we choose that effect;
are you a thermostat or thermometer?

• Our body language is as significant as our words in communication to everyone around us

• Clarity of expectations leads to clarity of preparation;
Decide on desired outcome and prepare with that as reality

• Preparing to win every time leads to its greatest frequency 



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