Woody Hayes and Bobby Knight are two icons of America’s sports history. Both men achieved incredible levels of success, winning against teams that had considerable talent as well. The secret of the wins these men achieved lies in how they coached their teams.
Both were controversial, and they were also exceptional teachers.
Woody Hayes coached at Denison University, Miami University of Ohio, and the Ohio State University. His career record was 238 – 72–10. Bobby Knight coached basketball at Army and then at Indiana University, and finally at Texas Tech University. His record was 902–371. Both were amazing on the national level. Hays won 5 national football championships at Ohio State University and Bobby Knight won 3 national basketball championships at Indiana University.
Tyrant with A Golden Heart
Woody Hayes was a motivator with a little bit more. Coach Hayes was committed to education and assisted on his players getting their degrees, taking an interest in the academic progress of individual players. A tough taskmaster on the field, Woody Hayes was the best friend any of his foot players had when they graduated. A former player could always count on Coach Hayes to assist when necessary. He was loyal and dedicated to his players and they returned the favor.
The Power of Negative Thinking
Bobby Knight is interesting because his coaching philosophy seems contrary to what a successful coach would preach. Instead of being a gung-ho positive thinker, Coach Knight relied on the power of negative thinking. To him, basketball games were not won but lost and the team making the fewest mistakes will be the winner. Preparation and being alert to possible negative outcomes were cornerstones of his coaching style. Like Hayes, Bobby Knight was very concerned about the education of his athletes. Indiana University had some of the highest rates of graduation of any NCAA team while Knight was the head coach. Knight was as strict with his players attending class as he was in running drills on the basketball court. He prepared his players for life by seeing to it they were highly disciplined with a focus on obtaining a degree.
Educating for the Future
Both men were students of military history and theory. Woody Hayes admired General George S Patton and Bobby Knight would quote from Sun Tzu. The two men encouraged their student-athletes to put studies ahead of playing and warned them how careers in professional athletics were few and brief
It’s safe to say that athletes both hated and feared these two men. It is also clear these same athletes respected and later learned to admire Woody Hayes and Bobby Knight for who they were. Hayes and Knight coached players for the future. Both understood the value of education and impress that on their teams. Players came to realize that the coach was preparing them for life ahead and not just the next game. Lessons which were taught on the practice field, on the court, and in the coach’s office stayed with players long after they left school. That is a credit to all the work done by these two legendary coaches.
Bob Knight: Image via CBS sports
Woody Hayes: Image via Cleveland.com