In my life as a player and coach, I’ve witnessed the good and the bad of coaches. Some were, using Joe Ehrmann’s InsideOut Coaching terminology, truly “Transformational.” Others, in his words again, were merely “Transactional.” What is it that makes the difference? What can help someone achieve and remain a person who coaches on purpose, rather than by accident or default?

For some, what it takes is the knowledge that coaching by default will ruin the kids they coach. Such coaches have realized that, in themselves, they are not humble, not kind, not the type of coach they would want to play for. All they need is to remind themselves of that and a course correction can be made.

For others, however, maybe it takes something different. Joe Ehrmann suggests a “Coaches’ Code of Conduct.” Here’s a link to what his looks like.

In his code, he includes principles for behavior that govern all the relationships a coach has: coach to player, coach to coach, coach to administration, coach to parent, etc.

I’ll be honest, I love this sort of thing. But, also being honest, I think it needs a different name. I prefer to see it as a “Coaches’ Covenant.” Here’s why…

There’s a difference between a code/contract and a covenant. If it’s viewed as a contract, the code of conduct can be contingent on the behavior of others. It often becomes a two-way street. So long as the other person keeps up his or her end of the deal, I’ll keep up mine. That’s a contract.

A covenant is different entirely. An unconditional covenant is a one-way street. Regardless of what someone else does, I’ll keep up my end of the deal. Hurt me, disrespect me, talk behind my back, quit the team, whatever…that doesn’t change my behavior or how I will handle myself.

See the difference? I think that’s what Ehrmann is getting at, but I just prefer a different wording. Whether you call it a code of conduct or a covenant, be sure you view it as unconditional.

So, here’s the challenge for the next few weeks: write your own Coaches’ Covenant.

Here’s what to include:

1. Purpose statement. Why are you doing this? Work back through this series about coaching on purpose. Figure out why you coach and make that the lead sentence or paragraph in your covenant.

2. Core values. Why do you coach the way you do? What’s important to you? What will your team or organization be founded upon? Write them down and use a brief sentence to explain the importance of each one.

3. Relationship foundations. What do you believe should be the foundational principles or attitudes that govern your relationships? Coach to coach, coach to player, coach to administration, coach to parent, coach to game official, etc. See Ehrmann’s Code for some good examples.

4. Specific behaviors you will or will not do. What kind of speech, physical actions, body language, etc. will you use as you interact with your players, their parents, other coaches, game officials, school or league administration? Be specific. Hold yourself to a high standard.

5. Personal commitment. Include your definition of success and your commitment to adhere to the covenant, regardless of what anyone else does.

Leave a place for you to sign and date the covenant.

There you have it. Easy? No. Fair? Probably not. The right thing to do? Absolutely.

I’ll be working through my own coaching covenant in the next few weeks. As I do, I’ll be praying for you. Coaching is difficult, thankless, and frustrating. We’re in this together. Press on.