#InspiredCoaching: Teaching leadership, accountability through sports

Ken Niumatalolo, head coach of the Navy Midshipmen, looks off to his right as he walks on a football field. Naval Academy students in white uniforms can be seen in the background.
Sep 23, 2017; Annapolis, MD, USA; Navy Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo stands on the field during a stop in play in the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Niumatalolo has been head football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy for 11 years, but “coach” doesn’t quite cover all his responsibilities.

When the Midshipmen playing for Niumatalolo decided on the Naval Academy, they also made a commitment to serve their country, a decision the coach does not take lightly.

“For these kids to come here knowing that they’re going to serve for five years and to put themselves in harm’s way, I’ve got a ton of respect for them,” he said.

Future leaders

That’s why he sees himself as a coach as well as a mentor and a father figure, working to prepare the country’s future leaders.

“We take pride in saying this is the greatest leadership training in the world,” Niumatalolo said. “We’re teaching people to be leaders, but before you can lead, you have to serve. And before you can serve, you have to be selfless.”

Niumatalolo shared his views on coaching with USA TODAY as part of the Amway Coaches’ Poll partnership between Amway, USA TODAY and the American Football Coaches Association.

The partnership is an example of Amway’s commitment to #InspiredCoaching. When new Amway Independent Business Owners, or IBOs, start their own business, coaching from established IBOs is a key part of their training.

Life lessons

Niumatalolo believes many of the skills and techniques he uses on the football field to guide and develop his players can transfer off the field, too.

“I really believe sports – football – is a great laboratory for life,” he said. “And I think football is the ultimate team sport. Everybody’s job description is totally different. That helps you to be selfless. It helps you learn accountability to do their job.

“It’s more than blocking and tackling. That’s a microcosm of what you’re trying to teach them. When you’re mentoring, you’re teaching them life lessons.”

The right way

Despite a disappointing record this season, Niumatalolo has earned the title of the winningest coach in Navy history. But in a sport that is becoming cutthroat where people will “do whatever it takes to win,” he takes more pride in how he got there.

“We’ve won a lot of games here, and we’ve won the right way,” he said. “Our players know I’m not going to lower our standards for anybody.”

To read more from Niumatalolo, see the full article at USATODAY.com, and learn more about Amway’s sponsorship of the Amway Coaches’ Poll and Amway Coaches’ Trophy at Amway.com.

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