How Coaches Can Leave Lasting Legacies


How Coaches Can Leave Lasting Legacies

Steward your influence and impact in three ways

Quinn McDowell

never miss a play

Get weekly articles on sport culture, relationships, and identity. 

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” – Pericles

What does it mean to leave a legacy? A legacy is simply what you leave behind, the contribution that remains after you are gone. A legacy is the way you are remembered based on the principles you stood for, the lives you impacted, and the reputation you developed. For better or worse, we all leave a legacy.

As leaders and coaches, we must take seriously the importance of leaving a legacy that impacts and influences those we work with in a positive direction. When leaders neglect their responsibility to leave a legacy of purpose, they abdicate their positions as stewards of the future. The question becomes, “What kind of legacy are you going to leave?” When focusing on this idea_,_ leaders need to think of themselves as stewards in three distinct ways.


True leaders are stewards of the future, meaning they have a responsibility to build on the legacy of the past while working towards a vision of the future. Legacy encompasses past, present and future. Leaders need to consider themselves fully responsible managers of a future legacy based on their actions in the present moment. Staying in the present is only valuable when you can simultaneously keep an eye on the future. The realization that what I do today has an impact on who I become tomorrow is crucial to building a lasting legacy of purpose.

Leaders must maintain a field of vision (i.e. perspective) that helps them reconcile the realities (i.e. the failures or successes) of the past in a way that drives them towards the future, while remaining fully engaged in the present. This is a tall task for leaders to actively manage three different dimensions of time, yet it becomes crucially important to managing a legacy that lasts.


Leaders must steward the purpose of their programs as they organize their teams around a mission that is bigger than an individual. Purpose exists at three levels within any organization or team. The first level of purpose is found in the individual. Each person is driven by a unique purpose (whether deep or shallow, noble or ignoble, people have a purpose whether they admit to it or not) that cannot be replicated, duplicated, or copied. This locus of meaning is deeply personal and serves as the primary source of motivation. The second level of purpose is found at the team level. Teams are made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and giftings. Each team takes on a new identity based on the rhythms of how the team is constructed. In a sports context, every season begins with a new group of individuals who must find a way to come together as a team. The challenge is to find a common ground of purpose that serves as a firm foundation for a team to achieve success.

The final layer of purpose is found at the organizational or program level. The purpose of the organization extends beyond the current team. It reaches into the past and forms the heritage of the organization while looking forward into the future for generations to come. An organization’s purpose is larger than the purpose of its current teams because it encompasses the people who came before and those who will come after. Organizational purpose evokes a sentiment of duty, obligation, and honor as individuals participate in a grand narrative that extends far beyond the current moment. The challenge for leaders and coaches is to find a way to blend these layers in a cohesive and meaningful way.


In the book of Hebrews, the author describes a hall of faith that describes a lineage of men and women whose legacy is remembered because of their faithfulness. At the heart of leaving a legacy (at least one that has a positive impact on the world) is the concept of faithfulness — a faithfulness that lives into the realities of the past while aiming toward the hope of the future, a faithfulness that prioritizes the transformation of hearts and minds over the accomplishment of trophies and championships, a faithfulness that adopts an eternal perspective as the basis and formation of leadership. A legacy of excellence, faith, and impact is possible when men and women can view themselves as responsible stewards of legacy that will remain long after they are gone.

For more practical ideas on how to be a great steward, contact the author at quinn.mcdowell@aretehoops.com_._

A legacy of excellence, faith, and impact is possible when men and women can view themselves as responsible stewards of legacy that will remain long after they are gone.

Find Leadership Resources