Coaches have a significant impact on the lives of those they coach. They can be the best or the worst of your childhood memories and they can have a great effect on how you live your life. It doesn’t matter if they coached you in little league or in college, they will always be your coach.
My oldest daughter’s principal is one of my former football coaches. When I go to the school, I find it humorous to hear the staff and the children call him Mr. Beard. To me, his name always will be Coach Beard. If I ran into him in the parking lot at Walmart and he told me to give him 20 wind sprints, I would do it. Or at least I would try.
I lost one of my coaches recently. Coach Puddie Ruff was my tennis coach in high school. She was one of the best coaches the Tupelo has ever seen. She was voted the national tennis coach of the year in 1984, but that year represented a lifetime of her commitment to our town, our school system and our students.
Even though Puddie taught tennis at her home court for years and started many people down the path of that lifelong sport, she often told me that she was not the best tennis teacher around.
She would work hard to schedule good adult tennis players to come work out with our tennis team and teach “strokes and strategy” to the team. That was helpful on a number of levels because we were allowed the opportunity to play matches against players better than we were, they became committed to our program and they came to our matches. We always had a crowd at our matches and most of them thought of themselves as assistant coaches on some level.
Puddie may not have thought of herself as a great tennis teacher, but it was impossible to deny that she was a great tennis coach. She once said, “I will teach you how to win and I will make sure you are never beaten by someone because they were in better shape than you.”
She made good on those promises. I only remember our team losing one match in the regular season during my tenure with Puddie. She ran us before and after practice. She made us run “suicides” during practice and she made us hit hundreds and hundreds of balls. In other words, she took care of the basics.
You cannot win if you don’t take care of the basics.
Investing takes practice, too
It is easy in investing to think you know what you are talking about because you understand the language. Just because you know what a P/E ratio is doesn’t mean that you know what to do with it.
It takes a lot of practice to be good at analyzing potential investments. You have to do your wind sprints and your suicides to get yourself in shape for investing. That means that you have to do your homework – not just understand the language, but how it applies to your world.
You also have to hit hundreds of balls, which means that you have to practice investing your hard earned money before you actually put it to work.
It is very painful to practice only when you are playing a match. The match is where the practice pays off, not where the practice is done. Be good before you play for keeps.
Puddie was a team player. Most coaches in my day would put their best player at singles, their next two at doubles and their fourth-best at mixed. Puddie would mix us up all the time depending on what she thought it would take to win. She only put me at mixed doubles once because she said I was being too nice to the girl on the other team. Mama was probably proud, but Puddie wanted to win.
Mark Hudson didn’t have that problem and ended up winning the state championship in mixed doubles.
Understanding the right way to mix your players is key to winning matches. and Puddie understood that. She did an enormous amount of homework before she set the team for a match.
As you might guess, that is crucial in investing as well. The Brinson, Beebower Singer study done in the early 1990s indicated that the way your investments are allocated is the most important part of successful investing.
Taking care of the fundamentals and getting the right mix of assets is what great tennis, I mean investing, is all about. Come to think of it, Puddie knew a lot about investing, too.
Coach Puddie Ruff badly wanted a state championship in tennis when I joined the team. She didn’t hide that goal from us. She had come very close many times, but just hadn’t claimed the prize.
I was so proud to be part of her first state championship team in 1976 and there have been many more since then for Tupelo High School. But more importantly, I am proud to have known her, to have learned from her and to have taken the lessons she taught me and applied them to my life and work every day.
We can learn a lot about investing from a great tennis coach.
Scott Reed, CIMA, AIFA, is CEO of Hardy Reed Capital Advisors in Tupelo.