by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today
Why is it that coaches are rarely formally taught?
- Drivers are taught
- Doctors are taught
- Teachers are taught
But college coaches?
Coaches are rarely formally taught — especially in the US. (Did you know that the United States is one of the few developed countries that does NOT have a national coaching education program?)
So what’s a coach to do, to get better?
Here are a few suggestions:
A) Find a dang good mentor. One who will care and feed your improvement-hunger.
B) Create a positive learning environment. You won’t learn or develop in a negative place. That stifles growth, and development. So work in a positive place, or create a positive place, or go find a positive place if yours is negative.
C) Take charge of your learning. If you want to get better, you are in charge of making that happen. The great coaches did not get that way by hanging around on their phone. They took charge and went after their development. Be self-directed. Every-Single-Day dedicate time to developing your skills.
D) Take action. This is different than taking charge, in that you have to actually do things, hard things, difficult things to get better. Learning to be a better coach can be a dirty road to run. My first years of coaching were long hours in a poorly-light mosquito-filled boathouse learning how to adjust rowing equipment. Hours-of-it. That was action, and it paid off.
E) Get over not being born a coach. Straight-up, you were not born a coach. Bill George, in his book Authentic Leadership, wrote, “. . . leaders are not born that way. Many people have natural leadership gifts, but they have to develop them fully to become outstanding leaders.” So get over losing, making mistakes, dumb decisions, wrong calls, bad substitutions, blah, blah, blah. And go back to B, C, D.
F) Read books. Yes read books. Make notes. Kindle or hard copy, who cares. Reach for books and read them. Somebody is sharing their gift with you, their knowledge. Grab it and go (see L below).
G) Watch videos. See F.
H) Ask countless questions. Be annoying as heck with your questions. Ask, ask, ask. You will know when to stop asking, or you will be told to stop asking. That’s usually when you most need to ask questions.
I) Teach others (sounds counterintuitive but teaching is a great way to learn). Really, it is.
J) Dedicate yourself. Point blank:
- When you are tired – develop.
- When you are hunger – develop.
- When you lose – develop
- When you win – develop
- When you are “whatever” – develop
- And when you have developed your skills – develop even more.
K) Go Way Deep. Deep-learning makes all the difference when you want to be a better coach. Here’s what I mean. You buy a book from Amazon. Pick it up one day, skim through it. Then file it. That is shallow learning. Deep learning is different.
Years ago there was a copy of Napoleon Hill’s Think And Get Rich on my desk. You might have one kicking around, and you might even have read it. But I went deeper than just reading it:
- I made notes all through the book
- I reread the book focusing specifically on those notes
- I copied those notes onto two pages of paper
- I distilled those notes down into one sentence, “You CAN become what you think you CAN become.”
- I put together a quick idea for a college course based on that premise
- I pitched it to a dean at my college
- He accepted it, and it become a college course entitled, A World of Wisdom from Mistakes and Failures.
That might not be your cuppa tea. I get that. But can you see how deep that went? Even now, years later, I can still see pages from that book in my mind, and I revert back to Hill’s ideas quite often.
Could you do something deeper with a book you picked up about your sport? Or about coaching? Teaching? How about from that recent YouTuber you just watched (forget the screaming sheep one, how about the latest from Sir Ken Robinson. Oh, please, if you have 18 minutes go watch this. Your future-self will thank you!) Or your favorite podcast.
With a laser-like focus on deeper learning you could become a better coach. Caution — you’ll get strange looks, and questions, and statements like, “What the heck are you doing?” Ignore all of that.
Let them go back to their shallow-learning while you’re putting a dent in your Universe.
L) Stop trying to become a better sports coach. Why would I tell you that? Oh, I’m NOT.
I heard an AD say that once — to a coach who was asking tons of questions, and pushing the improvement envelop. He told him, “Stop trying to become a better sports coach. And then I’ll fire you. And hire someone else.” Reverse psychology.
This is not an exhaustive list, there’s many more things you can do. I rattled this off in 30 minutes. But here’s the catch…will you, do you, do any of them?
If so, YES! If not, why not?
PS: I’m trying to help 1000 coaches improve their experience. If you enjoyed this blast are you brave enough to share it with one person? I bet you are ; )