If You Want to be Great, Get a Coach!

I was recently conversing with an experienced high school coach that is probably in the autumn of his career. He has worked hard at his profession and always produced competitive, well-coached squads. A local club asked him to be in charge of their coach education program. Included in this responsibility were weekly coaches meetings, observation of practices, and working individually with both athletes and coaches. In the course of our exchange, he indicated his dismay at the unwillingness of the club coaches to absorb new information. He said the athletes were much amenable to try new things than the coaches. I’m sad to admit that I wasn’t the least bit surprised at the reluctance of coaches to incorporate new methods into their established coaching routine.

I read about Kirk Hammett, the lead guitarist for the heavy-metal group “Metallica.” When Hammett joined Metallica, the group was already a prominent band destined for greatness. Besides landing a dream job when he joined the band, Hammett achieved a superstar status claimed by few musicians. How did Hammett celebrate his newfound fame? He immediately started to take lessons from another world-class guitarist, Joe Satriani. According to Hammett, he was still on the uphill climb when it came to learning his craft. He felt the urgency to improve his skills.

So, what is inside a world-class guitarist that has an intense desire to learn and soak in additional “chops” from a teacher? Contrast that with random club coaches that feel they got this coaching thing down and are unwilling to accept new information. The striking difference was Hammett went on the hunt for a way to improve. He sought out Satriani to take him to a higher level of expertise. The proverb “When the student is ready, the teacher appears” seems relevant. Obviously, within the aforementioned volleyball club, the students (the coaches) weren’t ready.

For those who aren’t familiar with Metallica, put on your “Growth Mindset” and enjoy!!

The pretense of knowledge is a dangerous vice. It prevents us from getting any better. Accurate self-assessment is a challenge. To have an advisor, a mentor, a “Yoda” provides perspective to your efforts or performance.

“I think you just wasted two hours” ~ Carl McGown

Carl McGown

When I coached at Ohio State University, the late Carl McGown, former Head Coach for the USA Men’s National Team, along with a personal coaching hero of mine, attended one of my training sessions. He was in town for a motor learning seminar, and I asked him to come by my practice. Going out to a post-practice lunch, I wanted him to provide any insights he had about what we did inside the training session. Carl was very polite and preferred to keep his thoughts to himself. I continued to badger him, and he finally relented. Not to go into too much detail, but his opening sentence was, “I think you just wasted two hours.” He proceeded to tell me everything that he didn’t like about my practice. The list was rather lengthy. I hold Carl in such high regard, and I felt like my father was scolding me. As uncomfortable as I was, it was what I both wanted and needed. Although the lunch was not the most enjoyable event in my life, it was one of the more valuable experiences in my career.

World-class surgeon and author, Atul Gawande felt he had reached a point in his surgical career where he thought that he was not improving in his surgical skills. His skill-set was razor-sharp, but, he wanted more. So, he pursued a coach. Here is a portion of his Ted Talk describing his enlightened approach to improvement. For the entire talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHDq1PcYkT4

There are far too many coaches that have closed the door on becoming better at their craft. The reasons for this are many. Given all the Covid-19 challenges and the ripple effect on athletic departments, this is a great time to evaluate how you might improve your skill-set.

It is my personal belief that every coach needs a coach. This is without regard to experience or success. Hammett and Gawande are experienced and successful. They pursued a coach! It is a very wise use of time and effort to pursue someone who is respected and will observe how you operate and provide an appropriate evaluation, which might include criticisms, similar to the assessment I received from Carl McGown.

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