I have the extreme pleasure and benefit to hang with so many wonderful coaches throughout the season. Whether it’s sliding with folks during education sessions or working closely with our advanced education staff, I get to witness some of the magic that happens when the sharing begins. I’m talking about the Zen of teaching awesomeness here, the stuff you can’t find in any manual, workbook or instructional video. Ok, so I just totally jinxed myself, because I can’t really even write about it based on my last sentence. However, I can share what I’ve observed out in the snowy pasture of educational life. I don’t have all of the answers, but I did ask this simple question to conjure up some thoughts. Great coaches…?
Great coaches are hungry for knowledge and never stop asking why, how, when, where or what if? They are true students of the sport and insist on learning right alongside of their students. The great ones never settle knowing that constant evolution is happening at so many levels. Psychology, diet, technique, equipment, etc. As the athletes push, the mentors must be ahead of game striving for constant knowledge. The result is that they never have all of the answers and insist on progressing together as a team.
Before each game of arguably America’s pastime, the umpire exclaims “play ball!” Or, before a tennis match the chair umpire says “ready, play.” Great coaches play. They honor the sport by exuding the same fundamental love that they have always had for the sport. This playful exuberance rubs off on everyone around them and the atmosphere is simply electric with the joy of learning. One of my mentors and still active RM educators can still be heard saying, “we had an awesome day, we played with all kinds of stuff.”
Shhhhh… Can you hear that? If you can’t, there’s probably some great learning happening. Great coaches are the best listeners and are patient with the learning process. It’s easy to be in a hurry to impart all of the knowledge amassed from training and certification, however without stopping to truly listen, we can sometimes miss the mark altogether. The great ones sometimes seem to be only listening and simply asking for deeper clarification.
Great coaches unconsciously model the behavior they instill on others. They arrive earlier than necessary and usually stay later to work on something. They are positive and calm in the height of pressure or fear. They respect their peers, surroundings, equipment and environment with the utmost care and always carry themselves in a professional, dedicated manner. At the same time, they are human and recognize when they have faltered or not been correct in their presentation. To be humble is not to be weak, but truly awesome with integrity.
Quite simply, great coaches are the people you want to be around. The ones you want on your team or the ones you want to chill with. Their passion for the most mundane aspects of the task is absolutely ludicrous at times while at the same time contagious. They can recognize the smallest breakthrough and feed off that positive energy. Never phony, the energy is positive and drives us to want more. Great ones exploit the glimpses of brilliance in us all.
They get it. Great coaches completely understand your frustration. Why? Because they remember when it was not so easy for them. They’ve been down the same learning pathway before and continue to work on their own game. Because they are learning right alongside of you, there is a team aspect in achieving your objectives. I’ve never been a fan of the beer fine for falling in uniform because I’ve been known to crash hard in uniform on occasion. Great coaches sometimes push the envelope to folding and can therefore relate to a little topple along the way.
Great coaches can eye the prize with such precision and determination that it is scary (in a good way). Sometimes it can be easy to get learning ADD and bounce around from one task to another when the going gets difficult. We simply move over to a slightly easier task. Great ones recognize the focused building blocks of skill development that must be attained before moving on to more complex skills. This focus, although unnerving at times with our patience, pays huge dividends when advancing to a greater, advanced skill set.
Wait for it… Learning happens when coaching and instruction stops. Huh? Yeah, I said it. The great ones know when to stop and simply let the learning flow. Great coaches wait. Patience grasshopper! Sometimes the best coaching doesn’t seem like traditional coaching at all. The environment is set and then the learning responsibility is placed on the student. How is this possible? Aren’t we paid the big bucks to provide the learning? Nope. The great ones wait.
The great coaches simply live the code, to share their passion with others. As teachers, we can all relate to the feeling we get when our peeps “get it.” No learning process is ever the same, canned or linear. This mantra is the true beauty of our craft as educators. At times it is the true horror as well. How many times have you ended the lesson thinking that you totally blew it, missed the mark and didn’t make any sort of learning connection? You are then shocked when your student says, “that was awesome, the best lesson ever, I learned so much! Let’s do it again tomorrow.” All righty then, what just happened here? Progress just happened because you lived it, and achieved it together. This true commitment to learning is what makes a great coach. I have the pleasure of seeing it happen on a regular basis.
Dave Schuiling, Director of Education