Do you know the simple skills that can make a big difference?
I’ve not been in many Cracker Barrel restaurants, but I will remember this one.
We were traveling to Boston and stopped to grab a bite. Sitting in the booth behind us was a family of four. Mom and Dad were talking to their daughter about her lacrosse experience.
Mom: “Your coach, she’s a wicked good coach. I like her.
Daughter: “Aw Mom, she’s good but not w-i-c-k-e-d good!
Mom: “Yeah she is, she is wicked good. I know wicked and she is it!”
That conversation rolled on for a few minutes.
Finally, I had to ask. I spun around, “Excuse me, folks, when you say “wicked”, like in “wicked good coach” what does the “wicked” mean.
Yes, it was awkward. Yes, it was weird. But if you know me, you know it’s what I do.
Growing up in Boston, I used “wicked” all the time. It was our sentence enhancer. Slap “wicked” before something, and whatever it was became special.
This: that was a wicked slice
Means: a mighty fine piece of pizza
This: he’s got a wicked beetha
Means: that person’s car is a piece of junk
This: that bubbler is wicked ice
Means: the water fountain water is darn cold
Y’see, wicked means extra-ordinary. So what is a wicked good coach?
I guess that depends … but my definition is this: a coach who excels in all aspects of her or his job. Not just good, and more than special. Better than outstanding.
If we can agree on that, then the important part of this entire article is how do you get to be a wicked good coach?
What I’ve learned, from hanging around coaches for the past 50 years, is that wicked good coaches use a certain set of skills most other coaches don’t. I call them “sly” skills because the skills are so simple, so subtle, that many coaches either dismiss them as trivial or ignore them altogether.
But not the wicked good coaches — they use these skills just beneath the surface of their day-to-day coaching to great affect. Following are the skills I’m on about.
Sly Skill #1: Instigating
The status quo is the one thing most difficult for coaches to overcome, especially the status quo in athlete’s minds:
I’ve never been able to run that speed for a mile
We always lose to them
I can’t make foul shots
Wicked good coaches are instigators. They determine the status quo, and then cause small rebellions to bring it down.
Maybe you can’t run that speed for a mile, yet, but I bet you could for 30 yards!
Maybe they’ll beat us in the final score, but let’s pick a stat we will beat them in!
Don’t worry about foul shots now, let’s see how well you can shoot from low post!
Sly Skill #2: Listening
The Universe sends us messages. Weekly. Daily. Hourly. Unfortunately, we are usually too busy/distracted to listen.
The athlete who comes to you with a complaint, has a message for you. As does the athlete struggling in practice, and your superstar, your family member, your sig-other.
Wicked good coaches listen to those messages, and they know which messages to ignore or to file, and which are important.
Sly Skill #3: Empathizing
Understanding what another person is feeling is a skill some are born with. Others have to develop it. Some never get it.
Being empathic to others can change your coaching game. I worked with a truly empathic coach and I heard one of her athletes say, “It’s like she reads my mind—she knows exactly what I’m thinking.”
Sly Skill #4: Assuming Nothing
I’ve noticed teachers (and coaches) assume everyone “knows” much more than they “know.” This is especially true with jargon. I am so guilty of this.
But wicked good coaches don’t make those assumption. They slyly explain what we often assume everyone knows.
Sly Skill #5: Asking
Getting what you want is so much easier when you ask for it. Wicked good coaches ask their athletes what is holding them back, then use that information to help. Asking, when combined with listening, can make you appear to be a genius.
Sly Skill #6: Ideating
Wicked good coaches are idea machines. It’s a sly skill and consists of producing ideas each day. Claudia Altucher, in her book Become An Idea Machine, notes that she cranks out a list of 10 ideas every day. According to Altucher, and I agree, the first 3 – 4 ideas are easy. The rest get harder, but that’s where the gold is.
Sly Skill #7: Gratitude
Coaches need help. Lots of help. Wicked good coaches thank that help. A lot. They bring gratitude into their daily routine, and truly mean it when they say it.
Actions You Can (and should) Take
Ben Franklin was a wise man. Part of his wisdom was focusing on one of his specific skill each day, to improve it. I try to do the same with each of these sly skills. It’s not easy, but few things worth doing are.
What if you tried that for a month? Take one sly skill and make it a focus of your day. For instance, every Tuesday invest in listening to the messages you are sent. Wednesday you focus on using your empathy skills. And so forth. Give it a month.
I’m also going to suggest 3 books as resources. I’ve read each, use them, and wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t believe in them:
1: Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century – Claudia Altucher
2: The Freaks Shall Inherit The Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits and World Dominators – Chris Brogan
3: InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives – Joe Ehrmann
That’s A Wrap
There are a lot of ways to be a wicked good coach. These are just a few of them — others certainly exist. Working on these 7 could go a long way towards making a significant difference in your coaching.
It’s been a long week, as we train to compete at the NCAA championships, work through finals exams, and balance family life. Other than that, can I request a share of this week’s issue? Thank you!