Later, when we talked, she spilled her frustrations on the table. “I’m a smart person. There’s just so much stuff about coaching I don’t know.”
I’ve come to learn that a LOT of us coaches are struggling with getting better. Coaching sports mean learning as you go. Few colleges offer a coaching degree, and coaching education exists in a vacuum. Most new college coaches come to coaching armed with background as an athlete in the sport, not as a coach. Some coaches don’t even have the athlete background.
The Get Better Struggle
Two thing I’ve noticed when I struggle with my coaching. First, it’s difficult when things change rapidly in my world of coaching. For example, I had never experienced a “shelter in place” event, or a school lock down, in 35 years of coaching — but did so last month. An entire college locked down and then ultimately closed for days is something I wasn’t prepared for. Two weeks later, my son, a college sophomore at another college experienced a similar thing — twice in the same week.
Things change quickly. Dang quick.
Second, today’s coaches need a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. There is so much to learn.
What I find interesting is coaches know they need to be quick and smart. And a lot of coaches know (including myself) that we need to constantly improve. In my recent survey which dozens and dozens of coaches have taken (you can take it right here) 67% of coaches indicated that professional and personal improvement are areas they are working on in 2016.
However, the path of getting smarter as a coach — developing professionally — is a dark path that few travel easily.
Architect Your Learning
Improving as a coach is a tricky thing. It takes desire, focus, resources. And a plan. I call my plan Coach You. Let’s drill down on how a Coach You plan might work for you:
A) HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TO IMPROVE?
Try this … look at what you are worried about. What’s waking you up at 3:37 am? Or what have you messed up this season/year. Or what question was a stumper (“Yo Coach, why do we always do this this way?“)?
That’s one perspective, and another would be to focus on the things you’re doing well. Maybe there’s something you’re acing you can expand upon or branch out on — or even teach.
B) WHAT SHOULD I LEARN ABOUT?
Here’s a few things that come quickly to mind:
- relationship building
- time control
- money management
- mechanics about your sport
- networking – how to do it and get the most from it
- fine tuning your vision
- getting and keeping people’s attention
- creating a culture
Actually, the list is endless. Maybe the very first area to focus on would be how to create and tell your story. So many things can build off that. Here’s a resource to get some perspective.
C) MY BOSS SAYS I NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB.
Fine. That means she is watching and at some level is caring about your development. Get the specifics from her — what needs to improve? Then ask said boss how she suggests you could improve, and if she has resources to help you get better.
D) WHAT IF I WANT TO IMPROVE IN ONE THING BUT NEED TO IMPROVE ON SOMETHING DIFFERENT?
You have to go with the need first, want second. I want a donut because its fun to eat but I need water to survive. Water first, donut later.
E) I WIN MORE GAMES THAN ANYONE AROUND ME, WHY SHOULD I GET BETTER?
What I hear you say is, “I don’t WANT to get better.” The fact is you NEED to get better. We just talked about that. The world around you is changing quickly — you have to stay current or become irrelevant.
Here’s something to consider — as a coach you ask those around you to get better every day. Shouldn’t you do the same? Are you really that special/smart/gifted/omnipresent? What would you say to one of your athletes if they waved you off and said, “Coach, I’m good, why should I practice?” Hm.
F) I DON’T HAVE ANY TIME FOR IMPROVEMENT!
That’s an easy trap to fall into. A Coach You plan could be as simple as 10 minutes a day. Think about it — 10 minutes every day over the course of a year and you have invested 52 hours in getting better. And that’s with Sunday’s off.
G) I’M PERFECT THE WAY I AM — I DON’T NEED TO IMPROVE.
Hey, that works. Let us know how your next profession goes.
H) I DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY TO START COACHING MYSELF.
Fair enough. Holidays are coming up — ask for a coaching book. When’s your birthday? Does your organization set aside any money for professional development? And if not, WHY not? Maybe you could get that ball rolling.
Also, there’s so much free stuff online — you can get a heck of an education for free. Lack of money is a lame excuse when it comes to getting smarter.
I) I COACHED MYSELF FOR 3 WEEKS, THEN I STOPPED.
You need to make it a habit, like brushing your teeth. Ten minutes a day. See F. It all comes down to taking action — which isn’t easy today with all the distractions rambling around. Regardless, to get better, action is required, so make it a habit.
An improvement-buddy might help — someone committed to the same process. Peer pressure can be a powerful tool. Use it.
J) HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
Well … how long do you plan to stay in coaching? That’s how long you should Coach You.
K) HOW SHOULD I LEARN?
What works best for you? There are a wealth of learning styles and the one that works for you is the one you’ll enjoy and stick with. So, which style is it?
L) I LIKE BOOKS.
Super duper — there’s a ton a great books out there. Too many maybe, but not if you drill down on your topic. Here are 5 of my favorite:
You can find many more I like by clicking here.
M) I LIKE PODCASTS.
Super duper again — I listen to dozens. Podcasts, like listening to radio, are great playing in the background. I listen to mine while I walk or drive, and scribble notes like crazy. Here are 5 of my favorites:
- The James Altucher Show
- The Owners Mind with Chris Brogan
- Six Pixels of Separation
N) I LIKE TO READ ONLINE.
That’ll work. Here are five of my favorite web destinations for info I use in my coaching:
I guess I’m one of the few folks who still uses RSS. I have the latest posts from these folks sent to my phone. I use the app Feedly, and scan through the articles each day. The ones I like I save to Pocket … and often share here.
O) I DON’T LIKE ANY OF THOSE METHODS OF LEARNING. ARE THERE OTHERS?
Sure. How about a mentor? Or watching other coaches during practices and games. Or you could record yourself at a practice (voice recorder slid into your pocket could work) and learn a lot from that. What other ideas can you come up with? Here’s 21 ways you may want to consider.
P) WHO SHOULD I LEARN FROM?
- who are smarter than you
- who have done what you want to do
- who can explain things clearly
- who give a hoot
Action You Can (and should) Take
The gal I started this article with … she threw herself into becoming the best version of herself possible. She bought into a Coach You program, and went on to a long and fun coaching career.
You’re next — Coach You. You’re too special a person not to.
PS. This topic of self-improvement is at the core of my kindle-series Hack Your Coaching. I plan to launch 6 books in 2016 which focus on helping YOU get more from YOUR coaching. You can find the first one here.
[Click here to listen to the audio version of this article.]