I wrote last week about changing my coaching over to a paperless system. As I switch over to using my iPhone and iPad for practice, I’ve been weaning myself from my clipboard. The papers usually held on it (roster, practice plan, testing results, etc) were moved to digital versions.
So now, at practice, I just pull out my iPhone to read the lineups, consult the practice plan, or give results.
Things were working fine but …
… I noticed something … the iPhone, for all it’s greatness couldn’t match the power of the simple clipboard.
Everyone Has One
A coach’s clipboard is something unique. Most athletes have never used a clipboard, let alone held one in front of a group of people. That “specialness” helps grab athlete’s attention …
“Eck, Coach just pulled out his clipboard, this must be important.”
I noticed when I presented myself in front of the athletes, like at the beginning of practice, with my clipboard in hand, they quieted quickly and easily gave me their attention.
When I did the same holding my iPhone the athletes just continued doing their thing. I had to clear my throat or give them the “Okay, time to begin” routine to get their focus.
It dawned on me that my clipboard sent a signal that something unique is getting ready to happen, because it itself was unique.
I think the signal sent by my iPhone was more like,
“Oh, he’s fiddling with his smart phone, probably on FB like everyone else … practice isn’t ready to start yet.”
I never thought about the clipboard being a separator between me and them. Like a podium for a teacher, a counter for a bank teller, a cash register for a sales clerk, the clipboard is a boundary that marks my territory.
The iPhone is not.
I think because it’s a communication device at its heart, the iPhone doesn’t separate or mark territory. It’s more inclusive than exclusive. A smart phone is a way for someone to talk-to or write-to me, and me to them.
But a clipboard is really a one-way device. What is on the clipboard goes from:
- the clipboard
- to me
- to them
Yes, I can take notes on it, but 95% of what happens with the clipboard is imparting information, not recording it.
And one more thing, the clipboard can act like a cone-of-silence. When I’m consulting it, flipping through the pages, people are a lot less likely to interrupt or ask a question. Especially when held I hold it in both hands. Then it says, “There’s business going on here!”
I bet you would be less likely to interrupt the IRS auditor who is flipping through his tax manual than the one who is swiping along on his smart phone.
Or maybe not ; )
Every so often I do scribble a note or drawing on the clipboard. I could write on my iPhone for a dozen different reasons … sending a text, creating an email, tweeting, Instagram, etc. Yet, when I write something on my clipboard — now that is different. There is a mystery to it.
“Jinkies, coach was looking at me, then he wrote something on his clipboard. Oh my gosh, what does that mean?”
And that little bit of a mystery can add to the Coach Mystic. Not a bad thing.
I was at my wife’s basketball game this weekend. She’s coaching a boys 11-12 year old rec team. It was a busy gym, with multiple teams either playing or warming up to play. Scanning the crowd I noticed a dozen coaches. Almost each of them had a clipboard. It made me wonder, “Do they recognize the power of the clipboard?”
I am pondering how I will balance the clipboard and iPhone use. I love the ability of the iphone to access all the info I have put into Evernote. Yet I value the advantages of my simple clipboard. Something to test as the season rolls along. Reporting back, but I’d be very interested in thoughts you have about this.
You might be interested in a few of these videos from my recent coaching conference, RowingTalks. Yes, the focus of the Conference is my sport, rowing, but several of the talks are not rowing-coaching specific, instead they cut right to the heart of coaching. If you’re not a rowing coach (which is okay, really really), you might like:
- The power of positive coaching, by collegiate soccer coach Roy Dunshee
- Self care for coaches, by Professor Tracy Davenport
- What a high-school athlete would like you to know, by a high school athlete
- Tips for developing a good relationship with your high school Athletic Director, by long-time athletic director Dave Cooper (retired)