This blog has been written for the athletes who want to be at their best when playing sports, and for the coaches who want to bring the best out of their athletes. If you are one of these athletes or coaches, then read on.
First, let me give attention to the athletes. You want to be the best athlete that you can be? Great, because we coaches want you to be that, too. You’re probably wondering what sort of magic methods I’m going to share about getting faster or stronger, what tips I can give to make you stand out among your teammates. Well, you’re in luck, because I’m going to share with you the one thing that will make you stand well above everyone else:
“Seriously? Coachable?” Absolutely. I have been on both ends of the spectrum--as a collegiate athlete and now as a coach--and I can tell you from experience that nothing is as impactful to the team as being someone who is coachable. Right now you could be the fastest and/or strongest person on the field, which certainly could help tally a win into your record, but if you lack the willingness to be coached, your negative impact becomes far more significant than your ability to score points. Teammates will find you difficult to work with and not want to be around you. Coaches will be discouraged from wanting to put in the effort to make you better, let alone believe that you’re even worth having on the team.
Let’s explore “coachability” a bit. What does it mean to be coachable? There are many qualities that could make up the coachable player, but I believe that there are three main ones that describe this word the best:
Prepared to be wrong.
Able to listen AND apply.
In order to be coachable, you need to be present. You need to have your focus, attention, and feelings fixed on the task at hand, which in this case is becoming a better athlete. Being present does not simply mean showing up to practice or a game; rather, it means that you’re engaging in practice, giving eye contact to those speaking to you, and seeking every opportunity for improvement during training. You can’t be present if you’re thinking about other things outside of practice, or are caught up in your own feelings because coach is yelling at you for that shot you just took. Being present allows you to control what you can control, which include your effort and your attitude. If you direct your effort towards getting better at your sport and keep a positive attitude about you, you’ve already covered half the distance towards being coachable.
Someone who is coachable is also someone who is prepared to be wrong. You will never know everything, and what you may know may be better known by someone else. You will always be surrounded by people who can teach you something, such as your coach or teammates, and you will only become aware of this if you accept the fact that you don’t know everything. If you know everything, then you will never learn. If you never learn, then you’ll never improve. If you never improve, then you’ll never win. Change comes only when a mistake has been recognized. Any coach would take the player who takes responsibility for an action done wrong over the player who points the finger at someone else.
Lastly, in addition to preparing for being wrong, the coachable player is able to not only listen to the feedback given to them, but is also able to apply the feedback so that a correction can be made. You must understand that your coach wants the best for you, and with that comes constructive criticism. Your coach isn’t calling you out to embarrass you in front of your teammates or the audience, but is rather giving you feedback on your performance so that you can be better the next time. The coachable player is someone who is willing to have his or her actions be evaluated, and is able to act upon that evaluation without resentment towards the evaluator.
Becoming the best athlete in your sport requires a lot of practice and discipline, but one thing that you can do right now to stand out among other athletes is to be coachable. All it takes is a shift in mindset, because as I mentioned earlier, you are ultimately in control of your effort and your attitude. If you are present when you train, are prepared to be wrong, and apply the feedback given to you, I guarantee that you will see improvements in your game and on your team, and become even become a leader for your team.
Now, coaches. You’re probably wondering how this write-up on being coachable applies to you. Well, here’s the thing: not all athletes will be coachable from the get-go. I’m sure that you’ve seen it several times, where athletes would come into the weight room or practice, go through the motions, not truly listen to what you say, so on and so forth.
So, what do we do? Often times we resort to calling the athletes soft, unmotivated, or lacking toughness. We point the finger at the kids and wonder why they are the way they are, without truly realizing that we’re pointing the finger in the wrong direction.
Coaches, ask yourselves this question: how much do you actually know about your athletes outside of their sport?
Even though they have a seemingly monotonous routine--wake up, go to school, eat their meals, go to practice, do homework, go to bed, repeat--a lot actually goes on during an athlete’s day. They have emotions, experience stress, or do something that they enjoy, just like we do in our day-to-day lives. When you ask your athletes about their day, how often do you get a short answer like “good” or “it was okay,” and you leave it at that?
My point is this: if you want coachable athletes, you need to put in the effort to get to know them. Showing the athletes that you care about who they are as people has a much greater impact on coaching them than does a superb training program or practice plan. It may take some athletes longer to convince than others, but if you get them to believe that you genuinely care, they will want to be present; they will want to listen to and apply what you say.
In turn, you must also allow your athletes to get to know you. They don’t need to know everything, since I’m sure that they can do well without knowing some of the things that you’ve previously done, but let them see the person who is not coach. As it is often said when it comes to building relationships, communication is a two-way street. Don’t expect your athletes to continue opening up and listening to you if you keep yourself closed off from them.
Although there are several other methods that have been used by other coaches to bring out the best in their athletes, the one method that has been consistent with positive results and is simple to implement is showing that you care. Athletes will always remember the coach who cared about them the most, the coach who they would sacrifice their bodies for time and time again for a loose ball. As you are reading this concluding paragraph, a thought of the coach most impactful to you has likely emerged in your head, just like how my coach did.