champions get coached
If you’re a typical sports parent, your son’s experience getting coached can be complicated. It's usually complicated because it requires handing over some control of that experience to another person – one you may or may not fully trust. Besides, getting coached can feel negative, critical, or judgmental for your son, or even for you. Many players and parents feel defensive or victimized by the honesty of authentic coaching. But getting coached, I want you to see today, is a critical part of your son’s development and a necessary part of becoming a champion. If your boy’s gonna learn to do it right, he’ll need your help.
Why does a champion get coached? Because the champion athlete is relentlessly driven by the process of improvement. He has the humility to accept that information from others – including his coach – is a valuable resource he can use to get better. As opposed to the proud, egotistical, “know-it-all” attitude of many athletes, the champion is hungry for help in his pursuit of greatness. You might call him a “learn-it-all.” That’s really what he’s after – learning whatever he can in an attempt to improve, and he trusts that his coach can help. He doesn't feel defensive or victimized by his coach's honesty, even if it does seem critical. He craves information that can help him get better. That’s why a champion gets coached.
So how will your son learn the value of this often overlooked talent? If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen through the teaching and training you provide as his champion parent. If you’re a champion, you’ve probably adopted a “learn-it-all” attitude yourself. You see “getting coached” differently than others, and your perspective has clarified for you what for many can get easily complicated:
*You see that every event or experience – even the one involving a coach that could be perceived as challenging or complicated – is an opportunity to help your son get better. You’re relentlessly driven by the process of your son’s improvement.
*As a champion sports parent, you see that getting coached is actually a lot less about the coach and a lot more about your son. You know you may not always agree with how the coach decides to instruct or communicate, but that won’t diminish the expectation you have for how your son handles it.
*You see that getting coached is a talent that can separate your son from others he’ll be competing with and against his entire athletic career. As your son comes to an understanding of how coaching can help him improve, and as he develops an internal desire to receive it, he gets closer to reaching his full potential, and closer to becoming a champion himself.
As a champion sports parent, you see that getting coached is actually a lot less about the coach and a lot more about your son.
Once your son develops that internal desire, then you can start working on his external response. This is also an important part of getting coached – a part his coach will recognize and reward – and another separator between the champion athlete and everyone else. Here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 9 of The LENS, entitled “Getting Coached,” that explains it:
Getting coached starts internally, but that’s not where it ends. There are also some important external responses to getting coached that are critical for your son to understand and develop – responses that send important messages to his coach. These are the positive responses to coaching that separate players who “get it” from those who don’t.
Eye contact, for instance, is a critical skill connected to getting coached, and it must be taught and emphasized. One simple indicator that a coach is dealing with a “learn-it-all” is in his eye contact. Looking someone in the eye while they’re talking is a simple signal to the speaker that his message is being received.
A head nod or some other non-verbal acknowledgment or confirmation is another simple but effective way for your son to show his coach that he’s listening. Steve Kerr, Steph Curry’s coach for the Golden State Warriors, said, “Steph’s so coachable. Just tell him what you want, and he nods his head.” Not only has Curry developed an intrinsic desire to get coached, his external response also confirms it.
On the other hand, “know-it-all” players have a way, either purposely or not, of sending their coach the opposite message. Have you had an experience talking with someone – maybe your son, or another child, or even your spouse or co-worker – and you got the sense that they weren’t listening? Usually a lack of eye contact helps confirm that message.
Looking somewhere else or gazing distractedly off into space doesn’t say to a speaker, “I really want to hear what you have to say.” Usually, the message relayed is more like “I’m bored” or “this doesn’t matter to me.” It’s likely that if your son’s coach has chosen to share a message of any kind with him, it’s because he feels it’s valuable to your boy or to his team. And just because your son doesn’t like what coach has to say doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to hear it. Great eye contact and active responses to listening send a message from a player back to his coach, one that says a lot about that player’s desire to get better.
Dad, you have a responsibility to develop in your son both his internal desire and his external responses to coaching. These are talents that can be taught and cultivated, by you and probably only by you, to their fullest extent. Without this deliberate teaching and development, your son will probably rely on either 1) the response to getting coached of his own human nature, or 2) the cultural perspective on getting coached that’s prevalent all around him. Neither of those will teach him or encourage him to do it right.
I want to challenge you today to intentionally cultivate in your son the ability to get coached. That means not only helping him develop the internal desire of a champion, but also holding him accountable for the external responses of a champion, too. Of course, he’ll never come to a clear understanding in this area if you don’t help him, but you can’t help him come to an understanding if you haven’t come to it first yourself.
First and foremost, become relentlessly driven by the process of your son’s improvement. You don’t have to see coaching as criticism or judgment by some person you may not fully trust. Instead, see it as information you can use in pursuit of your son’s growth. See that every event or experience – even what’s challenging or complicated – can help him get better. See that getting coached is actually a lot less about the coach and a lot more about your son. And see that by developing this ability in your boy, you’re separating him from the crowd, and helping him become his very best.
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