I've been thinking about what it takes to be a good coach.
I'd like to think I'm an accepting, non-judgmental person, but the truth is that I have quite particular ideas as to what makes someone worthy of my respect or not, especially when it comes to coaching. The person needs to be experienced, intelligent, well-read (in the field, although well-read in general is a good sign), have basic command over written language, sure of her/himself, capable of defending her/himself and her/his ideas without become overly defensive, and she/he must have proven results with athletes whom she/he has coached. These are my most basic requirements, and frankly, they are hard to argue with, with the possible exception of the command over language thing. I have a problem with sloppy writing--I equate it with sloppy thinking--but I think that is likely only my little issue.
Those are the things I profess to think are essential in a coach.
But. I'm kinda kidding myself.
What I really want in a coach--what I really long for in a coach-- has far less to do with textbook knowledge or a proven record, and far more to do with how I think said coach regards ME.
(It's all about me.)
Before I go further, I want you to all know that I actually have the quintessential good coach. This post wasn't inspired by my need of one, but rather my observation of other coaches in my midst, and also reflecting on myself as a coach, and where I stand up and where I am flawed. So onward.
I taught sixth grade forever, and one thing I learned over the years is that if a child believed I truly liked him/her, truly thought he/she was capable, and trusted that I was genuinely interested in him/her as a person and not just a student, then he/she would work for me. I would have no discipline problems, no missed homework, and the kid would give me everything he/she could muster in-class. Being able to convince the student of this is the secret to good middle-school teaching.
I believe adults are no different than sixth graders.
In fact, I would argue that adults are even more in need of this kind of attention than sixth graders. There are reasons for this, but I won't get into them in this post.
I'm not trying to say that a coach needs to be a therapist, coddling and cuddling and making the athelte feel special. I, like you, know full well I am neither special nor unique, especially as an athlete. My issues are common, my injuries textbook, my psychological make-up a certain type (which is to say OCD, ADD, and incredibly intense) which is, of course, quite common for those pursuing LC triathlon.
I chatted with a friend this weekend when out celebrating Ange and Mark's 40th birthdays. He had recently hired a coach, but was despondent upon finding out that said coach hadn't even fully read the questionnaire he had so carefully filled out before making out his first block of training. The plan didn't take into consideration his prior training, his goals, his special concerns. It fit him into a system. Granted, this is a system that works for many individuals, but it is a system none the less. It didn't take into consideration things he needed and wanted taken into consideration. It hadn't take into consideration his intensity, and the intensity at which he had hoped to train.
And that was it. Coach gone.
A good coach tries to figure out WHAT he/she is dealing with before making out a schedule. It's quite possible that said athlete needs to be saved from his own intensity, but to deny that intensity -- to simply ignore it and try to pigeon-hole him into a particular coaching scheme ain't going to work either.
There are people who view the world in terms of systems--in terms of the way things should be. But people are much more complicated than any one system can handle. There may be one really good way to teach writing to sixth graders, but I can tell you right now that that system won't work unless the child buys into it too. And there is the rub: the child--and the adult athlete--won't buy into it unless you convince the child of your loyalty and interest in him FIRST.
I plan to be a good coach. I plan to give the right workouts, in the right order. I plan to know my shit. I plan to pick the brains of every coach I respect to find out their secrets, and I plan to steal those secrets and use them myself. (jk, sort of. ) I plan to work hard, to think carefully, to try to not be defensive (a few of you likely realize how hard that will be for me...) and to practice what I preach.
More than anything, though, I plan to respect the individual--to figure out what makes him/her work --and how to get him/her to work for me--so we can create greatness together.
I'm not even sure exactly what I'm saying here. But I do know I'm right.