Learning – Continuous Personal & Professional Development

Not long ago someone asked me what I do to for professional development and to keep learning. I thought I would share what I do, that is not to suggest that is the way to do it rather to share a process that has worked for me over the years. Even though I call it a process for someone like me who is full of questions and inherently curious it is more semi-organized chaos.

bookpileThose of you that followed this blog over the years know that I love to read, so for me reading actual books (I like the tactile sense of having a book in my hands, although I do use Kindle when I travel) is the cornerstone of learning for me. I read on the average of two books a week. I also subscribe to several sport science journals, numerous coaching journals, The New Yorker, Atlantic Magazine and Fast Company Magazine. I try to devote an hour a day to professional reading and research and probably another hour to recreational reading, usually at night. These are the books I have finished in the past several weeks; this picture does not include novels, biographies and history (about six more).

I keep a notebook where I record my ideas, notes from Conferences and notes from my reading. Below are the notebooks for the past seven years and a page from my current notebook. Much of what is in these notebooks probably would not make sense to anyone but me, but it helps me organize my thoughts.

Listen to Vern discuss tips for becoming a better coach as a guest on Episode 37 of the HMMR Media Podcast.


notebookI also keep of log of all the books I read. In addition I keep a log of my training, something I started doing when I was in high school (I wish I could find those old logs, I know they are buried somewhere in a box).

I try to talk to professional colleagues as often as possible and speak to my mentors as often as I can. I can’t emphasize enough the role that my mentors have played in my learning both in terms of guidance and inspiration. I probably don’t go to as many conferences as I used to, I have just become more selective. Often I will go to a conference more to interact with those attaining than to hear the speakers. I am not as good at listening to Podcasts yet, which is a new area of learning for me that I am going to exploit further.

Each day that I coach is a learning experience. I learn from the athletes I work with and the coaches I work with. More of my coaching today is of the mentoring coaching nature but I still do some coaching daily, you can’t learn if you don’t have skin in the game.

I love to watch coaches coach. In February I was able to spend time with Harry Marra and watch a training session with Ashton Eaton and his wife. The next morning I watched Jim Radcliffe coach an Oregon football off-season session and that afternoon watched him work with Mark Rowland’s Oregon Elite group of middle distance runners. Watching those sessions, interacting with the coaches and athletes are priceless learning opportunities. For that matter I learn by watching anyone who is good at his or her craft. Excellence transcends sport, watching a chef at work an artist paint or draw or a musician play is great learning. I feel you have go outside your field and specialization to broaden and deepen learning. Everything is connected.

I love to learn, the excitement and joy of learning new things and challenging myself daily sustains me. I am constantly trying to look at the world with new eyes and discover new ideas and approaches. I hope this helps give you some ideas to guide your learning.

2 replies
  1. Robert Craig Poole
    Robert Craig Poole says:

    Always enjoy reading your commentary and observations. The other day I listened to your podcast with Gary, and found it to be very stimulating and confirming. You are doing a great service to the sports community by becoming the bridge and the filter of information about coaching and athletes, making their lives better. Great Job



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