Coaching Excellence – Part Three

Good coaches have mentors and role models. My first mentor and role was my high school basketball coach. He was the most influential person in my life up to that time aside from my parents. He taught me the value of structure and self-discipline. He also instilled in my teammates and me that it is was more than the ninety minutes of practice that made you better it was lifestyle. He did not call it the twenty-four hour athlete but that was what he was teaching us. It was a total commitment to the pursuit of excellence.

We cannot do it alone. It always helps to have guidance from someone who has been there before . No need to make the same mistakes and relearn the lessons they learned, learn from others experiences. That being said it is important to forge your own coaching style that suits your personality that maximizes your strengths minimizes your weaknesses. Seth Godin put it quite well when he said “don’t try to be the ‘next’. Instead, try to be the other, the changer, the new.” Be yourself.

Excellent coaches are learners. The learning can be formal or informal, the key is to keep learning and growing. Arie de Geus said it best “Probably the only sustainable competitive advantage we have, is the ability to learn faster than then opposition.” To be the best demands that you expand your horizons that you go outside you’re your coaching specialty and outside of sport to seek continual improvement and find new ideas. I will never forget asking Eddie Jones, current coach of England Rugby, where he got an idea and his answer was quite revealing: from the Belgium women’s filed hockey team! That is why he is a great coach; he leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of being the best. Frankly great coaches who epitomize coaching excellence innovate, they are open to new ideas and are constantly learning. The coaches who are average imitate, they do what they have always done, and they never risk and try anything new for fear of failure, so they end up failing.

How much time do you devote each day and each week toward your professional development? Joe Vigil PHD, a great coach and mentor does an hour of professional development reading each morning at 5:00 am. He has been coaching for close to 70 years and is now 88 years old! Nort Thornton, one of the greatest swim coaches ever, shares ideas from books we have read and challenge each other’s ideas on training on a periodic basis. He has been coaching for sixty plus years and is in his late seventies. You are never too old or too knowledgeable to stop learning. Keep learning and keep growing.

Never stop learning and challenging yourself to get better. Just about the time you think you have it figured out, some new ideas will arise to challenge you. Stay ahead of the curve, be proactive, do not copy and follow, innovate and lead. Get out of your comfort zone, for me it is mastering technologies that will make me better and more productive. The only way you can do that is continual professional development. Christopher Morley said it best:

“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.”

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