In Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair

I had a conversation with a coach over the weekend who told me a wonderful story about what makes coaches good teachers. He was working with one particular kid in the pool who just didn’t seem to be getting the technique changes that this coach wanted her to make in her strokes. No matter what he said to her, or how he said it, nothing seemed to click. Then the coach remembered that she was “an artsy” kid so he decided to take a risk and say something very different. He told her, “I want you to just paint me a picture with your strokes.”

Based on what the coach and swimmer had been working on, the girl intuitively knew exactly what the coach meant and all of a sudden, she got the stroke correction and her stroke smoothed out and looked perfect. She was able to take the coach’s seemingly vague, off-the-wall sounding instructions and process them through her own brain to make sense of them.

What the coach demonstrated was something that distinguishes great coaches and teachers. He met his athlete at her model of the world. When she wasn’t getting what he was saying, he changed his message and began to speak her language. All too often coaches and teachers have one rigid way of presenting things. When an athlete/student doesn’t get what is being communicated, the coach/teacher may simply repeat it the very same way or, if they do change their message, it is still presented in the same manner. This coach changed his manner of communicating and spoke the language of an artsy kid. He said something that on the surface seemed silly, yet his athlete/student knew exactly what he was saying.

Good coaches/teachers are psychologists in that they take the time to understand each kid that they are working with and with this knowledge, fashion their teaching in a way that best suits that individual. We all have differing learning and communicating styles. Some of us are more visual and need to “see the picture.” Some of us are more auditory and we “really need to hear” what’s being said until it “rings a bell” for us. Others of us are more kinesthetic learners and we need to be able to “feel” what is going on so that we can “get a handle on it.”

The great coach/teacher understands this and takes the time to speak the language of his/her athletes/students. Meet your kids at their model of the world and they will reward you with their learning and growth!


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