In an era dominated by big data, analytics and technology it’s easy to focus on the numbers, to look for the formula or the hack that will guarantee the results we want. Coaching can become more about diagnosis and prescription, and less about exploring potential and possibility.
Counting, measuring, ranking and analyzing give us a sense of control. Drawing conclusions about the data creates the illusion of certainty. But what if the most important thing a coach can do is not to nail things down but open them up? What if the main role of the coach is to bring imagination to the athlete and the process?
The Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue offers a wonderful description of role of imagination in his book Beauty, The Invisible Embrace. “ The imagination offers revelation. It never blasts with information or numbs us with description. It coaxes us into a new situation. As the scene unfolds we find ourselves engaged in its possibilities, and new revelation dawns… the knowing is always emerging.”
So, I can ask myself, am I blasting my athletes with information and numbing them with description or am I offering opportunities for exploration, revelation, coaxing them into new situations? Is the athlete trying to remember my thinking or am I helping them create new thinking for themselves? Am I engaging them in new possibilities or asking them to perfect the same old drills and skills?
We don’t need to give up our measurement or our technology. They can be helpful tools. But we do better when they serve the process instead of guiding it. Let’s play with letting imagination be our guide and enjoy being surprised by what we discover.