Coaching is an act of service. It may be about accomplishing results but it’s also about increasing an individual or team’s capacity to do even more. When it’s only about results it can quickly turn into managing or even intimidating people ( mainly young people) to get them to do what we want them to do and may even feel we “need” them to do. Empowerment goes out the window, growth stalls and capacity can actually diminish.
In a recent article for Psychology Today, sports psychologist Adam Naylor asks us to reconsider the coaching archetype. As Naylor says, ” So both championship coaches and science know that the demonstrative leader may have a lot of bark, but develops teams with little bite.” He suggests it’s time to appreciate the coach who brings less drama and more wisdom to the process. A coach like the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich.
Popovich describes his style and philosophy in and article on ESPN.COM. He says, “It’s a players game and they’ve got to perform. If they’re holding the ball, they’re holding the ball. I certainly didn’t tell them to hold the ball. Just like if they make five in a row I didn’t do that.”
It’s easy to forget that it’s a “players game ” at every level. No coach, in any youth league game is going to dribble, pass, score or defend. When we try to manage the game or the training to, in effect, take the decisions out of their hands we diminish their capacity to think and develop a feel for the game.
Good instruction and feedback is important at every level and critical for the development of young people. But, instruction and feedback aren’t the same as learning and the goal is to help them ” learn the game” . What I want to remember is that it is how they apply that information to themselves and their situation to reach their potential that matters in the end. That process is what gets us results and builds capacity.
So, while it looks like a completely different world, those of us who work with developing athletes can learn something from the pros. I mean, when I think about it, of course it’s a players’ game. Who else’s could it be?