As coaches, we can often be found encouraging the athletes that we work with to find every way imaginable to grow and improve themselves within their specific craft.
We dive into their performances and analyze them with a fine-toothed comb, attempting to pick-up every single nuance which could be considered a weakness which must be made a strength or a gap which we feel must be filled.
Within practice and training, we then set-up activities and exercises through which executing within, we require the athlete to constantly pound on their craft and attempt to sharpen their sword.
The athlete may get frustrated…frequently. Yet, we constantly remind them of what it takes to reach their goals and aspirations. Embracing the learner’s mentality is necessary to reaching one’s fullest potential, we say to them, like a broken record.
However, as coaches, are we fully embracing this mindset, approach, and process ourselves?
All too often, we talk to the same old people…think about the same old things…engage in the same old behaviors…and ultimately, rely on embracing the strengths that we possess that we believe have separated us from the pack up to this point.
Though, like movement skill for athletes, the understanding and the art within our craft as coaches (and as trainers, therapists, researchers, etc) is a never-ending endeavor which will never come to full actualization. We are always on this journey of attempting to understand deeper and behave in a way which impacts the athletes we work with to the highest degree imaginable.
So, I would like to implore everyone reading this out there to renew their own sense of a learner’s mentality and attack their craft in the same way that they expect their athletes to. Or, in other words, I am challenging all of us to practice what we preach!
What are some steps that we can each take immediately in doing exactly this?
1. Perform an audit of your craft
Be honest with yourself here! Assess your strengths and weaknesses within your craft from your personal point of view (points #3 and 4 will assist you with this too though). What are you good at? What do you struggle with? What are your biggest areas of potential growth and interest? What do you feel you need to learn more about?
2. Put yourself out there
Tell your athletes that you are trying to improve within your craft! Maybe even ask them directly, “what is that you wish I would do differently?” (or something like this) Maybe you could/should record a few training sessions to really get into the interactions you have with the athletes that you work with to determine some things that you could or should do differently. Overall, this humility and transparency will help to bring you an awareness, as well as potential options of a ripe place to exist, where growth and evolution is sure to be just around the corner.
3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable at your personal challenge point
This probably sounds like a no-brainer…or, at least it should! We expect athletes to come to that place of struggle within the training or practice setting and to wrestle with the challenges which exist there – so why wouldn’t we do the same? Start by talking to people that don’t think the same things as you or believe in the same theories that you do. Consider taking the deep dive down the rabbit hole of concepts that you don’t understand (self-organization or affordances is usually a good place for many to start!). Brainstorm…frequently! Find ways to immerse yourself into learning from others who exist both within your niche as well as far outside of it.
4. Obtain a mentor
I wholeheartedly believe that one of the quickest ways to improve one’s performance as a coach is to find someone who is doing what you are doing (or want to do) and commit to learning alongside of, and/or directly from, this individual. Luckily, I am personally blessed to have a number of individuals close to me who I consider a mentor; in some cases, we co-exist in a shared mentorship with one another. This individual should be there not to tell you what to do or how to do it per se (IMO, you shouldn’t be trying to become a clone of him or her) but instead, to help be a guide in facilitating the next step in your growth and evolution in an individualized fashion.
5. Immerse yourself into a community
No matter who you are, and how strong-willed or driven you may be, you will absolutely need a circle of trusted individuals who you can lean on to bounce ideas off of and to lock arms in learning alongside of. You may think you can do it all alone, but it would be naive to really believe this and strip yourself of the opportunity to take advantage of the tremendous learning which can take place when you lean into the thoughts, ideas, and experiences of others.
Ironically enough, each of the above five applicable calls of action are exactly what forms the crux of the learning endeavor that is known as The Movement Academy (TMA) which we started back in January 2021 here at Emergence. When we designed the highly interactive curriculum for TMA, we knew that this dynamic, complex system that it would become, would only be able to be successful if each of those component parts and processes (outlined above) were where we all elected to live and breathe on a week-by-week basis across the entire six month cohort. You can find out more about this endeavor HERE. If you have any questions whatsoever about TMA, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Whether you consider joining us in TMA or not (or ever purchase any educational material from us), I believe that this reminder I attempted to deliver today, along with the five potential steps for practical application, is still highly applicable to each and every coach and movement professional out there. I pledge to also embrace this each and everyday, for I know, that the only way I can manifest the full embodiment of the individual that I envision myself being for my athletes (and the community as a whole), is to exist in that space and interact with the world in those ways indicated by the steps listed above.
Shawn is the Co-Director of Education & Co-Founder of Emergence. He developed content for the educational brand, Movement Mastery, from 2014 till the formation of Emergence, with the sole purpose of helping to enable a deeper understanding of the processes involved in the acquisition of more masterful movement for athletes in sport. Shawn has served primarily as a Personal Performance Advisor & Movement Skill Acquisition Coach for National Football League (NFL) players since 2008, working with approximately 12 players each year.