Some say, “Variety is the spice of life” – it might also be a key to coaching. Variety not only keeps things interesting it also taps into the various ways our athletes learn. All athletes learn differently: they have their own unique learning style.
Learning styles are different ways of thinking and learning. High school and colleges coaches that understand their athletes’ learning styles and vary his or her style of teaching strategies accordingly, have the best shot at truly impacting all their players.
In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner, psychologist and professor of education at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, proposed his theory of Multiple Intelligences. Gardener believes that there are many ways to show our intellect and he defined 7 original intelligences.
Gardner claims that all people have all intelligences but to varying degrees, such that each person has a unique intellectual make-up. For a coach to optimize their learning environment, they must identify and teach to these various styles with a range of activities that engage all types of learners.
Today, let’s look at one of the seven intelligences – Linguistic or Word Smart. People who are naturally good with writing or speaking and memorization. They learn best by reading, writing, listening and discussing ideas.
Traditional teaching and coaching (telling athletes how to do skills) favor this type of learner. Other strategies to consider include having athletes:
- Read books and articles about your sports techniques and tactics;
- Write down what they’ve learned at practice and games;
- Talk about they’ve learned, or
- Discuss corrections they would make after viewing video tape of their technique or tactics.
Coaches wear many hats – teacher, counselor, administrator, fundraiser etc. A daunting coaching challenge is to balance one’s focus on the big picture of the program with implementing the important daily details. Yet striving for “stress free productivity” is critical for long-term success on and off the playing field.
David Allen’s Getting Things Done is a brilliant system. It works yet it takes some time to get comfortable with implementing it. Here are the 5 phases of Allen’s system.
1. Collect. Capture all the stuff that has your attention. Carry a simple, portable, easy-to-use tool for capture — a small notebook, PDA or small stack of index cards. Keep it simple and make it something you will use. Write down any tasks, ideas, projects, or other information that pop into your head. Get it out of your head and onto paper, so you don’t forget it. At the end of the day put these notes into your desktop inbox for processing.
2. Process. Make quick decisions on the stuff you’ve collected. Process your capture tool (from #1) and all other “inboxes” (email, voicemail, desktop inbox) at least once a day. Look at each item (once) and do it (if it takes 2 minutes or less), trash it, delegate it, file it, or put it on your to-do list or calendar to do later.
3. Organize. Once you’ve processed it – find a place for everything. Put things where they belong, right away, instead of piling them up to sort later. This keeps your desk clear so you can focus on your work.
From your inbox, stuff goes onto a list, into an action folder, or in a file in your filing system, in your outbox if you’re going to delegate it, or in the trash.
Keep this part simple. Create a simple trusted organizing system. Keep simple lists and add sub-categories by action if it helps you: in the office, calls to make, on computer, errands etc.
4. Review. Look at your lists and your calendar each day. Create a customized weekly review to clean up, update, maintain and improve your systems.
Regularly review the bigger picture. Allen provides the following framework and timeframe for reviewing your various priorities:
- Runway Level – current actions (daily)
- 10,000’ Level – current projects (weekly)
- 20,000’ Level – current responsibilities (monthly)
- 30,000’ Level – 1 to 2 year goals (quarterly)
- 40,000’ Level – 3 to 5 year goals (annually)
- 50,000’ Level – career, purpose, lifestyle (annually+)
5. Do. Make choices about what to do in the moment based upon where you are (office, commute, road), how much time you have, how much energy you have and your priorities. Once you decide, focus on the task at hand.
For more on David Allen and Getting Things Done go to www.davidco.com. To download a free copy of his workflow diagram, go to “products”, then to “free articles” and finally to “workflow diagram.
No matter how long we coach, no matter how much we grow as people, some of our athletes will still bug us! I loved it when my athletes became juniors and seniors – they finally knew how best to deal with me. The first few years were often an arduous training process on how to best interact with one another.
I am all about shortening the learning curve whenever possible. In my recent Inside World Class Coaching interview with Cal swim coach Teri McKeever, I discovered a brilliant way to address our pet peeves with our athletes–tell them up front! Coach McKeever is all about effective and efficient relationships with her athletes. In order to avoid the headaches and lost time around reacting to things that drive her crazy, she simply tells her athletes up front what works and doesn’t work for her.
McKeever’s list isn’t right / wrong, good or bad. It just is. She’s been coaching long enough and worked on herself long enough that she simply knows what her pet peeves are AND that they are likely not going to change. So instead of dealing with the frustration of training her swimmers how best to approach her, she simple tells them early on.
“Certain things bother me so it’s best if you learn it now. If you want something from me here are the best ways to get it:”
- Be On Time!
- Help set up the pool
- Be warmed up and ready to go when practice starts.
- Don’t bring up an individual issue right at the beginning of practice.
- If you want an individual meeting, tell me in an email and let me know what it’s about so I can prepare.
Coach McKeever and her assistant also hand out a sheet detailing who handles what. It includes
- Equipment. See assistant coach. Don’t come to me if your paddle broke – see Kristen.
- Scholarship. See me. Don’t go to assistant to talk about your scholarship.
This way the athletes know who to go to for things AND they get to see in black and white that’s a lot more to coaching than just showing up for practice.
Ok coach, your turn. Spend a few minutes writing out your “Pet Peeve” list or your “How to best get along with me list” and share it with your team.
Successful coaches are passionate about mastering their craft – not just the Xʼs and Oʼs of their sport. Sport specific knowledge is important, yet it doesnʼt separate average coaches from great coaches. There are a lot of brilliant people in every sport who canʼt coach a lick.
Great coaches realize that there is so much more to their craft. They study and understand group dynamics, motivation, personal growth, goals, communication and so forth. They love the game, they love learning about the game and this feeds how they teach the game.
Check out this excerpt from a recent article about Jim Caldwell, first year head coach of the Super Bowl bound Indianapolis Colts.
A book-strewn table in Caldwell’s office is testimony to his intellectual energy and insatiable curiosity.
“The Drunkard’s Walk” is one of the titles. It’s physicist Leonard Mlodinow’s plain-speaking examination of probability theory and random events and their impact on human existence, from physics to football.
Another is the Bible. This is the one for which Caldwell reaches first after arriving at the Colts’ Northwestside complex, usually between 5 and 6 a.m. What he reads is grist for meditation during the pre-dawn run that comes next, weather be darned.
“Exalt thyself and be humbled, or humble thyself and be exalted,” he might say in a team meeting a few hours later. Or perhaps, “Talent beats hard work only if talent works hard.”
Said safety Jamie Silva, “I bring a pen and pad into our team meetings and write down the things he says. Somebody could write a book if they followed him around for a while.”
Caldwell’s curiosity didn’t arise with his appointment as an NFL head coach. It was evident throughout the 32-year apprenticeship that brought him to that position.
As an obscure young assistant coach at Southern Illinois, he began writing letters to college head coaches, anyone who did something unusual, especially if they did it unusually well. Caldwell typed his question at the top of a sheet, left space for a scrawled answer and included a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
Bear Bryant answered. So did Tom Osborne, and a legion of others.
Caldwell sought, studied, sorted, absorbed. He came to believe that speed is crucial, particularly at this time of year, when fatigue is prevalent and a step or two can be decisive.
For nearly a third of a century, he took notes on every meeting conducted or talk given by the half-dozen head coaches under whom he worked. The notebooks, about 50 of them, fill a shelf in his office and box on box in a storage facility in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he maintains a home.
No wonder then, Colts defensive Robert Mathis would say: “A first-year head coach just coming in, he’s about the most prepared a guy could ever be. He’s on top of everything.”
That’s a good thing, because his players were watching.
“When you’re dealing with a guy like Tony Dungy, which is the highest of the highs, and then you have a new coach come in, you’ve almost got to have a drop-off,” linebacker Clint Session said. “We did not have a drop-off.”
Source: Phil Richards, IndyStar.com, 1-22-10
I’ve found this same theme in each of the interviews I’ve conducted for Inside World Class Coaching. The five coaches who combined have won over 35 National Titles – time to hit the books!
National Signing Day for football is right around the corner. The airwaves are a buzz with top recruiting class lists and school rankings.
Talent is a given in the recruiting equation. It’s the easiest factor to assess – so most recruiting methods focus on it. But don’t stop there. Your recruiting plan needs to go beyond talent assessment.
Some things to consider:
- Remember that your coaching relationship begins with your first interaction.Clearly articulate your story as a coach and the story of your program.
- Highlight what you have to offer that differentiates you from other programs.
- Be ruthless in finding out what the athlete really wants. Listen carefully – everything they say has value.Let the recruit know up front what it takes to succeed in your program.
- Treat each prospect as an individual and create your own unique relationship with them.
- Recruit the whole family not just the individual athlete. Remember, the apple doesn’t often fall far from the tree.
- Be prepared to answer all the recruit’s questions. For sample questions, check out my earlier post Recruiting – A Sweet Dream or Your biggest Nightmare? Part 2 (JULY 28, 2009)
I am working on a detailed report for coaches to take their recruiting to the next level. Stay tuned! (Pun intended).