13 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE COACHES
What habits have the best coaches developed to continuously sharpen their skills? What sources do they look to for inspiration and new information?
I turned to some of the game’s best coaches to request recommendations on effective habits and useful sources of inspiration. Hopefully, the responses will provide a couple of useful tips and ideas that you can apply to your work. And a peek at their bookshelves should turn up some great resources for the rest of us.
Here are the questions I asked:
What routines or habits have you developed to ensure that you learn something new everyday that will enhance your skills/knowledge as a coach?
What resources have you found to be most valuable in expanding your knowledge in the realm of coaching?’
As the responses began to come back, I was blown away. First, I was impressed and thankful that that these in-demand coaches took the time to share their knowledge so openly and thoughtfully. Secondly, there is some serious insight in these answers– their success is no accident.
It’s no surprise that these coaches continue to experience such great success in their respective coaching businesses. They have spent the time and effort to develop habits that keep them in learning mode. They are constantly on the lookout for new resources that might inspire or provide a different perspective. There is no status quo. No standstill. It’s constant learning and improvement.
Enjoy their responses. You should be able to discover a fresh idea and either apply a new habit or be exposed to a new source of inspiration.
And I would love for this to become a growing list of habits utilized by great coaches. Feel free to leave a comment and provide a habit that has helped you continue on your journey towards expertise in the coaching realm.
HABIT #1 CHALLENGE YOURSELF DAILY
DIRECTOR OF INSTRUCTION AT THE MIKE BENDER GOLF ACADEMY & 2009 PGA NATIONAL TEACHER OF THE YEAR
I am not 100% certain that I learn something new everyday, but the experience of working with people of all abilities and walks of life challenges me everyday. With everyone’s goal basically the same (to improve at this great game), instructors should continually look for ways to communicate in a fashion that gets through to each unique student. This is why teaching/coaching is not something you can learn out of a book, but takes years, or a lifetime to get better at.
Getting better at coaching comes from almost every possible angle. The Internet is now an excellent place to listen to what other top coaches are talking about and what their philosophies are. Attending seminars and summits, reading instructional books, and seeking out experts in the similar fields like fitness, biomechanics, audio/video, mental and many others.
If you want to get better you have to stay engaged in all areas. You have to continually ask your self ‘How can I make my programs, facilities and training improve for the sake of the student?’
In many cases coaches can become stagnant, especially in golf, because they get comfortable always doing things the same old way. They do not think out of the box and since the student is basically uneducated as to what a good lesson looks like, the teacher or coach can still fill his book.
In my opinion you should never be satisfied with the job that you are doing, just like your students are rarely satisfied with the level they are playing. Creative coaches don’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel but just find better ways to use it.
HABIT #2 LOOK OUTSIDE OF GOLF FOR INSPIRATION
I have used 4 major resources to constantly evaluate my marketing approach to players and my actual session process.
1. Tim Ferriss’ book “The 4 Hour Work Week” revolutionized how I spend my time. I essentially focus on my core group of active session takers and let them be my top salesmen. I continue to follow his blog at fourhourblog.com.
2. Michael Gerber’s book “The E-Myth” enabled me to think like a businessman. After all, most instructors are independent contractors and I needed help establishing an S Corp to run my business. His methods help organize all your business activities so that you can actually focus on making money.
3. Simon Sinek‘s book “Start With The Why” is probably my favorite book of all time in terms of focusing on what I really want out of life. Your “Why” is why you exist. My why is trying to change the golfing world from relying on a constant source of instruction to a correctly fit set of clubs that do the work for you. I follow him on twitter.com/simonsinek daily.
4. Finally, Joe Navarro’s book “What Every Body is Saying” is a great book for studying your day-to-day interaction with people. He’s a former FBI agent that became an expert in body language. Studying body language and not guessing as to what your player may be thinking helps the session flow more efficiently… and sometimes beats asking them directly. I follow Joe on twitter.com/navarrotells actively.
HABIT #3 ENGAGE IN THE CONVERSATION
For me, the biggest habit I have to ensure I learn something new everyday has come through networking. Through networking, I have found a group of other professionals that I talk to daily about things that are running through my head.
For me, it’s the coaches that are great critical thinkers that help me learn new stuff each day from the constant challenging of the status quo.
The most valuable resources have been from social media. I have learned more, faster through twitter and facebook connection than I ever could have with personal face-to-face meetings. For someone that is open to engaging conversation, you can’t beat social media for increasing your knowledge.
EFFECTIVE HABIT #4 PRACTICE CURIOSITY
I would cite several attitudes that have helped me and hopefully can help other instructors.
1) To truly have an open mind. To be able to listen to opposing or new ideas without becoming defensive or close minded. To give the new ideas a fair hearing and judge them on their merits not on our prejudices.
2) To embrace failure and not have any fear of it. It is through the thorough examination of failure that we see new and better ways of doing things. Failure is our greatest teacher yet is the one we seek hardest to avoid. Success is simply a product of our determination to work through failure.
3) To have or develop a healthy dose of curiosity. Don’t just accept things because someone said they are true. Test them yourself, understand why they work or don’t work, where their strengths and weakness lie.
4) To understand that everyday there are great ideas everywhere around us. We just don’t often see them or aren’t able to recognize them. To do so, we need to understand both the problem we are facing and the solution we are seeking. Great solutions to complex problems do not make the problem more complex; rather they make the difficult problem more easily understood. To paraphrase the late Steve Jobs:
“When people first see a problem, they generally oversimplify both the problem and the solution. Later, when they see the problem is more complex than they first thought, they come up with overly complicated solutions. When they finally get it, they come up with understandable and beautifully simple answers that solve, explain and address complicated issues.”
HABIT #5 ENHANCE THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
I always ask students to give me a lesson and tell me what they think I should be trying to do. Even new golfers have ideas about the swing and playing the game. All learning is based on past experiences and prior knowledge, so we should know what golfers are thinking about.
Read or find research about the brains connection to learning. The brain is the gateway to learning and for approaches to learning to be efficient, they must be using a brain compatible information delivery system.
HABIT #6 ALLOCATE TIME FOR STUDY
Given that I have the opportunity to speak at many conferences, I make it a habit to attend the other programs offered by other presenters as well. Additionally, since I am on a plane each week, I allocate flying time for two tasks – reading or writing. Flights are fantastic learning time as there are minimal distractions!
My two favorite resources are 1) colleagues in the industry, and 2) research/educational materials. Fellow professionals are a great source of applied information that they have often field-tested – – and they are more than willing to share their findings.
I also seek out the most current research / texts being referenced in the academic world, as those of us in the applied world can benefit greatly by researchers who have the time, expertise and desire to scientifically study the principles that we regularly apply with our students!
HABIT #7 WRITE IT DOWN
LYNN MARRIOTT & PIA NILSSON
Always having a good book where we learn something about golf, education, performance, or learning. Then write down the main takeaways.
Often ask the questions “What have I learned today”?
HABIT #8 STUDY HOW STUDENTS LEARN
PGA PROFESSIONAL & LECTURER AT ELMWOOD COLLEGE, MOTOR LEARNING & SKILL ACQUISITION EXPERT
I purposely avoid golf instruction articles/DVD’s/books as it is almost always focused on ‘what’ to teach rather than ‘how’ people learn. Instead, I read scientific literature related to skill acquisition every day.
It is my belief that such knowledge provides a basis for determining what types of training activities are likely to lead to skill acquisition, which in turn helps me generate new ideas about how to design effective learning for my students.
Most valuable is having access to peer reviewed academic journals in the areas of sports coaching, pedagogy, skill acquisition, behavior and brain science, expertise and many more. Also the many excellent textbooks, in these fields, that are perhaps more widely available than some journals.
HABIT #9 TEST YOUR SENSES
Tools of technology are a great resource for accuracy of diagnosis, but an over-reliance on this diagnostic serves to dull the sharpness of ones senses. A rust of laziness can grow over your process of deduction/problem solving. Take the time in a coaching session to challenge your senses to do the work (you’re testing yourself at this point) and turn to the technology to validate or clarify the picture.
Here are the titles of documents/papers I’m currently working through on my computer desktop. The subject matter is in constant flow, like blood through the heart, and tends to run in themes. My biggest challenge and a subject of good debate is ‘Knowledge Depth versus Knowledge Width’:
- Participant Development in Sport: Academic Review
- Development of Elite Adolescent Golfers
- Imagery and observational learning and their relationship to sport confidence
- Sporting Success: Role models and participation
- Talent Development and Excellence Journal 2012
- Understanding the mechanisms or shaft deflection in the downswing
- Golfer Attitudes about Instruction
- How to Build Resilience
HABIT #10 TAKE TIME TO REFLECT
We’ve actually conducted research on the sources expert coaches look to for the knowledge necessary to keep them at the forefront. Here are the findings in order of importance:
1. Their experience- they are very reflective, and look to mind the valuable lessons their experiences provide.
2. Their students and athletes- if it ‘works’ with these people, then they are successful, if not then it is time to ‘tweak’ something. Ultimately it is about the success of the student or athlete, so great teachers and coaches use them as an important source of information regarding their teaching/coaching.
3. Peers- who better to understand the challenges and concerns of coaches than other coaches?
4. Read- interestingly, usually they read outside their sport to get new ideas about motivation, communicating, the psychology of learning, drills, coaching strategies, etc. Great coaches have extensive libraries.
5. Workshops/seminars- it is here that they meet with their peers, get to play with new technology, and gather fresh information, especially from speakers outside their field.
HABIT #11 OBSERVE OTHER COACHES
One of my favorite Harvey Penick quotes: “ You learn teaching from teachers—playing from players and coaching from coaches.” Watch coaches in ALL sports to learn how they motivate, encourage, and instruct their students to get the most out of them.
HABIT #12 UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA
Take advantage of the amazing content available through Social Media, YouTube in particular. There are a lot of relevant coaches who are posting educational content on a regular basis.
Look outside the game for inspiration. Engaging in resources such as Success Magazine each month helps keep me focused and operating from the mindset of an entrepreneur!
HABIT #13 CONDUCT YOUR OWN RESEARCH
I would say that I spend at least 5 hours a week reading, watching and researching articles and ideas available through social media feeds. I can honestly say that I have broadened my knowledge base simply by reading and seeking out fresh ideas.
THANKS TO THE FEATURED COACHES FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS!
I chose these coaches because I am a huge fan of each of them. Prior to this post, I had already received so much great information from their books, twitter feeds, or seminars. The fact that they continue to share and contribute so freely speaks volumes about them.
There is of plenty of information in their responses to process and to consider for application in your own coaching. Which of these habits will you apply today? Find at least one that you can begin to develop and start to take action.
Now it’s your turn— Feel free to leave comments below with your own favorite habits.
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