I’ve recently decided to explore ways to get better at what I do. For those who don’t know me, I coach track and field athletes for an NCAA D2 college. For me, coaching is a professional pursuit and should be approached with intentionality and purpose. To be an effective coach requires a lot things, including education, introspection, organizational skills, to name a few. It’s not all about workouts and physiology.
One aspect of coaching that many times is overlooked is the importance of communication. My job involves many types of communication. I communicate with other coaches, with athletes, with the high school students I am recruiting. Sometimes the communication is verbal, sometimes written. Often it’s non-verbal in the way I stand, or the amount of eye contact I make, my facial expressions, etc..
Through all this I’m finding it can be easy to be critical of others for what is perceived as not doing their job or not following through with what has been communicated. Whether it be an athlete’s poor attitude, or being late to the bus for a competition, my natural disposition is to point fingers and blame others for not meeting an expectation.
I have often attributed ego as a huge obstacle to a person’s ability to get better at their craft. It’s tough to admit when we don’t know something or are in need of assistance. Many times when I’m frustrated with a person’s behavior, my internal response is annoyance or I feel the need to confront them and accuse them of not paying attention. In these instances the phrase “Check your ego” seems appropriate, but whose ego are we talking about?
It would be easy to blame the athlete for their poor attitude or behavior and that wouldn’t be entirely off base. But like I said earlier, I’m looking for ways to get better at what I do.
Instead of placing the blame on others, maybe I need to ask some questions of myself first? Questions like have the expectations I’ve place on others been clearly defined? Am I modeling behaviors that are consistent with these expectations? What steps can I take to develop relationships that foster trust and openness?
When you start asking these types of questions, you find a lot of gaps between your perceptions and reality.
This is what I mean by looking for ways to get better at what I do. It’s easy to say “I’ve done my job, it was the other person who didn’t follow through”. But how does that make me a better coach? If I want to improve I must own the process, learn from my mistakes, admit where I’m lacking. It’s up to me to set my ego aside and do the necessary work. And it starts with being a better communicator.
Of course, this is easier said than done. It’s going to take time. But it can start with being mindful of my words and natural communication style; finding where I fall short and learning new techniques to improve; highlighting my strengths and utilizing them appropriately. It’s going to be a long process, a never ending process if I do it right. But I am up for the challenge.