Thanking Coaches

Over the years, I have been blessed to have many incredible coaches, whose timing in my life was critical for the lessons I needed to learn.  I have also been blessed with many wonderful students  who have invited me into their lives to help shape their learning curves.  I have even seen the learning cycle go full circle from me being the coach, to the student coaching me in turn (I have also been the student-turned-coach).

I have been reflecting on the past year, and I’d like to share with you some of the typical complaints I hear from coaches (or experience myself).  However, instead of focusing on the complaint, I would like to show you the blessings and opportunities within each of these coaching challenges.

1. Sometimes I can say it until I am blue in the face, then someone else comes in as a guest coach, says the same thing, and everyone says, “Ooh!!!” and “Ah-Ha!” like it is some new revelation.  

I’m guilty of this too (as a student).  However, it is important to consider two aspects of knowledge transfer and learning:

  • First, people learn the lesson when they are primed and ready for that lesson.  People will not grasp, understand, or implement knowledge that is too foreign from their existing understanding of the world.  There needs to be a “hook” already there for the idea to “stick.”
  • Second, sometimes simply hearing it from a second source legitimizes the “regular” coach’s knowledge, which makes it easier to believe.

So if you are a regular coach, be proud that you had set-up your students’ mental models and level of knowledge well enough that they could identify and comprehend that other bit of knowledge from the guest coach.

Similarly, if you find yourself stuck repeating and people aren’t hearing the lesson, bring in a like-minded coach and have them share that same lesson.  People will get it, and you and your students can jump past that particular training hurdle.

2. Guest coaches get the glory, regular coaches get the complaints.

This is a similar issue to the one above, but instead of the lesson being the focus, it is the credit and love.  This is a tough one, and it is about whether or not the regular coach feels appreciated.  Guest coaches are a novelty and (usually) a fun visitor!  They come with a fresh take on the sport, and everyone tends to be on their best behavior.  What’s not to love and enjoy?

In team building, we call this phenomenon the “Forming Phase.”   When the guest coach enters the facility, it moves the existing team of “students and coaches” from the status-quo (which is performing with some occasional hiccups of storming (conflict) and norming (setting new guidelines)) to forming.  The forming phase is much like a first date.  Everyone is on their best behavior, they are polite, and they don’t discuss all their baggage.  However, this new team of guest coach and students can’t reach peak performance because of the superficiality of their relationship.  It is easy to gush about a great first date.  It’s not as easy to gush about a 5 year relationship that has been through it all.

So the lesson here is, enjoy the first dates with the guest coaches.  I know I do!  I love them, and I get some nuggets of gold from them.  But don’t forget to appreciate your regular coaches.  They do get your baggage, but they also get your trust and your loyalty.  I know my students are incredible with ensuring I don’t feel under-appreciated.  I am so incredibly lucky for that!  I hope my regular coaches know how much I love and appreciate their commitment and investments in me too.

3. Students move on and leave.

It can be sad when students move on and leave.  Coaches can wonder if they have failed somehow, if they aren’t good enough, if they did something wrong, all sorts of negative self-reflection.  I’ve had many wonderful students leave (e.g., move to another province for more opportunities/work/life).  It is hard to see your investment in that person move and leave you.   But I, too, have moved away and left coaches.  Sometimes it’s because I’m ready for the next step, sometimes it is because my needs have changed and the coach isn’t meeting those new needs, and sometimes it’s simply because life demands it.

Moving away or moving forward does not diminish the value of lessons I received from those coaches; rather, my progression is a testament to their investment in me.  In that same light, I take pride when those who have moved on from me excel and continue in their growth without me.

So as we close out 2018… reflect & thank!

So as we close out 2018 and prepare for 2019, take a moment and reflect on those who have invested in your development and send them a Thank-You note!!!  Seriously, do that!  As soon as I finish editing and post the blog, I’ll be doing just that!  Chances are they will be there with you in spirit or in-person as you continue your development.

To the coaches out there, many thanks to you for investing in this sport and all our participants!  I know you love seeing your folks grow, and please know that your efforts are appreciated by the agility community!  

Happy New Year!!


Me celebrating a successful sequence with one of my coaches/friends (via videochat).
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