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Athlete Centered Coach 13 Mentoring: Walking Our Talk

The Subconscious Message


One of the most powerful principles of coaching engages in us, when we walk our own talk. As coaches we want to see growth and improvement. There is a deep subconscious power that lurks under the surface and may not need to be seen or spoken, but players may unconsciously know and feel, that their coach is teachable. When we walk the talk, by by engaging in our own continuing education, people can feel it. The fact that you are reading this, means that you have already tapped into that power. If you have been following the work of USATennisCoach, you will have seen our growth on a personal and professional level.


Classroom, Blah, Blah, Blah


Styrling and I have both been frustrated by the approach taken by many, the classroom approach, where sheeple are gathered in large numbers, to learn from an expert, and all the non-experts listen in and watch something that may not be close to the reality of what happens in that non-expert’s world. The relevance of the teaching and the validity of the learning are lacking in that model. As though we could just drill a hole in someone’s head, poor in some information, and that information will do the trick. The coach attending those events has a lot more work to do if they are going to incorporate that into their program. Of course there can be Q & A, but is there really time to develop understanding in that format? I have asked many questions at conferences, and a fairly significant amount of those times, my question was not understood and answered properly. Which is not the fault of the presenter, it’s a problem of the format.


Our Mindful Approach


Styrling and I are mindful of all of this, as we prepare our materials, we provide templates. We strive for valid and relevant in everything we do. Our materials are scalable and customizable to your needs. We encourage real engagement and follow up conversation. This happened a few weeks ago when I sent out the ‘Hit the Wall’ blog post, which created a stir. We want to stir things up for each other and you.


Outreach, Inreach


We have been really enjoying that fact that you have been reaching out to us, and when we reach out to you, you have responded. Anyone who wants a twenty minute call on any topic and/or simply as a get to know you, feel free. Our time is yours.

Through the ages, teaching, training, apprenticing, and/or mentoring was accomplished one on one, or in small groups. Think of the great philosophers who would travel around and find very small groups of interested learners. Jesus called his twelve disciples, worked much more closely with three, and had about seventy more or less casual disciples around. Jack Black had one on one moments with every important student in School of Rock. The Bill Walsh or Pete Newell coaching trees in Football and Basketball respectively show this same model. With Walsh, people would vie to become a coordinator with him, because studying with him that closely meant being prepared with a complete head coaching skill set. Walsh was not threatened that anyone would take his job, he was actively preparing for the day when those coordinators would leave for their own head coaching jobs, cultivating their replacements. There is much talk about John Wooden, but fewer people know that Pete Newell is one of the most influential people in the history of basketball and had a greater direct impact on coaches and players. Pete taught ALL of basketball, and many hall of fame coaches learned from him, as well as very successful general managers, Newell was well known for being very unselfish with his time, and was 8-0 in his last 8 match ups with John Wooden.


Further Back


But now, let's step back. Walsh learned football from Al Davis, Sid Gilliam and other incredible football minds. Newell and Wooden learned also by standing on the shoulders of their own giants. This model of passing it on directly, and many times over the phone, as people would call Newell, and he would spend a lot of time with Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, and legendary team builder Jerry ‘The Logo’ West, who all say that he was their source of knowledge and inspiration. Today though we have so much more than the phone. Styrling had a FaceTime chat the other day with a coach who had never done that. We call it a breakthrough in efficiency.


A Missing Link


Styrling and I have been talking for a while about how this most powerful form of education, development and training has been missing in the tennis world for years. But when we talk to some of the greatest coaches of all time, many were trained in this way. Bob Brett who has coached many grand slam winners including Boris Becker, sat at the feet of Harry Hopman, after Hopman sent him to watch two other highly successful coaches for a period of weeks. Frank Giampaolo started with Vic Braden. Observing, asking questions, seeing the fine art of incredible coaching, because the most common comments that come from great coaches, is that it’s not about tips, its about listening to the player, observing what they do, and there are so many fine points to becoming a great coach, that teaching every aspect would require a very large book.


When you come for mentoring, you get our undivided attention. You get our powerful and fearless coaching, and you get to decide what you will use and what you don’t want. Just yesterday, I was on the phone with a coach who had a sticky issue, now of course I can only get so much information in 20 minutes, but in applying some general principles, that coach came away with a strategy that he was confident would be effective and manageable providing he gets the cooperation of the players in question.


It’s Happening, Get in On It


I had a coach call me before starting their first ever coaching assignment, so we spent a little time talking about starting with the end in mind. I challenged her to develop the vision for how she wants the program to be remembered in the years after she is gone, because then she could start on day one building it that way. There were some other general principles like the ‘7 Deadly Sins of the The School Tennis Coach’, which was featured in TennisPro Magazine. Those traps to avoid, which are common, because of the errant conventional wisdom that pervades the cookie cutter teaching that is prevalent with some organizations, and on YouTube.


One of my favorite tennis people likes to send me YouTube videos for my approval. So I take a moment, try to look for as much positive stuff as I can. See (The Value of Online Tennis Instruction). Sometimes the video is awful, sometimes its mixed, so we focus on the positive, and occasionally, but not frequently my guy sends me a video that is amazing and I learn a new approach, so by virtue of letting this very new, very green coach expose me to what he gets exposed to, I then also learn.


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