As someone with a vested interest in sport coaching and sport development, it continues to amaze me how many of us are not living by the same rules that we demand of the groups we work with. We turn up, we do our work and we go home – but other than that, what are we doing to get better?
As a coach, the power and influence we wield over the athletes we work with is enormous. We become a role model to them, which is a massive responsibility. For this reason, whether we are working directly with athletes or indirectly as part of the administration, I believe we have a moral obligation to continually improve ourselves.
How can we demand something of someone else – to make a conscious effort to improve – that we won’t demand of ourselves?
In a seminal study on expertise, Ericsson (1993) talks about needing 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at something. More than a decade later, we now know two things about this research: 1) 10,000 hours is a myth, but the truth is that a enormous amount of effort over a long period of time is necessary, and 2) practicing anything must be DELIBERATE – breaking down skills and practicing them over and over and over and over until you become better. Just showing up every day and “doing” work will only get us so far.
I have constantly fallen into the trap of drifting along, assuming I am getting better at being a sports development professional and a coach. When you are in this position, you look for evidence to confirm your biases – “Look at how good this player I coached is!” or “Look at the impact I am having on this project!” but the reality is often we are not getting better, we are just getting more comfortable.
The options we have for improving ourselves are amazing. The industry I work in offers plenty of continued professional development (CPD) opportunities, which is great for learning and meeting new people in the same space. The internet provides a plethora of online courses in thousands of subjects, and books have storing knowledge for over 3000 years. To be a top performer, we would ask our athletes to do work away from the pitch / track / court / pool – the same applies to us as coaches and administrators.
Someone asked me recently why I spend so much time reading books on coaching, leadership and personal development, and I could not give them a good, succinct answer. Having given it some thought, the reason is – because I am trying to get better in an industry that demands it of some, but not of others.
If we all tried to be better, imagine how good sport in Scotland would be.
Question: What are YOU doing in your own time to get better at your work?