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3 Traits of Great Coaches and Teachers

Last week, thanks to our Community of Competitors member, Pete Cunningham and Lancaster Country Day School, I had the great fortune of listening to and chatting with Daniel Coyle.  Coyle is the author of a number of books, with his most well known work being The Talent Code.  If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it or its’ companion, The Little Book of Talent.

In his talk, Coyle detailed the development of talent that has occurred in a variety of places around globe, including a Russian Tennis “Academy,” the development of Brazil as a global soccer power, and musical talent that was grown at a conservatory in New York.  During this talk, Coyle focused on what great coaching, and teaching looked like and in this week’s Community of Competitors Newsletter, I am sharing 3 Characteristics of Great Coaches and Teachers.

  1. Great coaches and teachers are experienced.
Great coaches and teachers have been around the block and have learned from a number of failures.  This is a huge point, the greatest coaches are NOT those that played or competed at the highest level, they are the ones that failed to play at the highest level and were forced to learn, forced to develop their skills, and forced to develop their craft to survive.  Their experience teaches them they need to continue to learn and this is the fuel in their tank, their passion.

  1. Great coaches and teachers are connectors.
These experienced coaches and teachers are able to connect with their players, spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.  Dr. Bhrett McCabe, a renowned Sports Psychologist and founder of the Mindside relayed to me one time about his Hall of Fame College Baseball Coach, Skip Bertman, and his practice of placing his hand on the pitchers shoulder or chest when he came out for a mound visit.  Dr. McCabe noted this physical touch was focused on creating the connection between the coach and the player during this mound visit.  This increased connection and focus also increased retention of what was being discussed.

  1. Great coaches and teachers have the right instruction at the right time.

In this day and age, our focus and attention can be taken in a million different directions and everyone wants immediate results, but this is not what true success is built on.  True success is painstakingly slow and great coaches and teachers provide the right words and encouragement to reinforce this process.  Great coaches and teachers are focused on the praising of effort and progress, not a student or athlete’s ability.  A great coach or teacher provides this praise only when it is EARNED.  This creates an environment where development is valued and each person’s threshold of skill is pushed forward incrementally.

If you are an athlete reading this, you might ask what does this have to do with me?  These pieces have everything to do with you.  While you may not choose your teachers or coaches, you can look for those around you that are experienced and learn from them.  You can look at your coaches and connect with them.  Then, in your own experience with a teacher or coach, pick up on what they are saying each time so you can pull out the instruction they are providing at just the right time, so as a competitor, you can take ownership of your development.

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Fill a Need and you will always be NEEDED.

This post is not an advertisement to shop at Target.
I felt like that needed to be the first line of today’s Community of Competitors Newsletter because this is not about Target making a decision to serve a specific type of customer that enters their doors.  This Community of Competitors Newsletter is about listening to those around you, even the lowest people on the lowest rung of the ladder of your organization.

Caroline’s Cart is a shopping cart that is designed for the parents of children with special needs.  The cart is designed so there is no need for these parents to push a wheelchair and a shopping cart through the store.  Drew Ann Long created the design, when she knew her daughter would outgrow the traditional shopping cart.  Target became aware of Caroline’s Cart when a local Target store employee brought it to the attention of the local store operations team.  Thus it was implemented at the local level and in the month of March 2016, Target expects to have Caroline’s Cart in each of their stores. Story on upworthy.com

I write about this in the Community of Competitors Newsletter because this idea was NOT hatched in some huge corporate boardroom by a bunch of high-level executives, those in the trenches launched it, those with their boots on the ground.  Caroline’s Cart was created by a mother who had a need.  Caroline’s Cart was then introduced to Target by an employee who had a need.

Fill a NEED and you will always be NEEDED.

This is true on every team and in every organization.  See what needs to be completed, what needs to be done and serve an important role.  In my coaching experience, there were countless times that our bench players were able to pick up the signs of the other team.  These players were not starters, but they saw a NEED, filled the NEED, and they were NEEDED.  These players were an essential part of the success of the organization.

In the life of the Competitor, there will be needs there will be problems.  Individuals with the Heart of a Competitor look at the problems as opportunities to find solutions, while those that are losers are stuck in the problem identification stage, refusing to identify a solution.  Great teams find solutions and great individuals fill a need.

Fill a NEED and you will always be NEEDED.

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Responding with GRIT = Winning

Our focus in the month of January for Community of Competitors Newsletter is to set up 2016 for success by focus on our response.  As many of you that have heard me speak know, my first mantra of success is as follows: We have no control over what goes on around us, and we have total control over how we respond.

When the Seahawks took on the Panthers on Sunday, you saw a perfect example of responding.  The first half of the game was plagued with errors and mistakes by the Seahawks that resulted in a half time score of 31-0.  Many people stepped away from this game because they felt the game was over and the score was lopsided.  I decided to continue to watch for one reason, to see how the Seahawks responded.  You see, the Seattle Seahawks and Coach Pete Carroll are one of the most open organizations about their inner workings and approach to player and team sports psychology.  In turn, they are one of the most studied organizations.

It is fascinating to boil down to the deepest levels of sports psychology that Pete Carroll is able to implement within his team.  This past week, there was an article published by ESPN.com outlining the Seahawks “culture of grit.”  (Culture of Grit Article.)  Grit is a term coined and subsequently studied by professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and MacArthur Fellow, Dr. Angela Duckworth.  (You can see her TED Talk here The Key to Success? Grit .)  Basically, “grit” is our ability to pursue long-term goals and is broken down into passion and perseverance.

The Seahawks select players that have passion, not just in the draft, but also in their undrafted free agent signings.  At one point in the 2015-16 season, the Seahawks had more undrafted free agents on their roster (24) than any other team in the NFL.  Sure, everyone wants to hear about Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, but the Seahawks are engineered to have and develop passion and perseverance within their players and throughout their organization.

Here is a quote from Pete Carroll that outlines why they trend toward those players that were not as highly touted as others, “They know they’ve got something to prove. This game isn’t all about talent. So much of it is about your heart and how hard you’re willing to work and how you fight through all of it and the passion that your bring. Those guys, we really appreciate those kind of guys.”

For you, the members of the Community of Competitors, I feel the same way.  You have something to prove.  Your success in life is not always about the talent that you have in your chosen area, but how you choose to respond with perseverance and compete with passion.  In this Community of Competitors, we have business people, teachers, athletes, and coaches and members of all ages and our execution of excellence will determine our success.  The challenge for you is to live everyday with passion and perseverance.  Passion and Perseverance are part of your RESPONSE to what is occurring around you.  As a member of the Community of Competitors you are expected to RESPOND with the Heart of a Competitor.  This is the reason you open this message on a weekly basis and the reason you are being challenged this week to share this message with five people.  (Next week’s message will detail why we focus on five people.)

Let me finish by saying this, developing grit, RESPONDING with the Heart of a Competitor does not mean that you are guaranteed to “win” on the scoreboard.  The Seahawks did not win their game yesterday and they did not win in the Super Bowl last year, however in the Seahawks world these experiences are all based on developing the perseverance and passion that will allow them to pursue improvement over a long-term.  If you do not believe me, just check out how Russell Wilson handles his post-game press conference. (Russell Wilson post-game press conference on NFL.com.)

Live this week with the Heart of a Competitor.

Check out previous posts on RESPONDING:
January 10th – Learning from Dabo Swinney’s Response
January 3rd – Your Response = Your Success