At Sport and Beyond we spend a lot of time with teachers, sports coaches and leaders. This (a) makes us very fortunate in our working lives; and (b) gives us fantastic insight into what drives high performance in each of these disciplines.
Taking knowledge of content as read, there are four aspects that we see time and time again:
Knowing your people;
Continuous development; and
As a tennis coach, I know my strengths. I know I can motivate the players I work with, enthuse them and deliver high energy sessions. I can put a smile on their faces, and sweat on their brows. However, I also know that I can lack attention to detail, and can sometimes rush through areas that I should be spending more time on. This knowledge ensures that: (a) I can focus my time and energies accordingly; and (b) I know what areas I need to work on.
The same principles apply when it comes to leading my team at Sport and Beyond. Motivating my colleagues, firing them with enthusiasm, keeping energy levels high – I can tick all of those boxes. Ask me to spend a morning planning, looking at spreadsheets and focusing on the vital but (to me) boring detail, and I start coming out in hives….
Knowing your people
Teachers will often say that their job gets easier the further into the academic year they go. Why? Because the students get a better grasp on the subject? Yes that is part of it, but an increased knowledge and understanding of the pupils has a huge impact as well. What works for some kids doesn’t work for others, and the more they learn about the students, the more they can focus and direct their approach accordingly.
The same goes for coaches – think Jessica Ennis and Toni Minchiello; how much does Toni get out of Jess because he knows what buttons to push and how to handle her best, in addition to the technical expertise he can provide?
We spend a lot of time working with senior management and leadership teams, and one of the most rewarding feelings we experience is when the proverbial lightbulb goes on in someone’s head and they say: “So that’s why they react like that when I ask them to do that task……now I know I will approach it in a totally different way.”
Continual development is a big theme in the world of coaching at the moment. Not just through moving up from say Level 3 to Level 4, but continuously looking to reflect, improve and develop. And this is as it should be. As a coach, your job is to help your athletes develop and improve. Your own development can only enhance this.
The same goes for education – the best teachers and leadership teams within schools are always questioning themselves, and never resting on their laurels. Yes that was a good lesson, but how could I have done it better? Yes the school is in a good place, but is there anything we should be doing that could improve it?
A good leader never stands still and pats him or herself on the back. They are always striving to improve and develop. As the saying goes, a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.
The best coaches, teachers and leaders exhibit this trait in spades – the understanding that collaboration is healthy, productive and fun. No one individual, team or organisation can cover all the bases. You can aim higher if you are open to collaboration, can deliver something that is bigger and better, and can learn a huge amount as well.
I wouldn’t have had the experience and insight to write this, without an awful lot of collaboration along the way!