4 Ways to Improve Your Coaching by Learning from the Best Coachable Athletes and Role Models
By Pat Rigsby
This year marked the 20th year since I first entered into the coaching profession as an assistant college baseball coach and head college strength coach.
It’s been a long time, but in many ways, it’s flown right by.
Over that span, I’ve probably thought I knew everything during brief points, and most of the time I probably realized that I knew very little. I’ve also personally interacted with hundreds and hundreds of coaches during that span, from World Series Champions to brand new T-ball coaches, and I’ve noticed that the most successful all had several things in common—one of which is being coachable.
Is that a trait you share?
Being coachable is something that we all want in our athletes, but are we leading by example? The best certainly are.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Be Willing to Do the Dirty Work
We all want our athletes to embrace the dirty work: the conditioning, the mobility work, the corrective stuff, the extra reps. They all are willing to do the “ego” stuff: getting strong on the things that will show well at a combine or impress their friends. They all are happy to do things that will build beach muscles, too, but as a coach, we love the guys who do the dirty work.
For you, the dirty work could be doing what it takes to become a better business owner. It could be working on the areas that you don’t consider strengths. Doing the dirty work is easy to ask others to do but harder to do ourselves.
Be Humble Enough To Learn
Humility is not always the most common trait in successful athletes, so when we come across it, we’re thrilled. Those athletes who can’t quench their thirst for learning and improving are the ones we love to coach. But as much as we love them, that humility is even harder to find among coaches than it is athletes.
Being humble as a coach means that you see learning opportunities everywhere. You seek out people to learn from, and you recognize that every session, practice, or game is a chance for not only your athletes to get better but for you to get better as well.
Delivering Your Best Every Day
There’s nothing better as a coach than to have an athlete who brings their best every day. They train each session like it’s the difference between winning and losing. Every rep is their best rep, whether it’s in the gym, on the practice field, or in a game. They never take a minute off.
But as much as we love that in our athletes, it’s not uncommon to see coaches mailing it in during a session or a practice. Are you preparing for your sessions like they are the difference in your athletes reaching their potential or not? Are you bringing your best levels of focus and energy every day? If you’re asking of your athletes, you should be asking it of yourself.
Putting It into Practice: Real-World Example
If I’ve learned anything during these last 20 years as a coach, it’s that we can always be better. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with a story about one of my coaching mentors, Larry Hisle.
Larry Hisle was an All-Star outfielder for the Minnesota Twins and the Milwaukee Brewers before an injury ended his playing career. The second phase of his professional career was as a coach, where he was the batting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays when they won the World Series in 1992 and 1993.
After Larry stepped away from his role as a batting coach, he found what he considered to be his true calling as the Director of Community Outreach for the Milwaukee Brewers. There, Larry could help at-risk youth in the Milwaukee area, something very close to his heart as he was orphaned as a child himself.
Though you can find glowing praise in various articles online for the work Larry has done with countless children in the Milwaukee community, for him it wasn’t enough.
He felt that he was asking so much of those kids—to do better in school, not to miss class, to be more responsible—that it was only fair if they could ask something of him each time he asked something of them.
Soon after Larry adopted this approach to show his commitment to the children he served, a child asked Larry to become a vegetarian. That was several years ago, and yes, Larry immediately became a vegetarian and hasn’t broken that commitment even once since.
So every time I ask myself if I can do more as a coach, if I’m being coachable, or if I can be more committed, I simply think about Larry and know that I can always do a little more, be a bit more dialed in, and give more to the people I serve.