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Coachability, are you coachable?

Having a good coach on your side can make or break you. A skilled coach will make you feel both comfortable and help you obtain that performance edge. Motivating you when you are down, or being critical when necessary; providing a different perspective on complex issues that can use an extra pair of brains. This makes sense, right? Though reality tends to be a bit more complex.
Coaching is a personal skill that requires interaction and a proper connection with the player. This is why coaches can be perceived as father figures and are of vital importance to the team and its chemistry. The job of a coach is to help establish this warm, but goal orientated atmosphere within a competitive environment. But what is often overlooked is that, as with every human interaction, it’s a two way process; 
The coach can have the best intentions and tools available to help you and the team, yet the player needs to properly accept and use these assets to turn them into something positive.

This is where the term “coachability” comes from, or to put it in laymen’s terms, how coachable you are. You can argue that it’s the lousy coach that is the problem, and while this may occasionally be the case, the ground rule of changing any situation is by looking at yourself first. Though it's hard to really look at yourself, it's easier to change something that's within than something or someone else. This is where coachability comes into the picture; the degree in how coachable you are. In essence this comes down to how open you are to criticism from your coach, but also from your peers and fellow players. This also taps into what you actually do with that criticism. Do you reflect it back towards your coach, or do you take it at face value and improve yourself?

how can you make yourself more coachable?

I will try to break down certain aspects and characteristics that have an effect on how coachable you are. The science in this field is still developing, so a lot is still up for debate as to what being coachable actually is, but the importance of being coachable is vital.  

·         Reacting to feedback

o   Willingness to listen to your coach and the feedback he provides and change your actions where needed. Which is the most cited criteria by coaches in describing coachability.

o   The feedback method used by coaches is often to the point, blunt and corrective. This is not intended to protect your feelings, be aware of this.

§  There is often no time to discuss feelings when it comes down to increasing performance in the short run.

§  Being direct, makes the message clear and tangible. But comes with the side effect of being perceived as blunt and aggressive.

§  When you easily angered, anxious or self-conscious, such feedback can be taken too personally. Thus be aware of your emotional state.

·         Trust & respect the coach

o   This might be a no brainer, but it is crucial that you respect and trust your coach. Else you won’t be open to learn, change or even listen to what he has to say.

§  You naturally shut yourself off from people you don’t value and respect. Any feedback from a coach you don't listen to is wasted. Coaching works best when there's a personal yet professional connection and a positive chemistry. This chemistry and the creation of respect is a two way street, so do your best to be an active part in it as well.

·         Mature attitude

o   In a competitive environment it’s not going to be all sunshine and roses. It's often a do or die situation, and you will not always win. Especially when you are striving for the top, and most coaches will know this as well.

§  How you deal with stressful situations and both emotional and mentally challenging situations ultimately rests on you. The coach can help you with it, but in the end you are still the one that dictates how you act.

·         Positivity, towards yourself and others

o   Being a teamplayer and staying positive with your team bolsters your own openness in receiving feedback from them.

§  While a professional relation is required, things like connecting and bonding with your coach and fellow players is just as important to allow for team dynamics and the overall effectiveness. Positivity adds to the experience, whether or not it is a loss or win. Whereas negativity worseness the experience, making it less enjoyable. So please try to cut the salt as much as you can!


If you like this topic, here is a relatively recent research article on the topic of coachability. Favor, J. K. (2011). The relationship between personality traits and coachability in NCAA divisions I and II female softball athletes. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 6(2), 301-314.

Tom VijgenboomComment