Coaching is discovering

After a few years coaching kids in baseball I realized I had it all wrong.  Coaching has little to do with telling or showing.  It is all about discovery … discovering ways for players to get rid of the obstacle, which keeps them from being the best they can be.  It is also true when teaching communication skills, leadership, personal development, or success training.  Great coaches help individuals and teams get past their barriers.

When I coached baseball I learned that many kids were afraid of the ball.  Trying to tell them how to catch a fly ball was useless.  They were focused on not getting hurt.  Catching the fly ball was not a priority.  After I discovered the obstacle I needed an action step to get rid of the fear.

I showed up with tennis balls.  Not just because the ball is softer, it is, but because tennis balls bounce.  So I sent my team to the outfield with the instruction to catch the ball on first bounce.  Here’s what happened.  They were less afraid of getting hit in the head with a bouncing tennis ball so they were able to focus on the instructions, the process of learning how to catch; proper footwork, glove technique, stay in front of the ball.  These are all skills that will lead to catching a fly ball, and the players, the kids, were learning without the fear of getting hit in the head.  Teaching how to catch a fly ball was now simple.

You can read instructions out of a book.  How to be a leader, how to give a presentation, how to find success, or how to catch a fly ball, but telling, showing, or reading will not move you beyond your obstacles.  Perhaps a coach is required, someone who is not concerned about telling or showing, but more concerned about what holds you back, that’s discovery.  Once the obstacle is discovered we can name it, tame it, and move on.

By the way, sometimes, even after the tennis ball process, some kids did take a ball on the head.  Then we brought out the catcher’s mask … and continued the process.

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