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Having just completed an incredible year long journey through a Masters in Sport Coaching at Leeds Beckett University, I've had some time to reflect on the experience and what I've learned about learning along the way. And yes, there are contradictions because at different times, different responses are needed, just like in coaching:
1. Be realistic
If you’re working around your studies, have a family, or any other commitments, be realistic about the expectations you put on yourself. Appreciate the love and support you have around you and be grateful for it – they’ll be with you on your journey and at times it’ll be tough for all of you. Think about how to structure your time to create opportunities for everything you want do – be that family, work or studying.
2. Be unrealistic
Most of us never actually realise what we’re really capable of. This could be the year you really challenge yourself and surprise yourself with what you can achieve. Get a clear picture in your mind of what you want from this year and just go for it - every word you read and write takes you a step closer. Immerse yourself in the learning process – if you really are determined, you’ll find a way to make it happen. It always seems impossible until it’s done.
3. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Did you really join a Masters course just to confirm what you already knew? Question your own practice. Ask others' opinions and listen, without defending why you've done it that way. Seek out people who challenge you and have an energy for coaching and learning. Get comfortable with not knowing the 'right' answers, because often there isn't one - 'it depends'. The more you learn, the more you realise there’s so much more still to learn… 4. Get to know yourself
Understanding yourself is the glue that sticks everything else together. You can begin to understand things that are engrained in your practice that you perhaps didn’t even realise were there, but in fact underpin your actions and behaviours.
5. Be kind to yourself
Don’t beat yourself up if you stray from your plan – it won’t help. Get back on track and start afresh; focus on what you do next, not what you've just (not) done. Worrying and being annoyed at yourself uses up brain power which could be used much more productively!
6. Give yourself a shake
Stop feeling sorry for yourself thinking about how much you have to do and so little time. Prioritise your time: you’ve got 1440 minutes in a day – how are you going to use them? Think back to why you’re doing this, and how you’ll feel when you’ve accomplished it. It is not enough to want to make the effort and to say we’ll make the effort. We must actually make the effort. And number 7.
7. Just do it
Take action – experiment, implement and iterate at speed. Whatever you’ve read or learned, get working with it in your coaching as quickly as possible. Instead of taking 5 weeks to plan an intervention, much better to fail miserably with an idea first time, go through five iterations in a week resulting in a better idea which has been shaped by player feedback and your observations of it in action. Vision without action is just a dream.
8. Stop just doing
Then stop… stop just doing and create time for deep reflection. Allow yourself space to just think and reflect on what’s happened in your coaching. How are the theories and ideas you’ve encountered in your reading showing up in your coaching? Can they help you understand why something’s working well, or not? This reflective unpacking of your coaching will help you identify transferable strategies you can apply in different situations and contexts.
9. Read, listen, watch and share
Take every opportunity to immerse yourself in coaching - go wide and deep. Read a wide range of sources, and let them take you on a trail into new areas. Listen to podcasts when you’re on the move. Watch other coaches work, with an appreciative eye instead of a critical eye. Look at other sports and other areas: business, leadership, psychology. What similarities and parallels can you see, and what do they do that is completely different, but just possibly could be worth trying in your coaching?
10. Be curious
Don’t just believe everything. Take what you see, hear or read – what does it mean to your coaching or your own development? Does it work or apply in your coaching context? Is it just something that’s always been done, without any real purpose or evidence that it works? Take some advice from your 5 year old self and start asking why. Get curious about just how awesome coaching could actually be!
And finally, enjoy the journey. Be prepared to be challenged and to challenge yourself. Support peers when you can, and listen to the support and guidance of others. Be ready to have ups and downs, and the embrace the challenges which are ultimately developing you as a person as well as a coach.
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