Educating Athletes and the Teacher/Student Dynamic

Last week I wrote about treating my athletes as students, not clients. This creates an instant change in thinking about the coach/athlete relationship. I want to expand on that thinking this week by relating another nugget of wisdom I got from a podcast.

This time the podcast was an interview with Donald Miller on Entrepreneur on Fire. I really recommend that ALL coaches out there listen to this episode – it’s really brilliant. Miller talks about how we need to stop thinking of ourselves as the hero in our business story. The athlete is the hero and we are the leader or teacher of the hero. The example he gave was Obi-Wan and Han Solo. As a coach, we need to be Obi-Wan, not Han Solo. If you business marketing material makes your coaching (or YOU) seem like the hero, you won’t resonate with potential clients unless you want to create a cult of personality.

This mind-set also helps remind us as coaches that we shouldn’t be friends with our athletes. Friendly is not the same as friends. If someone is hiring me as a coach and I am going to be educating and leading that person, I need to be one step ahead and set a good example. Do you think Han Solo saw Obi Wan as someone to call when he wanted to go watch the game at a sports bar (or cantina, haha). NO! He called Luke Skywalker! I’ve seen coaches make this mistake many times. If you just want to be the programming coach I talked about last week, maybe that will work. But if you want to be a guiding force for improvement in your athletes’ lives, you can’t also be just like them. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to be fake. Authenticity is still crucial, but think carefully about what messages you and your business are conveying.