Warrior Wisdom and The Coach

Military axioms always seem to make easy bedfellows with sport.  Clearly the parallels are there...us vs. them...good vs. evil...not hard to see is it?

Tsun Tzu the 6th century Chinese General famously penned the phrase

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles;
if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one;
if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

Without going into the myriad of interpretations, the message to me has always been very simple.

...firstly make sure you clearly comprehend your environment and those in it, making regular assessments and adjustments as needed.

...secondly know yourself - what you are and what you do, your strengths, weaknesses, how you respond to stress, your capacity to problem solve etc etc etc.

The first bit is easy and almost intuitive i.e. know your environment. 

The second part (know yourself) takes more insight and courage to truly understand and accept yourself.  Personally, I think this has been my greatest learning over the last ten years.  Figuring out what exactly it is you do well and then developing that skill set and other supporting skills is critical to your professional development. 

I've been lucky enough to formally mentor a number of quality coaches over the last few years and one of my core messages is this

...a healthy ego is critical to success as it will sustain the courage needed to hold strong to your values, however it must be counter balanced by an equal, if not greater serve of humility...nobody can know everything and only an arrogant individual thinks he does. 

Arrogance kills creativity and limits problem solving.  Not to mention careers!

How do you start to know yourself?  Try answering these questions.

List three personal values that define you.
List three personal weaknesses.
List three personal strengths.
List three behaviors in others that make you mad instantly.
Define on the "back of a drink coaster" (i.e. in one paragraph) your coaching philosophy.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

Once you've answered the above questions put them away for a few days and then come back and review them.  Combine them into a single document (not more than a page). 

Are you still happy with it?  Does it describe you?  If not make the required adjustments.  Add more questions if you think it is relevant.

Once you have a something solid in place, refer back it during your work day.  Check off your behaviors against what you wrote.  I know this sounds like psycho-bable BS, but believe me, self awareness is the key to progression, particularly when it comes to leadership.

Understanding yourself will allow you to be more balanced when facing the myriad of interpersonal challenges that rear their heads in pro sport.

How are you going to handle it when the Team Coach ignores your programming advice?  Will you start a fight destined to end in blood shed or will you stage a tactical retreat and prepare an alternative plan?  Neither approach is right or wrong.  Each response is subject to what you perceive as the right play at the time.  Choosing either path will be made easier by knowing more about the situation and those involved. 

Knowing yourself in the first place and then decoding those around you will help you survive in the often fickle professional sports industry.

Good coaching


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