There are a handful of factors I consider whenever approaching a professional opportunity. One of them is Professional Development. When an employer or manager doesn’t have an established system of development, there is a good chance I’m not going to be interested. At the very least, I am looking for regular evaluations so that I can make the appropriate steps to address my critical areas of improvement. However, in the athletic development coaching industry, these employee development programs are few and far between. Additionally, guided professional development becomes exceedingly difficult when you become a Head Performance Coach or Director and are now responsible for the development of others. Who is left to develop you? Or what if you’re an entrepreneur and run your own business?
Although development systems are great, especially when individualized, I might also look at the prospective coaching staff that I would be joining. Early on in my coaching career, I felt like I made the biggest strides in my professional development when I was working with coaches that were more experienced and simply just better coaches than I was. Having models of coaching excellence to learn from cannot be replaced by an employee development plan. However, there may come a time when you are the best coach on staff and you are the model of excellence that others are learning from. Again, what about you?
Well, I think Busta Rhymes said it best in his late 90’s chart topping hit Gimme Some More.
If I ain’t gonna be part of the greatest,
I gotta be the greatest myself.
When you work somewhere that doesn’t have a development system in place, where you are the best coach on staff, and you lack the opportunity to access a suitable mentor; it is time to take control of your own development. Listen to Busta. After all, he does own a green Lamborghini Murciélago nicknamed “Peppermint”.
Here are 10 ways to become master of your coaching destiny:
Self Reflection: Across the board, all great coaches are constantly evaluating themselves. Much of this happens internally, but you could also have someone take video of some of your training sessions so that you can assess yourself at a later time. The point is to be consciously aware of what is working and what isn’t working, then seek more optimal behaviors.
Circle of Peers: Establish a group of fellow sports performance coaches that you can bounce ideas off of. The key is to make sure each member of your group has their own strength and is willing to offer honest feedback and analysis. A group of coaches that are so like-minded that they agree on everything and are afraid to provide constructive criticism won’t do you much good. Before recently relocating, I was part of a small Mastermind group like this. We met twice each month to talk shop, discuss training and leadership, review industry products, and troubleshoot dilemmas. It was invaluable.
Observation: Take time every few months to remove yourself from your own coaching environment so that you can visit and observe someone else in their facility or gym. Visiting local competitors can be a little tricky, but when handled professionally, most folks realize that sharing amongst coaches is a win-win. Additionally, observing sport coaches during their practices is great to find new ways of organizing and communicating with large groups of athletes.
Literature: Combine a library of classic training and coaching books with industry journals and/or online articles. Make it a priority to read every week. My book and article collection is a point that if I stopped adding to it today, I would still have material to read until I retire. I might not ever get to read all of it, but the process of searching and sifting through literature always leads me to interesting concepts that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
DVDs: For those that don’t enjoy reading, there is a plethora of DVD or video products on performance training. The growing trend is for industry experts to re-purpose live presentations, which typically have poor production value, but the information is readily available nonetheless.
Conferences and Clinics: Not only a chance to get with other coaches and “talk shop”, but the presentations at the NSCA and Perform Better conferences are also an excellent way to see what other people are doing and hear what concepts are being refined. Big events also draw the exhibitors anxious to show you new products. Hard sells are annoying but being aware of new technology and equipment is part of being a great coach.
Mentorships: These aren’t cheap, but being able to spend 5 days with Mike Boyle, Athletes’ Performance, or Vern Gambetta is probably well worth the cost if you can swing it. I haven’t attended any but the Boyle Mentorship is first on my list.
Discussion Forums: For the quick sharing of information, ideas, and opinions with tons of other coaches; you can’t beat online discussion forums. The ability to ask questions that are answered by some leading minds in the industry is completely unique to online forums. Even if you don’t post on the discussion threads, you can get great information from old threads. My favorite forums are on http://www.strengthcoach.com/ (paysite), Supertraining Yahoo Group, http://www.nsca.com/, and http://www.charliefrancis.com/.
Blogs: If you are reading this, then you have already figured this one out. Find a handful of good blogs that you can check throughout the week to stimulate thought or just remind you of stuff you already know. I’ve listed my favorite blogs by category on my Resources Tab.
Podcasts: These are great for commutes or if you want to torture your wife and kids on long road trips. Best of all, they are usually free. Some of my all-time favorite podcasts are interviews with Mark Verstegen, Al Vermeil, Brian Grasso, Loren Seagrave and the stuff Gray Cook does for the Strength Coach Podcast. I also like the Strength and Power Hour internet radio show.