There is a tribe in the highlands of Papua New Guinea who have never seen modern technology, who could not even imagine using the latest electronic tools, who can not comprehend western society concepts of computing, social media, high speed Internet links, laser technology or satellite navigation.
This tribe, believes that the best way – the only way – the way everyone must adopt to cut down a tree is to make an axe by lashing a sharp rock to a piece of wood. This knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries….this tribe knows for certain that the only way to cut down a tree is to use a hand made stone ax.
And then, one day, through the forest, comes a man from the USA carrying a chain saw…….
And it is the same with all sports!
You want to be a football coach. So what do you do?
You enrol in a football coaching course. You attend a weekend football coaching course. You listen to the football coaching presentations, you read the football coaching books and you do the football coaching practical sessions.
And all of these sessions are presented by football coaches who like you, learnt from other football coaches who learnt from other football coaches who learnt from other football coaches.
There is no doubt a level of sports specific knowledge and information is critical to learn in all sports: you need a certain level of core level or basic knowledge in the sport you are planning to coach.
However, believing that all the solutions to football (or tennis or swimming or hockey etc) problems lie within football limits the potential for progress and is a coaching dead end. Now more than ever, coaching is creativity.
In truth, like the tribe in Papua New Guinea, believing that what your sport knows and what your sport does is the only way of doing things is one step short of insanity and a recipe for coaching mediocrity.
The reason you believe that your sport “sees all and knows all” is that in all likelihood you don’t really know what else is out there – and unless someone comes crashing into your sport with a “chainsaw” of new ideas, information and innovations – it is likely you never will know what else is out there.
Particularly in high performance coaching, where winning means being unique, being different, being the first, being more innovative and more creative than your opposition, copying the ideas of others within your own sport means failure: copying equals losing – the best ideas win!
To think outside the box, you have to first step outside the box: you have to move outside of your sport and look at:
- Coaching in other sports;
- Coaching in other industries which involve teaching, learning, coaching, communication and developing skills;
- Coaching in other fields of endeavour which prize innovation, creativity, uniqueness, achievement and success.
Now, more than ever, Creativity is King! The Internet has made information about your sport available anywhere, anytime, to anyone and for free – everyone is an expert.
You have to assume that now everyone within your sport knows what you know – and that knowledge about your own sport is freely available to other coaches, athletes, parents, administrators, the media and the general public – everyone is an expert.
So, if all your competitors know what you know and have learnt it the same way you learnt it, how will you gain an advantage over them??????
The most important part of thinking outside the box is accepting that other people, other sports, other coaches might know more than you (and your sport) know. It is critical to look outside of the box with an open mind, an inquisitive spirit and a humble soul and to not judge what you see out there from a “that’s not the way we do it” perspective.
I have seen more than one “benchmarking” group from a sport visit other sports but do so with their eyes, ears, hearts and minds closed – wishing only to confirm how much better they are than everyone else. You have to walk away from your “box” and look at new ideas, information and innovations objectively, intelligently and inquisitively.
The secret to coaching success in the future lies in knowing three things:
- “I know as much as I can know about my sport“;
- “I know as much as I can know about other sports and other fields of endeavour“;
- “I know that I must continue to strive to learn as much as I can learn about my sport, other sports and other fields of endeavour if I am to succeed as a coach”.
So, what do you know?