Great Coaches and Doubters

In First Break All the Rules, What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, Marcus Buckingham writes:

It turns out that great teachers say they love being doubted. They cherish those moments. Great teachers instinctively interpret the “doubters” as students, and they see doubting as a sign of an active, inquisitive mind. For great teachers, then, doubting means learning. Conversely, the average teachers say they don’t like to be doubted. Their first point of reference is their own competence, not the students’ learning. Being doubted means having their own competence challenged, and for them, there is nothing worse.

Since coaches are teachers, the same should be true for great coaches. If true, it’s impossible to find a great coach. Coaches tend to be absolutists, interested in doing things their own way, and they do not react positively to questioning. In fact, I met a coach who will not allow a question during practice; players write their questions on a piece of paper during a water break, and the assistants evaluate whether or not it deserves the head coach’s attention.

When I questioned a college coach on a message board over her unwillingness to answer a question during a game because she is “too busy,” many coaches rushed to her defense and agreed. These “coaches” expect college players to ask stupid questions, so they justify a no-question policy, a practice I find unacceptable in an educational capacity.

If coaches are teachers on the hardwood, their acceptance of questions and doubts by their players is a first step toward inspiring learning and thinking on the court, not just rote memorization of the coach’s demands.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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