Learners Make the Best Coaches
I’ve been lucky enough to hang around some of the best coaches and teachers in the world. Although their methods and industries vary there is one major similarity that stands out. I’ll explain with four quick stories.
I could go on for days about all the lessons I learned during my time with the Duke basketball team. The one thing that stuck with me the most was the way that Coach K approached each season differently.
Many times when we experience success we feel we’ve discovered a secret formula of sorts and have trouble trying new things or varying from that path.
“This is how we did it when we won it all.”
“This is how we’ve always done it.”
“This is what worked last year.”
This would be easy, and totally understandable, for the winningest coach in NCAA Men’s Basketball history to do. He could feel like he discovered “it” and now it’s just a matter or rinsing and repeating.
He was different.
He approached each season with a new plan, new strategies, and new ideas that were tailored to that team. He would talk about the lessons he learned from the summers working with the USA Men’s team. The way Kobe approached practice, the leadership of Jason Kidd, the tactics of Mike D’antoni, etc, etc…
He was always searching and grasping for new and better ways to do just about anything – NOT sticking to “what worked,” NOT rinsing and repeating, ALWAYS learning.
USA Volleyball Staff
Last April I got to spend a week at the USA Volleyball training facility in Anaheim. Karch Kiraly, Jamie Morrison, and Tom Black were unbelievably nice for having me out and were three of the most brilliant coaches I’ve seen. I took books full of notes (message me and I’ll send them to you) but the one thing that stood out the most was their devotion to learning.
After every single practice that I watched each one would come over for a chat and was absolutely blown away by what they did.
Rather than the typical smalltalk BS you’d expect in this situation: “Hey thanks for coming.” “Where are you staying?” “What do you have going the rest of the day?” “How do you like the cali weather?” “Have you been to In-And-Out yet?”
They sat next to me and asked me questions like: “What did you think of that practice?” “What did you like?” “What do you think we can be doing better?” “What did you see?”
Wow – These were Olympic coaches searching for ways to get better and asking advice from some 28 yr old guy who knows about |—this—| much about volleyball.
That is the epitome of a growth mindset and what it truly means to be a learner.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of people talking the growth mindset talk but very few people actually walk the walk.
It was way cool.
During my last year of college my best friends and I decided to start a sushi restaurant. We had zero restaurant experience, and knew nothing about sushi. It was the best move EVER and it took the three of us on the ride of a lifetime.
The summer after graduation I found myself in one of the best sushi restaurants in LA being trained by celebrity chef, Phillip Yi. Needless to say this was an unreal experience. What I remember most is not the proper technique of washing rice, how to fillet a salmon, or sharpen a knife – it’s the way Phillip approached relationships with everyone around him.
My first night in LA, after working his usual 6am – 11pm day, Phillip took me to one of his favorite places to eat where we sat and talked till 2:30 am.
He asked me questions about my family, my life, and my dreams. We discussed religion, school, happiness, the importance of falling flat on your face, seriously EVERYTHING except sushi. It was absolutely incredible and by the end of the night we had bonded on a much deeper level than teacher and student. We were really, really great friends. And it was all because Phillip chose to take the time to learn.
Over the course of the next few weeks I saw him make a real connection with every single person that came in his restaurant. Always sincere, always questioning, always sharing, always showing them that he cared, always learning.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
By taking the time to actually learn about the people around him, Phillip is able to find the best ways to teach, lead, and serve them. This is what makes him and his restaurant so remarkable.
If you’re ever in LA checkout Sushi Central. Tell them Trevor sent you – it will change your life.
John has been one of my biggest inspirations in all of this. He’s the one that introduced me to motor learning and he’s spent countless hours of his time answering my questions and teaching me what he knows. John is the man.
Last week I spent a couple days down in Colorado Springs with him.
This man is a learning MACHINE and has the sort of curiosity that allows him to find lessons in just about anything. In fact, he had me watch a 2:30 min youtube video of an owl and tied it back to the different mental approaches players have in a game.
This picture can give a better glimpse at how John’s mind works than any words I can write:
We spent an entire day talking and brainstorming about better ways to train athletes, motivate kids, and help create amazing leaders.
At the end of the day he found a DVD about living with cerebral palsy and said we should watch it that night because it would be fascinating.
Coach Kessel is one of the most accomplished people in the sport of volleyball and now I see why. He is always thinking, always challenging, always looking past the world of sports, always learning.
In summary: The best coaches and teachers I’ve ever seen were also the best learners. Weird.
We have a V-Essay on the way that will teach you how to become a learner. It’s going to be great, stay tuned.
Have a great day!