My grandfather is the biggest influence to me, and most of my coaching is problem solving and I have much to thank him. He raised me as a third son and I can honestly say I must give him the credit to all of my greatest accomplishments as a coach. He was an amazing mind and the most patient of teachers. Many times in coaching I would find myself hit with the unexpected or the uncharted and I would channel the lessons of what he taught me as a young boy and young man. He was simply the greatest teacher I have ever had. Here are a couple things that I still use today when things seem a bit overwhelming.
- Write it down and draw a picture- My grandfather was an engineer and he would guide me through solving problems like an equation. Like a physics problem, he would have me illustrate the problem with schematic of what was going on and he would make the process clear and articulate. The visual display made me see the big picture and he would then help add the algebra, trig, and geometry to what was going on. Many times a hard task would look elementary when a Boo Schexnayder like drawing was done and often the problem was solved with some simple math or chemistry. I was so proud of my car at the pinewood derby as it was clear that the parents did the work for the other scouts as they had no clue what graphite did to friction to the wheels or how placing weights properly improved the performance of the car. Even in elementary school I was learning physics without the dumb downed version. He had the knack for making the complicated and hard stuff clear and reduced to the most clever of explanations.
- Be resourceful– My grandfather would create miracles in his basement all the time. He would fix everything and have a part for anything. It was a lab that I would wander down and play with. When he was in the hospital he wanted milk to go with his cookie and the time was like 3 in the morning. We didn’t have access to too much beverage options so he took cream from the coffee bin, a sugar packet, and ice water. It wasn’t rocket science but it was another example of using what he had around him to solve the needs that he had. Something I admire are those coaches with poor resources and get results without complaints. Being creative with the equipment or facilities is often the name of the game. Now that I coach college without a indoor track in the northeast, I will be forced to be creative and resourceful.
- Data Collection- My grandfather would take notes on graph paper with a pen or mechanical pencil with great detail. Often in times of urgency he still would take notes without any panic. One memory that I have is that the heavy rains were starting to put strain on the water pumps in the basement. He took notes and made calculations and calmly took the necessary actions to ensure the basement didn’t flood. It was uncanny how patient and calm he was, as logic and experience will defeat fear any day. His notes on what he did created a pen and paper wiki of his life and that is something I try to work on.
- Read the Research– My grandfather would get Science, and leave little earmarks for me to read every month at an early age. At first I was turned off as it was above my head. After time we would have discussions about things and the simple reading of the research gave me discipline to do the dirty work. My grandfather always said that the expert is someone that just read a few books more than you did.
dI think new coaches need to simply read the research, take good notes, be resourceful, and problem solve. Too many of them look for the person to guide them when the science and experience is in front of them. I think good mentors don’t tell what you need to know but encourage investigations on how to solve problems the right way. Cookbooks and exercise catalogs will only get you so far. Sometimes you have to work hard and suffer a bit before you get to the top of the mountain.