“Never miss a free throw; they are free.” I heard my coach’s words as I stood on the line at the end of my high school career. Feet staggered, just about shoulder length apart. The ref threw me the ball. I bent my knees, bounced it three times, down and up and follow through - swish, nothing but net. The ref threw me the ball for the second shot. Down and up and follow through and swish, sunk it again.
I had been playing ball since I was five, played on some of the most elite teams and attended countless summer camps. I loved basketball. In fact, there was nothing I loved more. I started charting workout plans and hanging them in the garage when I was seven. I had one for every day of the week. And I never missed a workout. Weighted jump rope, grapevines, pushups, working the key; I had every detail mapped out. I was driven simply by my love of the game. Not to be the best, not even to win, but because I LOVED it.
In sixth grade, my dad would drop me off at school an hour before school started as he would run to catch the train. I used this time to get in an extra workout. I always started with laps, then sprints, then free throws (strategically placed after sprints so it was realistic to game action) and then worked the key until the buses started to pour in. My routine had grabbed the attention of a few folks; one, in particular, was a coach himself. He asked if I wanted to start training with him, said he was impressed by my drive and saw potential. I was excited for the opportunity and could not wait to start.
I was eager for the challenge and to learn new skills. Had my hubris gotten in the way, I could have told him I did not need the help. But I was captivated by the idea of becoming better. While talent certainly helps (be it brains, athleticism, artistic ability), many would argue that being coachable is more important. We have all heard about coaching but what does a coachable team member look like?
- They are Open and Willing to Learn - Just because you are gifted does not mean that you have it all figured out. Perspective is invaluable and broadening horizons goes a long way. A coachable team member must be open to feedback and a coaching relationship. A one-sided relationship is sure to fail.
- They Demonstrate Humility – Team members with humility are humble and recognize that learning from others is positive and not a knock to their ego. It does not matter how good you are, there is always room to grow.
- They are Self-Aware – Understanding your strengths, weaknesses and blind spots is critical if you want to flourish. Acknowledge your assets as well as your shortcomings and demonstrate a willingness to work on both. Sharing these attributes with your coach will help show that you are self-aware, and coaches can help to draw out your strengths and to smooth weaknesses.
- There is Trust – Trust in the process and trust in your coach is important for a coaching relationship to be successful. If you have doubts about whether or not your coach is right for you, talk it through with someone you can confide in and do not be quick to give up on the relationship. However, not all relationships are meant to work. Seek a second opinion and give it your best shot.
- They have a Positive Attitude and are Team Players – A positive attitude not only affects your outlook, mood and energy but impacts those around you. Be aware of the energy you are putting out and take a few minutes if you need to. Furthermore, coachable team members are likely to identify with mission statements and to be team-oriented.
- They are on Time – This might seem like a simple gesture, but in my book, arriving on time is critical. Being on time shows respect, care, and demonstrates dependability.
- They are Driven and Love What They Do – Coachable team members are driven, want to grow and are genuine.
With two years of coaching under my belt, I really started to shine as I was entering freshman year. My coach asked if I wanted to demonstrate my one-handed stroke shot to a summer camp with young athletes. While I was talented, I was quiet, reserved and wanted the attention to be on anyone but me.
I agreed to go, not for me, but for him. And so, on one hot summer’s day, I stood in front of 50 campers inside a scorching gymnasium – I still remember how dank and still the air was. Today, my challenge was to shoot as many one-handed consecutive free throws as I could. My coach introduced me and briefly addressed my mission. I lined up, dribble, dribble, dribble and swish… and again… and again… and again. The campers were silent. I hit 20, 30, 40 shots while onlookers watched in amazement. That day, I sunk 96 one-handed free throws in a row.
I was talented, but what I really was, was coachable. I had a great attitude, was passionate, accepted critiques and I was a team player. My coach invested in me because I was loyal, I listened to him and was open to learning. Because I was coachable, I grew into an athlete who others looked up to. I led winning teams and inspired others to become leaders. Even the best are vulnerable and have room to grow. It’s OK to be coached.
About the Author
Lauren is a client relationship manager focused on providing business advisory and accounting services to franchise clients. Leading with a growth mindset, she empowers her team to make bold moves and own their career.