When was the last time you changed your mind?
I’m not talking about what you wanted for breakfast, or what TV show you wanted to watch. I mean when was the last time you changed your perspective on a topic?
One thing I’ve realised recently is that I’ve changed my mind on a few things related to coaching. While some might view this as “inconsistent” or “flip-flopping”, I view this as a positive indicator of my growth and progression as a coach. When I was a fresh, know-it-all graduate, I was a fierce advocate of deep squats and Olympic lifting. Since then I’ve softened on my perspective on both of these topics. If the athlete isn’t going to be the next world-class weightlifter, is it really imperative that they squat ass to grass? After all, isn’t the desired outcome simply stronger legs? And witnessing the layoff a rugby player had after fracturing a scaphoid performing a clean (prior to me coaching him!) has made me question the risk-reward ratio of Olympic lifting in this context.
Why do I think this is good to have changed my opinions? Here’s a couple of reasons:
- Overcoming Confirmation bias.
The oxford dictionary defines confirmation bias as “The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.” In the scenario of coaching, this might be a bias towards certain coaching philosophies, methods or drills being superior. The idea being that you cherry-pick evidence to suit your bias. The fact that my mind has been open to consider that I may have been wrong on a topic, suggests that I’ve managed to overcome confirmation bias to some degree. This is key factor in being an effective coach – to use the best methods available, not the ones that fit in with your pre-conceived bias.
2. Assimilating Experience
Clearly, I’ve assimilated some of the experiences I’ve had to cause me to question what is the optimal approach. Rather than relying on the idealism of “theory”, I’ve dealt with real-world situations that require greater levels of adaptability and problem-solving. This has expanded my thought process and skillset, rather than staying within my limited philosophical utopia. A great quote I heard on this topic was “Have you had 20 years of experience, or the same year of experience 20 times?”. Are you actually learning or just repeating the same errors?
3. Leaving Comfort Zones
When you realise that you may have been incorrect on a topic, or it isn’t appropriate in a particular context, this pushes you out of your comfort zone. In the internet age, there are plenty of keyboard warriors, in their ivory towers, spouting their black and white opinions based on possibly little to no experience in your particular context. It’s comfortable to be in the right and to inform everyone else they are incorrect. However, it’s uncomfortable to think “What now?”. Or to admit to an athlete or coach that you simply don’t know the answer. But that discomfort forces you to go away and research and learn some alternative methods you may not have previously considered.
In my opinion, you are either growing or your dying, either moving forward or backward. If you aren’t constantly learning as a coach, you are slowly becoming obsolete. As such, we should be asking ourselves questions, reflecting on our practice regularly and pondering how we can improve our technical knowledge, communication, organisation or interpersonal relationships.
So, once again, I’ll ask you the question, “When was the last time you changed your mind?” If you aren’t sure, maybe it’s time to start asking some difficult questions!
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