I remember when I first started coaching. I’d always get a little agitated when participants would ask me questions. I suppose it was because I was young for a coach and I thought they were challenging my authority. Or I’d sometimes think they’d not listened to me in the first place.
As I’ve gained experience. Spending a lot of time coaching a variety of people with different abilities. I have come to realise the true power of asking questions. It’s taught me that my style of coaching will never be a one-way system. Both athletes and coaches should ask questions of each other.
Athletes should always feel safe, physically and emotionally to ask a question. If they feel that I will chastise them for asking a question, it’s likely they won’t ask. Coaches need to be great communicators and it’s not always about what is said, but what is heard.
I have come to realise that everyone learns differently. If a boxer asks a question, it’s not because they weren’t listening, it’s that they are confirming what they needed to hear. If they didn’t get it the first time, I then need to adapt and find a way of explaining it in a way that they do understand.
This is when I came to realise the importance of asking the athletes questions.
‘Where does your punch power come from?’
‘Does it? I understand why you might think that. But it actually all starts from your feet, it goes through your hips as you rotate. Then through your shoulder as you turn it, and finishes on your fist’
I have found this opens their minds; I have questioned them. They gave me an answer. I’m not saying they are completely wrong, but they didn’t understand the full picture before.
Questioning not only helps me learn what the boxers are thinking or feeling. But it allows our athletes to explore answers themselves.
On one of the whiteboards in our gym, I have written the quote ‘participants not recipients’. To always remind me that coaching isn’t about ‘telling’, but about opening the athlete’s minds.
As I have dug further into methods of coaching, I have come across the term ‘learning by discovering’. When athletes discover the answers for themselves, it empowers them.
At the end of the day, when a boxer steps into that ring to compete. They are going to have a great amount of problems to face. If all we ever do in the gym is tell them the way. They are never going to have the capability of solving problems on their own. Sometimes we need to ask a question of them. Stand back and let the boxers figure it out themselves.
‘Remember that we don’t coach a sport, we coach people who play a sport. There’s a big difference.’