I observe many things coaches and players do, and it always elicits different questions in me. “Would you do the same? What would you do differently?” This article or series – whatever it may become – is here for me to process this information I observe and summarize it for myself for later use.
In German, a synonym for self-confidence could be translated directly with “self-awareness”. I am aware of myself, how I am existing in this world at this exact moment. I used to struggle with that for a long time, but through therapy, learning to be curious and observing I have improved in that aspect of my personality. Why is this important? Because a coach is there to teach, to inspire and to be reliable. All these things are executed better if you know yourself, what you can do and cannot do. I used to – and still do – on the latter: what I cannot do.
From observing different coaches on different levels in different cultures – though not that many cultures to be honest – I have seen many ways of giving information to players. Being convinced of the message – being confident in its truth – seemed essential to me for the players following along and trying to execute what was being asked of them. I remember Coach A having a very confident aura and being good rhetorically. He always seemed to have an answer to everything and that impressed the players, especially because they were used to low depth of information. After our first meeting I was unsure of his competency though, as I noticed a lack of detail in his concepts, even though it was an exchange between colleagues and there was no need to simplify certain things or leave out possibly complicated aspects of his concepts. But the confidence he was able to transmit blinded me, the players and others. I saw that a certain level of conviction in the message was needed to ignite a spark of “belief” in the listeners. This spark was strong enough to hold up several weeks, if not months even though results turned out to be consistently unsatisfying. Only after some severe defeats the confidence in what Coach A was saying week in, week out, declined. It was then when the lack of depth of his message became apparent to (parts) of the players and staff. This taught me that a certain way of speaking and behaving was useful to gain trust.
But what did this experience teach me for myself? How would I be able to be confident in my own message? Firstly, it was important for me to learn a lot about myself and how my inner systems work with – and also often against – each other. But this is not a therapy blog, so I will skip this part. What I took away from this was that I am a very doubtful person. Towards others as well as to myself. This can be very helpful and has brought me to a path of the pursuit of lifelong learning. It also taught me that I enter any interaction with questions about myself and the people and environment I am interacting with. This is great, because questions can lead to answers (but oftentimes to more questions). These questions and answers then can have the function of making things clearer to me (Clarity is a word used very inflationary in my opinion, ironically this blurs the concepts people talk about wanting to be “clear”). Because I am a skeptic, I know things need to be very clear to myself first, before I am in a confident position to communicate them to others. Personally, I think this aspect of self-doubt coupled with reluctance to speak/take action if I am a 100% sure is present in an above-average magnitude in comparison to other coaches in the world I interact(ed) with.
What exactly did I take away from this self-realization? Preparation. I learned that, in order to have confidence in the information I want to communicate I need to prepare myself well. Ask myself questions players might ask, a concept I think I have heard Gregg Popovich talk about a lot: being able to predict any questions the players might have about certain aspects of the game or exercise. Obviously, this is helpful from a teaching perspective, but it also has a positive effect on me personally, helping me feel more confident in my messages.
I remember one time I got to coach an exercise I had designed myself in a context where I was not the headcoach and also had not coached an exercise for a long time. I was very eager to try the exercise I thought was so brilliant, only to – what I perceived as – massively failing in coaching it properly and making it an exercise that helped the players develop. What had happened? Firstly, I did not prepare as diligently as I used to. I did write the obvious coaching points down, but I did not ask myself long enoughwhat kind of problems could arise and how I could solve them. I was too eager to coach again and I had this mental image of everything going exactly as planned. I was not present in the moment (which was to prepare sufficiently), but I was in the future. It was also an issue of “lack of exercise”, but mostly of not taking my time to be present and think. I ended up overlooking a rule that was important and not having any real way to improve the effect of the exercise other than changing the size of the field, which I was reluctant to do. There are coaches that, at least on the outside, seem to prefer coaching intuitively what they see. Interestingly, if they do it with enough self-confidence, it seems to work and at the least not decrease the effectiveness of the exercise to a significant extent. I am not like that, so I want and have to prepare more than a different coach would. I try to not judge and feel better about myself while preparing to an above-average extent, but it’s hard. In the end what counts is the effectiveness of the exercise though and the aforementioned experience grounded me.
The present moment
I pointed out I was reluctant to change the size of the field. Why was that? I was being observed by somebody from upper management (Person C), a person I did have a couple of negative experiences with. During the exercise I noticed that my thoughts and attention diverted from the exercise to C and what he could think about the exercise. As the game did not go well and it was apparent, I became nervous and more preoccupied of what C would think of me. I was not in the present moment. I was reliving my experiences with C in my head and did not want to seem like a fool. I did not have enough confidence to admit a mistake (size of the field) in front of C, even though thinking back on these moments I was aware the field was too big from the very beginning of the exercise. I thought I had fucked up the exercise and realized I didn’t have confidence in my abilities in that moment. Having not coached for a longer time I did not know how to regulate myself and the exercise appropriately. I ended up thinking A LOT about this experience and it made me think again about how important it is to work on my self-confidence. I had this thought that players who are not confident in the moment need one thing: success. This might mean playing safe and easy passes or maybe practicing penalties after the training session. For me, as a future coach, it should be the same. If I don’t feel confident I should do what I know works. This does not mean I want to never try new things – but if I am not 100% clear of how I can teach information I will not follow through with an exercise until I am.
Self-confidence is something that is very important as a coach and I think that is not a controversial statement. I know for myself now that to feel self-confident I need to
- Prepare well. Anticipate questions, problems and interferences and think about them hard (for example closing your eyes and thinking for 5 minutes. I am sure I have this from lesswrong.combut I don’t know where exactly)
- Be present. Through meditation and therapy I have become better at self-awareness. The next step after having become aware that you’re not present is to bring you “back” into the present moment. Breathing deeply or touching my body is helpful.