Friday, September 12, 2014

Be Coachable

Last Sunday I started teaching Learn To Skate sessions for WCR, and the following was more or less this session's intro:

Before we get started, the very first thing I want to impart to you is BE COACHABLE. And I'm telling you this really only partly because I want you to make the most of our time together and kick ass at tryouts and show off your strength and your fitness and your skating skills. Being coachable gets you those things, but being coachable itself is a thing that coaches and captains will be looking for at tryouts and throughout your derby career. Being coachable is a thing. It's a thing that would behoove you to be good at, which means it's something that you have to practice, which means it's something that you have to learn. So let's get started with that.

Why don't I just tell you what I think it means to be coachable, first, some basic courtesy things like Be on time. Be prepared and ready to work. Be rested and fed. Don't be hungover.

Be here for what you're here for. You're here to learn. Not to put it too finely, you're not here to teach. I'm here to teach. I know it's a really sweet thing to say, "oh I learn more from my students than they do from me," but let's cut to the chase, if I learn more about skating from you than you do from me, we are doing it wrong and what are you paying me for. Be here to learn! And learning is what, well, listen to the thing, then try to do the thing, and then ask questions. In that order, seriously, and questions are optional. Only if you sincerely have a question and then, of course.

Here's the thing, learning is a vulnerable position to be in, maybe you're aware of that and maybe you're not; so now you can be aware that I'm aware. I'm not aware as a teacher that my students feel vulnerable, I mean I am, but I mean I'm aware as a student myself that I feel vulnerable all the time!

"Dr. BrenĂ© Brown (and Teddy Roosevelt’s) Top 21 Tweet-Tweets", actually this whole slideshow is pretty great and mostly relevant. Via Oprah: Super Soul Sunday.

Being vulnerable is scary, it's uncomfortable, I get it. You will want to protect yourself, you will want to shut the stall door and be like do you mind, I'm in here. But er, you gotta leave the door open. Where shutting the stall door means backtalking, or self-deprecating, or showing off what you already know, or ass-kissing, or squirting out a cloud of ink like a squid, anything that isn't listen to the thing, then try to do the thing. Don't beat yourself up if a little defensiveness slips out, this is a hard thing that you're learning and it takes practice. It's hard for me and I've been practicing hard—I don't mean practicing skating hard, I mean practicing not being defensive—for seven years, and I just slipped up, like, last week. Just catch yourself, and turn yourself back to listening to the thing and trying to do the thing. Listening to the thing and trying to do the thing, and as little else as possible, is a skill like any other that you get by practicing it over and over. And as it happens it's a supremely useful skill for learning other skills, particularly physical skills like skating.

Nice speechy, no?

Lo and behold, the very next morning, Why You May Seem Uncoachable popped up in my facebook feed, like it's actually time-stamped September 7, it might have posted literally at the same time as I was having my little fireside chat above. Not gonna lie, I read that with my cigarette and bourbon... at 7:00 AM, lol... like ::puff:: preach, sister. Zing, right out it went to my recruitskis: I told you, it's a thing that every trainer will look for in you. Okay but, kidding about the cigarette and bourbon, I'm an accentuate the positive kind of gal and almost always want to present the good side of what you want to do vs. the bad side of what you don't, so I detourned her selfsame points just to give a few more positive pegs for you to hang your helmet on. Actually I think she's nicer than I am, there's no appreciable difference to me between an uncoachable person and an apparently uncoachable person.

1. Self evaluate. Look at your strengths and weaknesses—honestly mostly your weaknesses, but don't freak out and think I'm a bad skater, I'm a bad person ahhh! That is ego, in fact you're not any different from any other person learning how to do a thing. A weakness is just a thing to work on. Work on it.

2. Listen to feedback. See above, or here I'll just repeat it to save your eyeballs the upward trip: listen to the thing, then try to do the thing, and as little else as possible.

3. Look like you're listening. I love that she says she doesn't like to make direct eye contact, I don't either for different reasons. I point my ear at my coaches. I wonder if they notice I'm pointing my ear at them. I nod, I repeat back what I heard. Then most important, I try to do what I heard.

4. And I repeat, try to do the thing. Sorry not sorry to sound like a broken record, that's all I got because that's all there is. I actually haven't had too much of skaters asking for modifications, I really only came across it when I was auditioning to be a group fitness instructor for, you know, gen pop. That sounds kind of jerky, but in derby you're competing to be on a select team that needs you to be able to do the things and not so much to be free to do your own thing. Second Wind has been great about this this season, faaack I have sucked at left chip stops all summer and they never let up on us and guess what, last night I felt something click... no wait, those were right chips. Faaack. I can't remember. Something clicked, though.

5. Stay in drills. Here's the thing, I'm also a proponent of taking care of yourself and there may be a perfectly valid reason that you should pull out of a drill and you are the arbiter of your own health. So here's how you do it, you pull yourself out on your own authority. Maybe your skate is laced too tight and you can't feel your foot, maybe your lower back is killing you (and if it is, you need to be using your glutes and hamstrings more and your lower back less), maybe you're just flat-out gassed. Fine, pull out, fix it, recover, and put yourself back in when you're ready.

I see you, I get it, I appreciate that you're taking care of yourself both in the tender loving care sense and the Emersonian self-reliance sense, I fully expect that your muscular endurance and your fitness will improve over the next six weeks and deeply anticipate how gratifying that will be to both of us. No other song and dance is necessary, I have up to twenty-three other skaters to keep an eye on. Put your helmet back on, get back in the drill, I might wink at you for courage, and if a wink doesn't cut it, here's Kidnapped Dogs and How We Get By in Roller Derby that my wifey and il miglior fabbro wrote way back in the day, ever golden.

If you're interested in LTS clinics, give me a shout at tryout (at) windycityrollers (dot) com.