How to… Be Coachable

Tonight when you watch the Olympics, take a few minutes to observe the coaches. They watch with intensity. They cheer. They instruct. They console. They correct. Their emotional intensity rivals that of the athletes themselves.

Coaches see the big picture. They see what the athletes themselves don’t always see. They break down what needs done and how it needs done into small, manageable steps that will add up for big change over time if done consistently.

Yet, nothing a coach does matters if the athlete fails to open himself to being taught. Being coachable can make a talented athlete great. Being teachable can make an average athlete approach greatness too. Even an initially poor athlete can become good and maybe even great if he is coachable.

What does a coachable athlete look like? What attributes does he possess?

Certainly, a coachable athlete must trust his coach, he must be willing to change and try new things, and he must be have the ability to listen. In addition to these essential elements, a coachable athlete must also possess the following three qualities:

  1. Passion for practicing the basics. Even professional athletes still practice the basics regularly. The basics provide the foundation for greatness in any sport, a foundation on which a coach then builds a great athlete.
  2. Willingness to submit without always understanding why. A coach studies and plans, sees the big picture and usually has more experience than the athlete. For these reasons, an athlete must often submit to a coach’s leadership without at least initially understanding the reasoning.
  3. Humbleness for following directions/instructions without question. Especially during competition, an athlete needs to carry out the coach’s game plan and not question his every decision. Humbleness is necessary to let go of one’s own will and submit to another’s will.

These same attributes or qualities seen in a coachable athlete are also visible in a teachable Christian who, like David, pursues the heart of God.

  1. Passion for practicing the basics means being merciful, kind, humble and gentle. The basics also include forgiveness, love and thankfulness. A passion for the basics also includes living out the words of scripture as well as participating in regular fellowship and worship.  (Colossians 3:12-17)
  2. Willingness to submit to Christ means loving Him above all else and following Him wholeheartedly, regardless of the cost. (Luke 14:25-35)
  3. Humbleness that allows us to let go of our own will and desires and following Christ’s. Doing so means admitting our dependence upon Him. (James 5:7-10)

Being a successful athlete as well as being a Christian who pursues the heart of God takes hard work and perseverance. It takes honing specific qualities and habits even when they seem boring or hard to understand. It means following the instruction of those with more experience and who better understand the bigger picture. Being a successful athlete pursuing Olympic gold or a Christian pursuing the heart of God requires being coachable. Are you coachable?

Related “Olympic” Posts:

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8 thoughts on “How to… Be Coachable

  1. To be both a good athlete and a good Christian require you to work on the basics frequently. You can not be a good athlete by trying to practice a long time on just one day a week. Likewise you cannot be a good Christian employing the same tactic. It takes almost daily work to become adept at what you are trying to be good at. Everyone needs to take breaks at times but we must be consistent doing the basics that will drive where we are going.

    • Consistency is important in every aspect of life. It's almost a guarantee that whatever we do consistently will produce results, so hopefully we are practicing positive habits consistently. We simply cannot allow ourselves to "cheat" in the area of basics. In other words, there needs to be zero tolerance for not doing them. They are so vital to our spiritual, physical and mental health.

  2. Kari you are so on! I have been watching the coaches. When the gymnasts won the team gold one girl gave her medal to the coach. When asked why she said because without him she could never have accomplished what she did. Oh that we would recognize that in our own lives and give God the credit for bringing us through so much and giving us courage and strength, direction and correction so we can reach our ultimate goal. Paul reminds us to keep our eye on the prize! Am getting excited about tomorrow! While it is a little step for some, for me it is a big one! Thanks. Mary

    • I heard about the gymnast giving her medal to her coach. That just emphasizes the points in the post. It's simply not about us. It's always about others, and ultimately always about God. That's the focus we need to "run as if to win the race." I'm excited for you about tomorrow too. I know this is a step outside your comfort zone, but you will be so glad you took a step there.

  3. I was thinking Kari some more about your post here. I was thinking that in order to submit to a coach then you would have wanted to make sure you knew enough about him to be comfortable doing that. That you had done some research to make sure the things he taught and how it taught were either what you needed or that you agreed with. While we do not have to do that in the spiritual area if we are going on God's word we should do that with a coach. Even a spiritual coach should not be followed blindly. Sometimes we may switch coaches to get a different input on how to do things which could be good. I do not think a continual changing of coaches is good because that offers no stability.

    • Relationship is crucial to this process for sure. All relationships require taking chances, especially in the beginning when so much is unknown. Stability is important too, so the goal should definitely be to establish a long-term relationship. Great additional thoughts, Mark!

  4. Humility and a willingness to submit are the keys that stick out to me when I think about it. It's the humility to admit that maybe the way you're currently doing things isn't the best. It's humility to admit that someone else's ideas, although very foreign, may be better than yours.

    • They are certainly keys and also so very hard to do sometimes. In this, I also have come to realize that there is often more than one way to do something and that I don't always have to do something my way. Submitting to a coach often means saying that even though my way would work, I am going to let that go and follow what my coach says.

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