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Deflections: Books + Coaching = ?

 

Students used to ask me frequently why reading the prescribed novel for a course was necessary. It was a question that often left me stumped. I could have taken the parental approach and answered, “Because.” But that was inadequate and not really fair.

No, one book wasn’t going to make them smarter. That’s not what reading is supposed to do. Well, certainly not in and of itself. And especially not if your course tells you exactly which book you need to read then parse right down to its base elements.

So when High Performance 1 coaches are asked to read a couple of books on coaching or leadership then review them as part of their written assignment, the resulting queries are inevitable. Is this book good enough? What about the life story of X? Can I use this 45-page compendium of inspiring quotes? How about this manual on the teaching of skating?

It’s a particularly interesting challenge when many of the younger generation of coaches admit they don’t read much, let alone books. So those of us who teach such seminars and need to assess coaches’ work face a bit of a dilemma. Are we forcing coaches into the same corner students had in high school, which is to read an actual book, against what their habits and interests may be? Or are we legitimately raising the expectations bar to develop elite coaches?

I say raise the bar and keep it high. The reading and reviews of two books is not onerous and may never be repeated in that coach’s lifetime. In fact, it may open some doors to coaches who didn’t know there even was a treasure trove of great literature about leadership and coaching, and little of it having to do with hockey.

An elite coach—not just a coach of elite players—never stops learning and explores all avenues to improve their skills and development. Books are merely one means of doing so, which is why I believe it’s a vital component of the HP 1’s final assessment.

Our group leaders at the seminar compiled a lengthy list of appropriate books. Even with that, some coaches inquired about works which weren’t really what the exercise was meant to do. We had to tell them that one should be able to complete a book about coaching or leadership and gain some further understanding about the breadth and depth of their own roles and how they can improve themselves as elite coaches.

The aim isn’t to make elite coaches smarter, no more so than the high school student forced to read a novel. But we don’t know what’s behind closed doors until we open them.

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