Reading will make us smarter, or so went the mantra of one of my
teachers in a Montreal private school. It came on the heels of our
whining about having to read three novels each summer then return in
September to write book reports on each one.
In addition to the other works we read in class, by the time I graduated, I had read dozens of books, some long, some short, some okay, some wonderful, some absolute yawners. None made me smart, let alone smarter. If that were true, I’d have finished Don Quixote. But what they did manage was to show me how books could expose me to worlds unimaginable otherwise.
This notion carried me into my coaching and still does. As a teacher, I had to slog through curricula and ministry of education documents. Rare was the educational or psychology text that struck a chord. Whatever skills I obtained came from books about coaching or coaches.
For instance, Bobby Orr’s "Orr: My Story" has many points that should resonate with hockey coaches and parents, and not because Orr was Orr. It’s because he’s right. He wrote, “The greatest system any coach can pass along is allowing kids to create and refine skills.” Argue that at your own peril.
Works by Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Coyle, Anders Ericsson, among many others, provide treasure troves of information on what we should do as coaches and leaders in our game. One of the more revealing questions in Hockey Canada’s High Performance assessment requires coaches to read two books about or related to coaching and review them, providing explanations for the choices and why they resonated. It’s like a throwback to my school days, except now I get to see others do it for more precise reasons.
I can’t say how much coaches read these days or if what they read is about coaching. Hockey Canada has tried in its High Performance program to instill in coaches a willingness to improve themselves through self-learning. It’s impossible to say how successful that is, but I do feel that reading related works is vitally important to a coach’s development.
Perhaps I should blame my schooling for making me believe books would actually improve the ability of my mental synapses to fire in the right direction. I revel in my delusions. Yet I still look for gems that might pry open another tiny window into my coaching world. Not long ago I was given "Hockey: It’s All In The Head" by Sylvain Guimond, whose son I coached in junior. Guimond is the sports psychologist of the Montreal Canadiens. While the translated version has some stilted language, it has a plenty of interesting nuggets. I’m on my second reading of it.
Don Quixote will have to wait - again.
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