Athlete tips: 13 Ways to be more coachable

  • Identify what makes an athlete coachable or uncoachable
  • TOP 5 benefits for being coachable.
  • Free download of 13 Ways to be More Coachable.

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Note to Coaches: As you’ve probably noticed already, sometimes your athletes need to hear a different voice than yours. Share our coachability checklist with your team to help them keep each other accountable, and achieve high performance.


Sports are filled with mental challenges, many of which we athletes bring upon ourselves. The coach-player dynamic is only one of the multitude of difficulties we face, but at the same time, it is often the most difficult to navigate. Receiving criticism in any area of life is tough – from teachers in the classroom, from the boss on the job, or from family or friends in our personal lives – but being able to graciously receive advice and mentorship is a necessary part of growth. Before I dive into becoming a coachable athlete, allow me to define it.

Characteristics of a coachable athlete

  • Being grateful that someone cares enough about you to push you to improve beyond where you would get on your own.
  • Being vulnerable enough to know you’re not perfect.
  • Being open to honest feedback (even if it hurts).
  • Working to actively change bad habits.

Uncoachable athletes show certain key behaviors. It doesn’t take long for a coach to spot an uncoachable player, and very rarely can a coach make a player coachable. I spoke to a number of coaches trying to sort out which characteristics made an athlete coachable or uncoachable. We found the following characteristics true of uncoachable athletes.

Characteristics of an uncoachable athlete:

  • You tend to roll our eyes or take things personally that you shouldn’t.
  • You can seem ungrateful even to those who help us most.
  • You read into things more deeply than you should.
  • You often believe everything is about you, even someone else’s bad day.

As a former collegiate athlete, I’m guilty of all of the above. While I tried my best to be coachable and to not take things personally, my attitude was (and sometimes still is) something that needed constant attention and required constant mental work.

Becoming more coachable isn’t something that can be achieved with more drills, more reps, or multiple coach-player conferences.Those are external methods of repair that a coach can implement. A player’s coachability is a mentality that requires diligence and attention from the athlete. In other words: coachability is up to the athlete, not the coach.

Uncoachable players do not help themselves or their teams by taking such a hard-headed approach to the game." - Mark Miller, writer, BleacherReport.com in The Most Uncoachable Players in MLB History

Most of the time, athletes don’t even know they’re uncoachable! It can be a shock to find out that it isn’t the coach, it isn’t the team, it isn’t the sport, isn’t the equipment… it’s actually them. Before an athlete can start on the road to becoming more coachable, they first need to understand the benefits of having a coachable mentality.


 Top 5 benefits of being more coachable

  • More playing time (and less drill or bench time).
  • Greater cohesion with the team and/or coaches.
  • Accelerated learning.
  • Deeper and more fulfilling relationships with your coaches.
  • Greater internal calm: Accepting criticism for what it is (INFORMATION) instead of what it isn’t (AN ATTACK) requires a solid internal foundation.

Taking action

Athletes, I encourage you to get together with one or more of your teammates and see what their thoughts are on this list. What would you add to it? What can you expand upon? What are some times you've found it REALLY hard to keep yourself accountable to this list? If you are a more senior athlete, have you felt frustration while mentoring a less experienced player? How did that uncuttable player make you feel?

Tape the list in your locker, post it in the locker room, toss it in your gym bag, share it with others… whatever you need to do to grow and maintain your coachability and to steadily improve your mental skills as an athlete.

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Print  How to Be More Coachable out as a reminder on staying coachable or share with your team and start a discussion! And in the comments below tell me which on the list is your favorite. Are there any you would add?

 

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