Thursday, 21 May 2009

Being a coach

A wise, experienced and perceptive Vicar told me recently how he had observed that when he stopped forcing his initiatives on people and doing stuff, far more happened, and in a different, more spiritually significant way; more the Coach, less the professional Guardian of the Sacred; more the resourceful friend, less the eccentric drill sergeant.

I’ve had this clip from another blog saved and savoured over the last few weeks. It is fourteen years since I was sent on a tennis coaching course, but I’ve also revisited what I wrote about it then; I would have liked to think it would have had a greater influence on how I behave now.

A slightly overweight colleague claimed to play tennis ‘every other year on holiday’. We watched him put great effort into serving twenty balls. Half a dozen landed in the correct service court. Then, over twenty minutes, he improved nearly threefold. He did this without the coach telling him what to do at any point.

She asked him to describe what he was trying to do as he did it. She asked him to call out ‘bounce’ as his ball hit the ground. She made him explain what he was most aware of as he served. She got him to set a target and then call out how far short of it his ball hit each time.

Qualities of focussed attention were being developed. Awareness of internal and external interferences were increased and tackled. The way in which greater effort simply brought about tension in the wrong muscles was revealed.

She also made an interesting admission. As the coach of small children she had underestimated what they could manage. She had held off from introducing particular techniques. Then, one day, under pressure, she demonstrated these shots. The children simply showed that they could copy them. The only thing which was preventing their learning was the professional who was being paid to teach them.

Meanwhile, I’ve been making signs for several graves at St Michael’s in preparation for a school visit, something I’ve been meaning to do for a little while. I’ve included this early twentieth century grave. For me, it is interesting how the earliest Celtic and Anglo Saxon crosses have been the influence. For them, I expect the interest will be in the snakes.

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