This fact is unverified but believable: since we have Google, the number of people self-diagnosing any disease has increased. Access to information that one does not have the expertise to verify has been made much easier in recent decades, and I find it hard to believe that many have inferred from an ingrown toenail that he has malaria.
Having all the world’s knowledge in our hands-that is, directly on our cell phones-does not mean we know how to manage and use it. In short, it happens to pick up a detail and magnify or belittle it, sometimes adapting it to one’s own person to the point of inferring that a cold is a clear symptom of a terminal illness. But that’s true for hypochondriacs, and it’s no coincidence that they say that when you feel sick and you go on Google to check, you find out that you died, at least a week ago.
Or you should be, but you are not, fortunately.
Weren’t you supposed to talk about the coach? Sure, and in fact I get there. The coach is the knowledgeable person who has to interpret what you read on Google, just as it is best to have a doctor read your blood test and not conclude from “moved” triglycerides (as some doctors like to say) that you died a week ago, precisely.
In other words, the coach is the person who guides you on a path of improvement, in our case sports.
Indeed, he or she has characteristics that make him or her indispensable, the first of which is competence. From this all else descends.
Indeed, from his competence descend:
– The objectivity with which he observes you, corrects you and helps you improve
– The confidence that inspires in you
– The motivation with which you follow what he tells you and advises you.
But let’s look at these qualities one at a time.
First and foremost, the coach has knowledge of the body, anatomy and sports practice; this is almost a given. You wouldn’t be treated by a doctor who makes it clear that he doesn’t know exactly whether your stomach is on the right or left, would you?
His expertise does not stop with this technical knowledge, not least because what is perhaps more important is psychological. For simplicity’s sake, we will say that a good relationship between the coach and the athlete is based on a conversation, sometimes made up of words but often also of silences. And, like any conversation, it implies that there is mutual respect. A coach’s respect is earned by the improvements of those he or she follows; a coach’s respect is based on the dedication with which he or she puts advice into practice. And what is respect based on? On the following point:
A conversation requires, as mentioned, respect for the parties and can only be based, therefore, on mutual trust: of the coached in the advice and competence of the coach and of the coach in the potential of the person he or she coaches.
This is a key point and relates back to the example we started with, which was meant to say something very simple (I was getting there, you see?): it is difficult to be objective toward oneself and, especially in the sports world, we fail to see ourselves from the outside and detachedly understand what we are doing wrong and what room for improvement we have.
A coach sees you not for what you are but for what you can become.
In other words, he can project your condition into the future time, seeing with good approximation where you can go and what room for evolution you have. Knowing how to do it on your own is virtually impossible, and this is evidenced by the fact that even the best athletes in the world have coaches. Logically, they shouldn’t, should they? They are the best! Instead.
So why shouldn’t you have a coach as well?
Yes, a coach has to inspire you in the sense that he has to give you the motivation to do something and, in the luckiest cases, he has to be able to do it even at the expense of how convinced you are of what he has you doing.
It sounds like nonsense, but the relationship of trust and respect implies a certain suspension of judgment on the part of those being coached. It’s like “to buy it,” meaning “to believe it even if you are not convinced.”
I realize that this is a controversial point because it seems to mean that the coach has total psychological power over those he coaches but that is not the case at all. What is meant is that you have to trust what he or she tells you to do, regardless of whether you understand why or not. Need we specify that, of course, we exclude all those cases where the claims are blatantly delusional or harmful? Those are the bad coaches but we don’t talk about them here, although they exist.
People coached by the best coaches recount that they had the best results when they decided to trust, without resistance (i.e., without questioning the coach’s competence): it is as if they took off the last hold they had on letting go completely, consciously deciding to be guided and executed.
Because it is at those junctures that the potential given by the sum of the strength of the coach and those being coached finally unfolds.
A final observation
This last aspect can be, it was said, controversial. It might suggest that the relationship is one of subalternity, as if it can only work if the coach is free to exercise his power without responsibility.
However, let us see it from another point of view: there is no power that can be exercised unless those who have it are allowed to do so. The coach’s ability to affect the athlete’s preparation is all the more effective the more the athlete recognizes his or her authority to do so. And what is this relationship based on? On trust, exactly.
When that is established everything descends accordingly, down to relying on his words and advice because you know they are given to achieve improvement and to enable you to develop your potential.
And do you remember where we started from? From the impossibility of being objective toward ourselves.
That’s what a coach can serve you for: to see you from the outside, to correct you and lead you on the road to improvement until you are what you can become.