Coachability isn’t a word or a trait that we hear very often come up when describing a person, whether it be for a job or a spot on your varsity softball team. What does it even mean? Simply put, rarely do we have all of the tools necessary to be a perfect boxer, engineer, parent, or partner. The ability to take feedback, the ability to be okay with being wrong, having a growth mindset, and the willingness to make changes are the building blocks of making an individual coachable.
For example, in a boxing context, you’ve heard your coach yell at you countless times to “stick and move.” You don’t understand the point. “Why do I need to move out of the way when I need to punch my opponent right there? My hands are up, and that should be good enough.” If only it were that simple. Consider Coach Alex’s experience with learning how to move her feet:
Time and time again, Coach Julia has told me to side-step: Standing right in front of your opponent will make you a sitting duck, and you can’t block every punch! There’s no reason to take all that punishment. That won’t win a match. Move your feet!
I couldn’t understand why I needed to hone this skill. If boxing is both a science and an art, why couldn’t I just perfect being a pocket fighter? Simply put: brawling your way to victory is a short term solution to a long term problem. Sure, this could work against another unseasoned amateur, but what if I’m fighting someone with great footwork? They’ll make me trip all over myself! I’ll get backed into a corner! If they’re moving around after every combination, I won’t even be able to get them in the pocket in the first place!
Another way to think of it is like this: What if I move out of the way after each combination? What if I make them trip all over themselves? What if I back them into a corner? What if I just Do The Thing that my coach told me to do?
After countless rounds of sparring where my directive was simple: “throw a combination, step to the side”, and failing miserably, I finally consciously decided that I would do exactly that was asked of me and take it seriously. When the round started, I threw several punches, moved to the side, and lo and behold, the counter from my opponent didn’t land. They missed. It worked.
Your coaches want to see you progress in your boxing. If they’re telling you over and over again, it’s probably because you weren’t doing it right in the first place or it hasn’t become a habit yet, and that’s okay. It can take time and effort to fully integrate someone’s advice into your daily life. Here are some things to consider to become a more coachable person:
- Enter into training or work with a good attitude. Reframe any “I can’ts” that surface into “I can’t yet, but i’m working on it.” Being unwilling to learn can hinder growth and keep you at the same level. As you explore being coachable, it’s important to go in without negativity and to be open to change.
- Ask questions to clarify and take the time to self-reflect. Being able to self reflect is important in coachability because this feedback lets you know when something worked or if something needs a bit of practice.
- Seek feedback from others and actually change your behavior based on the feedback. If you’re uncomfortable with moving your head in a certain direction, ask a coach or more senior boxer. They can help break it down for you in ways that make sense and make it more likely for you to stick to.
- Take it slow. If you are working on getting a complex 5 punch combination down and get messed up by the third punch, slow it down. By breaking down each move you will succeed in each individual punch then once you get the pieces you will be able to do the whole.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. If something hasn’t clicked yet, it may just need practice and repetition. We are all learning, and it does no good to put the added pressure of instant perfection on your plate as well.
Now that you’ve considered some ways you can become a more coachable person, think about some times where you maybe weren’t so coachable. What went wrong and what could you have done differently? Think about a time where you were coachable. What did you do to grow and succeed with the task at hand? Be sure to check back in with us next week for a coachability challenge.