Coaching Know-it-alls

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."
 - John Wooden
No one can argue with the fact John Wooden is a legendary coach who dominated the college basketball scene like no other.  Ten NCAA National Championships in 12 years is a fete that will likely never be matched. Seven consecutive NCAA titles is still an astonishing accomplishment. So, when a coaching great of his stature says, "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts" you better listen up.
"I know" in response to constructive criticism, input or suggestion might as well be "I've stopped listening." This type of response can be disheartening, frustrating and even infuriating. 
I have a stated goal to learn something new every day. In order to achieve this goal there are a few measures I must steadfastly take and adhere to. The first and most important is to define myself as an Eternal Student. This is who I am. It means I am receptive to opportunities to learn.
The next thing I must do is to surround myself with people smarter than I am. It was after my father passed away when I was 18 that I began to truly recognize and appreciate the need for a mentor in my life. It was a lesson hard learned, but everlasting. There is always someone out there who knows more than I do - this is the person I want along side of me, the person to mentor me. 
My third task is to give back.  I am thankful for those who have been mentors to me. To show my appreciation and understanding of their gifts to me, I mentor others in return. This too is a learning experience for me.
I must challenge myself if I am to learn. I must constantly and continually step outside of my comfort zone. Failure is not an option, it is a necessity if I am to really experience growth and learn.  There is nothing so humbling as failure and nothing so liberating as overcoming the past.
The fifth might be related to the third, but is different as well.  I have recognized the need to share the knowledge I have accumulated. So it is a coach, I teach.  This is one of the best learning tools I am aware of. As a coach I am constantly asking players questions about their experiences on the field of play. In the beginning I usually get a regurgitation or my own talking points, but as I teach players to provide extended responses their input becomes more honest and thoughtful. This is when the coach can learn from the players.
Finally, the best coaches are the ones who recognize they do not know it all. They are the ones who actively seek knowledge and ask for help from as wide a variety of sources as possible.  I need to share with, listen to and learn from my coaching peers. This might be similar to having someone to mentor me, but it is also different.  I learn from all manner of coaches. The good ones and the bad ones alike. I love observing other coaches at work be it in training or in-game. How their practices are designed. How they manage games. How they interact with players. How they interact with officials. And I ask my coaching peers to evaluate me.  I need feedback on what I am doing well and also the areas where I can improve if I am going to be the best coach I can be.
The day I believe I know it all about soccer is the day I need to step away from coaching soccer.

With this in mind I have learned to respond to "I know" more carefully.  I will say, "Of course you do, you just learned the lesson. Now show me what you have learned."  Or "That's great, would you mind sharing your lesson with your teammates?" and allow them to do just that. Lessons are to be learned from. "I know" is recognition of the mistake made. It is taking ownership of the mistake. Now, let's learn from it. So, I ask them to share their experience.  Hopefully what we have learned after we knew it all is a positive everlasting lesson.

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