A few years ago I was pleased to get a call from an athlete who thought her lacrosse coach was wrong. Seems the coach had decided to adjust their weekly schedule to give the players a recovery day and do some team building activities. The athlete was calling because she thought the coach had picked the wrong day and wanted to know what I thought.
I was pleased was because I spend a lot of time working with athletes and clients to help them understand how the dynamics of stress and rest work together to improve health and fitness. In our no pain no gain, bigger is better culture that is often an uphill march. But, she got it and now she was thinking for herself, applying it to her situation and her teammates.
I don’t judge another coach’s strategy or tactics without hearing their thinking. And, if an athlete has a question for the coach then that’s who they need to talk to. So, I listened, asked a few questions and then told the player that it sounded like a great opportunity to have a conversation with her coach. She did and in the end it worked out great. The team had their recovery time, the player was on board and the coach had a chance to share her thinking in a positive way.
When we’re working with people, especially when we’re helping in their development it’s not enough to tell them what to do or how to do it or even why they should do it. It’s essential to help them understand how things work, in this case how stress and recovery work together to produce growth.
When someone understands how things work two things happen. First, they can apply their new learning to themselves in other situations out there in the wild. This player took what she learned in the gym and applied it to her sport and her team. Second, when we understand how something works we can ask better questions and have better conversations. This player could ask her coach a legitimate question, listen to the answer and share her own thinking. It wasn’t a challenge to authority, it was a dialogue; a way of working together and contributing.
People who keep the secret of how something works to themselves are often doing it because they either don’t know or because it gives them power. When we want the best for people, and the team, we want to give it away. The more people know how something works the easier it is to apply it creatively, work together and make things better.