We were doing assessments yesterday; times, distance, height, weight. Lots of numbers. High school lacrosse players starting a new training cycle. Hockey players wrapping up and preparing for tryouts. The hockey players are pumped, measuring their progress and improvement over the last 6 months; taking confidence from their results as they head in to their season. For the lacrosse players its a different experience. The summer season ended almost two months ago and they’ve only been in the gym for a couple of weeks. Scores take a dip when you take a break. That’s OK. Its even a good thing. In a world where we’re constantly being evaluated, graded and compared though, it’s easy to get stuck on the numbers. Rather than seeing them as a snapshot we look at a single measurement as a trend and, if the trend is down something must be wrong.
The industrial metaphor dominates our world these days. We think in terms of inputs, outputs, and efficiency. Heck, even the FOX NFL mascot isn’t a player, it’s a robot. The factory mentality has an impact on the way we see players, and the way we see our role as coaches and even parents. An industrial model is great for producing quality cars and big screen TV’s. Not so great for developing people.
In the short ( 2:00 ) video below Sir Ken Robinson offers a different way of thinking about developing people. Good teachers, he says are like good gardeners. ” A good gardener depends on plants growing under their care – otherwise they’re out of business. Yet, the irony is every farmer and gardener knows you can’t make a plant grow. The plant grows itself. What you do is provide the conditions for growth.”
In his book, The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle notes the same quality in the master coaches he observes, ” Their personality – their core skill circuit – is to be more like farmers: careful, deliberate cultivators of myelin … They possess vast, deep frameworks of knowledge which they apply to the steady, incremental work of growing skill circuits, which they, ultimately, don’t control.”
Maybe that’s the big part of changing the metaphor. In the factory you control the input and the output. When you’re teaching or coaching, you don’t. It’s an act of service, in a long term process where the most important work is done by the players or the student. It requires patience, faith and a different way of seeing the world and ourselves. But hey, as Joseph Campbell said, ” If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.”