Coachability – is it a thing?

Should we seek, or create, cricketers who are “coachable”? Can we even agree what we mean by “coachable”?

I came across a fascinating article quoting  Brittney Reese, multiple World and Olympic Champion in the long jump, on the process of becoming a champion.

A story from the 2013 World Championships was especially interesting.  Reese, at that time the reigning World Champion, had only just managed to qualify for the final.

“…my coach told me to ‘stop acting like a girl, and just jump’.

That night I went back, looked at the film and tried to figure out where I was going wrong.”

This was presented as evidence of Reese’s “coachability”, but I’m not sure this really demonstrates “coachability”, not as I understand the term, at least.

My interpretation of Reese’s quote is that it either {a} provides evidence of exceptional long-term athlete development (or simple, innate self awareness) – the coach had helped the athlete become self-reliant, able to accurately analyse her own technical flaws and then implement appropriate modifications in competition, or {b} doesn’t tell the full story (perhaps the coach provided relevant video clips, comparing the qualifying jumps with the “perfected” model from training or earlier competitions, or even helped to identify the technical imperfections).

Are either of the interpretations really evidence of the athlete’s coachability?

I would be looking for a coachable junior athlete to display (or develop) a “growth mindset”, to be inquisitive about the process of athletic improvement, and to be prepared to fail (often) before achieving any degree of mastery.

In a more senior athlete, coachability would be manifest through the ability to self-analyse and then to seek appropriate support – “my run up is too slow, where should I be” or even “my run up feels wrong, what can I do?”.

It’s not really “doing my own thing” (interpretation {a}, above) or “doing what I’m told” (interpretation {b}).

[A third interpretation, that Brittney’s coach had no role other than highlighting a below par performance in qualifying, would seem to downplay the coaching function unrealistically.]

I won’t comment on the coach’s (reported) use of the phrase “like a girl”, beyond observing that I would expect to get sacked if I said it with one of the female cricketers I coach!

The article linked above was first published on the IAAF’s “Spikes” online magazine; I came across it via the International Olympic Committee’s Athlete Learning Gateway (registration required).

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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