Alan Keane

How would you coach differently if you knew you couldn’t lose?
Winning can be fun. It certainly feels better than losing. But the result doesn’t change the way you coach, right?

We’d all like to say that we’re insulated from the judgement of others, but humans are social animals. We care what others think whether we admit it or not.

Coaching is a public spectacle and anyone can see the results of your work.

The question is:

How would you coach differently if you knew you couldn’t lose?

We posed this question to Alan Keane, Head Coach of the Great Britain Under 20 Men basketball national team.

Alan’s answer
I know what I want to say but my gut feeling says, it’s too easy to say I’d coach the same way.

If that was true, then I would have played guys 7-12 on the roster more, 100% of the time been emotionally balanced, mentally never felt any impact from the score. But that wasn’t the case.

I coached this season with compassion, care, listened empathetically, consciously planned connections daily. However, while I put as much emphasis as I could on focusing only on the present moment, the reality is I can’t say I would coach exactly the same.

“I have to remind myself that not everyone has faced adversity”

3 Takeaways

1. There’s more at stake than the result

Us humans are mean-making machines. We are constantly asking, what does this mean for me? What does this situation say about me as a person?

For coaches, the results of competition can cut straight to our coaching identity, our sense of worth as a coach and our confidence.

It’s no wonder that coaches can get so fired up about winning – there’s more at stake than just numbers on a scoreboard.

3. Being a ‘winner’ doesn’t have to be your identity as a coach

How did Alan’s answer resonate with you? If your gut response to the question revealed a difference between how you want to coach and how you actually coach, then you’ve identified a misalignment between your ideals and your delivery.

It happens to us all. Coaches don’t coach in a vacuum, they operate in an environment that affects how they coach. If you’ve ever been in a situation where your values and approach don’t fully match the expectations of the people around you, then you’ll understand this point.

Influencing up and across to people all around you is a critical skill for a coach who wants to be a difference maker.

3. Being a ‘winner’ doesn’t have to be your identity as a coach
It is possible to fully engage in the coaching process, develop players, improve teams and be a difference maker without being defined by winning and losing. Being obsessive about winning doesn’t prove anything to others (expect that maybe you’ve lost perspective on life…) and – rather ironically – can actually undermine the relationships needed with players to enable them to perform at their best.

Reflection Questions

  1. What changes to your coaching are you avoiding because the desired outcome would take longer than you’d like?
  2. What are you preventing yourself from changing within your coaching?
  3. Which areas of your coaching are in maintenance mode? Which areas are in growth mode?

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