As a coaching relationship takes time to develop and continues, there comes a time when the coach simply needs to get out of the way. Legendary men’s basketball coach at Duke University and winner 3 NCAA National Championships, Mike Krzyzewski (Mike is also known as simply “Coach K.”), tells a great story about the need for a coach to get out of the way at key points in the growth of a coachee.
Flickr Photo Credit: SportsAngle.com
Coach K told the following story when he was asked, “How do you help them [his players] see what they have to offer?”
One of the best leaders by far of all time is Shane Battier, who now plays for Memphis. In the first practice of his senior year, the team had finished stretching, and I’m getting ready to talk to them to give them a bit of motivation—just a little 1-minute talk. Before I start, Shane gets them together and he says some things to the team. I said, “That’s pretty good. I don’t think I can top that.” I told Shane after the workout, “That was good. If you want to do that every day, you can.” He said, “I’ll do it every day.” I never again spoke to the team before practice for the rest of that year. 1
Two important parts of this story serve as great examples of when a coach needs to get out of the way of a coachee.
- It was Shane’s senior year. Since it was Shane’s senior year at Duke it means coach K had been Shane’s coach for three years. (Coach K might have even coached Shane for four years up to this point if Shane “red-shirted” his freshman year.) Shane had been well coached and was probably ready to take on more responsibility and leadership as a player.
- Shane was good at what he took initiative to do. If Shane had tried to give a motivational talk and the talk was not good, Coach K would not have allowed Shane to give more motivational talks. Once a coachee has been coached for a significant time and finds something he is good at, then that is the time when the coach steps back and lets the coachee go, which is what Coach K did.
Coach K’s story illustrates the lifetime of work which the Apostle Paul performed, perhaps most eloquently done in the life of Timothy. There came a point in time when Timothy had his chance to lead, to do good and make a difference. When that chance came when the church of Ephesus needed him, he was ready due to the coaching of Paul.
The hope of current Christian leaders is to do ministry much the same way—coaching potential leaders to develop their character and skills as leaders—thus allowing the word of Christ to be honored and spread around the world.
Question: What example of coaching have you observed in your own life?
- Sim B. Sitkin and J. Richard Hackman, “Developing Team Leadership: An Interview with Coach Mike Krzyzewski,” Academy of Management Learning & Education 10, No. 3 (2011), 495. ↩