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The King called WHY!

According to a quick google search “OK” is the most spoken word on the planet. Not surprising as it’s a word that is familiar in many languages. But I am very sure that it is not the most important word in the world and for us as coaches, trying to enhance and direct learning it is far too general to rank in our top 10.

For me WHY is the king of everything. Some people teach like HOW or WHAT are the real royalty, the most important, after all midtown 1knowledge is power right? Actually I want to throw WHY in your direction and ask you to think about it.

Reason and context drive our lives, WHY sets the reason for starting a task, for working at a task and for striving for excellence. At 13 years old I picked up a tennis racket for the first time, my reasons included cross training for my then first sport of basketball, enjoying the combative nature of tennis and a rather attractive girl who played at the club, but that is another story. I learned fast thanks to the Bjorn Borg Guide to Tennis, but mostly because I wanted to reach the goals of playing for the first team, beating several of my more sporty friends who’s aptitudes lay in football (soccer) or cricket (a weird sport-like activity played by an even stranger group than the tennis playing public) and of course being competent.

The WHAT and HOW were simply the map, the WHY was the reason I hit thousands of balls against the side of the house. Now fast forward thirty three years and WHY is even more the king than I ever realized at the time. It’s the first question we must ask ourselves as coaches. Why would this young player want to learn this? It is rarely because “I said they must!”, instead we need to create situations and the rewards that motivate a player.
I am always perplexed by the 10 years and 10 thousand hours concept, the 3000 repetitions idea that gets thrown around, because at the heart of all learning is the reason, the WHY! I have seen kids learn a skill in 5 minutes while others labored for months listening to the coach barking commands. At the heart of progress is motivation and at the heart of motivation is WHY!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to really find a way to get kids to understand the benefits of the skills that you want to teach them. To get them to open the door to learning and say come in coach and help me with this, not stand on the other side of the door banging and shouting to let you in because you are the coach and you know your stuff.

WHY can be very different from child to child, with age, gender and tennis orientation all making up part of the motivation recipe, so it is not always easy to find, but without it learning can be slowed to a crawl and frustration can set in for everyone, player, coach parent and friends.

When it comes to learning sometimes just need to understand that it is not what you know but why this kid in front of you would want to learn it! Long live WHY!

Mike Barrell, CEO evolve9.com

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