Coaches Teach By Keeping It Simple, Thanks Mike Jorden

“Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.” Have you heard the expression? 

I used to chuckle at it. I thought, Ha, that’ll be the day. When I can’t do it anymore. “It” meaning play all-out, compete with the best, throw my body into the fray without a care in the world. Well, that day has come, and I’m not chuckling any more.

Are you with me? Can’t do what you used to? It’s a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it?

But let’s soften this blow. I may not be able to run a 12 second hundred, or a 6 minute mile or execute a bicycle kick any more (okay I never could do that), but I can teach people to do what I used to be able to do in ways they can put their own stamp on it.  And there’s some solace in that. In fact, there’s a lot of hope in that. Because teaching is a noble profession. Passing down to the next generation is an incredible opportunity. And not everybody can do that. Because not everyone makes a good teacher.

Or a good coach. And good coaches don’t just head to pasture. It’s not in their nature. They have spent a career practicing, playing, watching film, studying, re-working, playing again. Competing to be the best version of themselves out on the field. And while doing this, they have boiled the game down into the nuggets, the most important points, the essence of the play. All dedicated players do this. But the ones that step up to claim the name coach figure out how to quantify what they know and how to express it in a simple and straight-forward way. Because a great coach is, at heart, a teacher.

Now a great teacher is hard to come by, but you know one when you meet one. A great teacher is the one who can take something complicated and express it clearly and simply with very few words.

We’ve all fallen prey to the poor teacher – the one who goes on and on and takes forever and a day to get to the point and then elaborates and embellishes and…did you even get to the end of that sentence? See what I mean? Poor teaching. Waste of time.

Young people today, and I love them, don’t bother waiting until you get to the point. You’ve lost them somewhere between “hello” and “so let me re-cap.” They want to know the game plan and what’s expected, in as few words as possible. The best coaches edit down to the basics, then let them play.

I’m reminded of this as I listen to Mike Jorden coach whatever team is currently at hand. He’s a man of few words, but what he says, counts. And generally, it’s a variation on one word: “simple.” Keep it simple. Play the simple pass. Choose the simple option. It’s just a reminder to his players, really, to look for the way he’s taught then to create the game. Mike’s a great teacher; his players respond. No wonder he has been tapped to coach the DC entry into the NWSL, the new US women’s professional soccer league.

Recently I read this, written by Oswald Chambers, a 19th century artist, teacher, and minister,

“The author or speaker from whom you learn the most is not the one who teaches you something you didn’t know before, but the one who helps you take a truth with which you have quietly struggled, give it expression, and speak it clearly and boldly.”

Do you agree? Teaching, or should we say coaching, is not just about helping them learn the skills of the game, it’s about helping your players, your kids, your friends, to take something it was hard to believe they could ever do, and try it on the field. Try it out, their own way, with their own spin and their own flair. Boldly.

It’s that simple.

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