Coachable or Not?


My son Jed, a junior in high school, and my son Clay, an eighth grader, are gearing up for their school basketball seasons. My husband Ben sent them a tweet from Coach Jon Beck that said, “Three types of athletes: uncoachable – do the bare minimum/doesn’t listen or communicate; somewhat coachable – will give some effort/occasionally listens/rarely communicates; completely coachable – never stops working/determined to improve & won’t accept less/great communicator.” This was a great reminder to my boys about how to be coachable and strive for success on the court and in life. We want and expect our kids to be coachable and teachable. But I started wondering, do we reach a point as adults when we become uncoachable?  

In school, in college, and in our early working life, most of us try to gather knowledge and work to master certain concepts. But sometimes, as we mature, we become more “set in our ways,” as the saying goes. We stand firm in our beliefs based on what we’ve been taught combined with our experiences, and we don’t waver. In some ways, that sounds good because we know our own minds and aren’t easily swayed. In other ways, though, this is when we become uncoachable. We do the bare minimum, in that we don’t investigate, analyze, or think critically about what’s going on in the world. We don’t have an open mind to receive new information. We won’t listen to other people’s opinions or their life experiences. 

Our vision can become myopic, worried about what is right in front of us, instead of caring about the wider population and their needs. We can develop an “us against them” mentality and dive into fear and defensiveness. We don’t communicate with anyone except those who believe the same way we do. Our knee-jerk reaction is to reject change without wondering about the reasons for the change or who is asking for it.  

When we become uncoachable, we become closed off to the possibilities that life has more to teach us. That God has more to teach us. In one of the familiar stories in the Bible, the “children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.’” (Matt. 19:13-14 (MSG)). We want our children to soak up knowledge and experience and revel in the delight of learning more about things and people. Maybe God wants us to be like children in that way. To come to God and ask for insight into how God sees the world. To open our hearts and minds and realize that God is constantly at work and wants us to love and care for all of God’s people. To be aware that we don’t know everything and need God’s guidance. 

Perhaps we should realize that being uncoachable is undesirable. Instead, listen and communicate, and attempt to improve our understanding of others. God is always available to coach us in God’s ways. Let us strive to be completely coachable. 

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