There’s more to great coaching than meets the eye. We see premier sports coaches yelling, pacing the sidelines, or looking silently but intently at a game. We see them sitting with their skating or gymnastic protégé awaiting the scoring at the Olympics. What we don’t see is the behind-the-scenes work, the actual coaching, that has led up to the moments that we do see. That’s why I love Ronald Fried’s book, Corner Men: Great Boxing Trainers. It gives us a window to the behind-the-scenes coaching that made boxing’s great champions.
Here’s what the Joe Louis, the heavyweight champion for twelve consecutive years (1937-1949), said about his coach:
“All that I am as a fighter, a champion, I owe to Jack Blackburn. He was teacher, father, brother, nurse, best pal to me… I won’t forget his confidence in my corner… He never scolded. He spoke so plain like. He was easy to understand because he had a way of showing you your mistakes in his simple way… He didn’t rush me. He didn’t scold me. He didn’t point out my mistakes like a showoff in front of the crowd. So he went downstairs away from them and he put the gloves on with me. That was real teaching.”
What Joe Louis describes rings true even for the coaching that happens at work. It’s the coaching relationship, the coach’s mindset, and the coach’s skills and strategies that creates champions. Consider the following questions, gleaned from boxing’s great corner men, to see where you standout and where you might improve as a coach.