12 Things Albert Einstein Taught Me About Coaching

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Albert Einstein was a genius. Sure given that the word “Einstein” is synonymous with “genius” this could be the opening sentence to The Book of the Obvious. But I mean it sincerely: aside from being a brilliant scientist, the man was an incredible philosopher.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it PTSD, let’s suffice it to say that neither I nor the poor guy who taught me 12th grade physics were quite the same after that challenging year.  I never did solve the rate of velocity with which Superman flew to rescue Lois Lane, and I am fairly certain my teacher didn’t need to calculate the rate at which he pounded his head against the blackboard over and over in trying to explain it to me as he experienced it daily.   So while the significance and value of Einstein’s theory of relativity and his enormous influence on theoretical physics, quantum theory and the photon theory of light remain as inaccessible to me today as they did then, I do appreciate this brilliant man’s words.

Here are 12 things Albert Einstein taught me about coaching:

  1. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I love this quote so much that it hangs in my dining room. Every child we work with has something that they are good at.   Our job as coaches and teachers is to help them discover and develop that not to repeatedly remind them of what it is that they are unable to do.
  1. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And yet, too often I am guilty of this. If something didn’t work last season or last workout, simply repeating it over and over is probably not the best course of action. You need to change things up to get different results.
  1. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” A Ph.D. in mechanics should not be required to understand you explanation of how to hit a springboard correctly. That is, not if you actually want to teach a child how to do it.
  1. “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”   Athletes will makes mistakes, but so will coaches. It’s part of learning. And we all need to be constantly learning, so logic follows that we all need constantly be making mistakes.
  1. “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” If something matters to you and you going to do something well, pay attention to one thing at a time. You cannot multitask while you teach. Teaching is multitasking enough!
  1. “Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.” Substitute scientist for coach, teacher, whatever. Intellect is nice but it’s character that counts.
  1. “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Instead of focusing on winning or making yourself look like a brilliant teacher, concentrate on the development of your students. The rest will follow.
  1. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We have to change our mindset to change our circumstances. For instance, when we are angry or frustrated with an athlete, we are not going to find a solution to her mental block. Instead we need to think about the good qualities of the athlete in question and see how that changes how we approach the situation.
  1. “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Like most things in life, persistence is the key. Teaching is no different.
  1. “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Smart coaches continually learn and innovate.
  1. I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” Good coaching is not just the imparting of knowledge and the reinforcing of corrections on to an athlete. It is so much more. It involves crafting an environment and a plan in which athletes rise to challenges and discover that they are capable of more than they might have believed they were.
  1. “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Coaching isn’t just about reps or championships, it’s about the stuff you can’t measure or even see: passion and character.