Mentoring for best results
We don’t always have the answers to what life throws at us and every now and then we all need guidance and encouragement, no matter how successful we become.
It is, therefore, important for us to seek the help of positive people who can challenge us and help us accomplish our goals.
What motivated me to write about this topic – The value of mentoring in sport for amateur/professional athletes and coaches – is that mentoring is an increasingly important element of coaching development programmes.
As we continue to move forward and work toward transforming sport in Barbados and competing at the international level, the urgency to implement and execute a holistic mentoring and development programme for athletes and coaches will be paramount.
A few sporting federations have already adopted and implemented high-performance programmes. However, more structured training regimens across all disciplines need to be adapted to ensure the physical, mental and academic well-being of the athletes and help them develop a vast repertoire of both sport and life skills.
Truly, the best way of developing young athletes and coaches is working with a mentor. The mentoring process enables them to live authentic practical experiences that cannot be acquired solely from books, workshops or seminars. The problem is that there are not a lot of mentors to go around and the question is how do we fix this issue?
As an athlete, amateur coach and professional, mentoring grounded me in many ways, as I have been on both sides of the spectrum. For sure, I have had a number of good coaches (on and off court) who have had the greatest influence on me as a player and professional.
I remembered because they cared for me as a player, as a person, got the best out of me and made me work hard. They exemplified strength, handled their profession with respect, great knowledge and had a clear vision for my skill level from a strategic perspective.
Mentoring is a formal or informal personal development relationship (non-familial and non-romantic), in which a more experienced and/or more knowledgeable person (mentor/coach) purposefully and willingly invests time in a less experienced or less knowledgeable person (mentee/protégé) by helping to support, counsel and guide in pertinent areas (school, work, career, personal and professional development).
Mentoring is an ongoing relationship of learning, dialog, and challenges, which is usually done face-to-face, via phone, and/or an online platform for a sustained period of time.
The overall wellbeing of the athlete is an important concern and making sure that throughout the coaching process the mentees become better players and people inside and outside of sport (acquire valuable hands-on experience and gain insights about the do’s and don’ts of their profession).
The role of the coach is to help develop creative and independent thinking and nourish responsible individuals who can make decisions when they leave and take on the real world.
Incidentally, you cannot eliminate the athlete’s private life. Coaches must pay attention to their health and nutrition, home/family, school and business life. Being aware of and sensitive to athletes’ personal needs and interests can notably enhance their learning experiences and sports performance.
An experienced coach has the ability to make a positive contribution by teaching novice coaches the various tricks of the trade, providing them with assistance in accessing valuable information, making important contacts, and developing effective tools and strategies for improving their coaching style and technique.
Although some coaches may have the desire and motivation required to excel in their profession, it appears they also need a special person with whom they can develop a more personal relationship to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to maximize their potential, despite how much they think they know.
Individuals learn more about self (strengths, weaknesses, areas of improvement), increase confidence and develop sharper listening, interpersonal, communication and presentation skills.
Mentor coaches expand and diversify their learning experiences when working with the mentee as they are often conveyors of new ideas and challenges. It is an opportunity to reflect upon and refine teaching or coaching methods.
• Standardize and structure effective training and educational programmes (learning sources, practicals, presentations, projects) by making available to a greater number of developing athletes and coaches.
• Train more female coaches/mentors to perform as role models and develop young women, as most sporting disciplines are male dominated.
• Mentor athletes at different stages of their development by improving the frequency of engagement, understanding and training.
As athletes/mentees your responsibility is to work hard, learn as much as you can, respect your coaches, have your needs and interests fulfilled by imitating/applying the behaviour learnt from your coaches.
As coaches/mentors, your job is not to change your mentees, but to inspire, evaluate and equip them with the tools they need to improve who they are and their personal circumstances, which in return will hugely build a lasting relationship and transform their lives.
To anyone interested in making a difference, use your expertise and the wisdom of your experiences to create an impact.
• Celia Collymore is a former national basketball representative and founder/project manager of Bajan Fusion-Healthy Lifestyle Event Management Service.