I went to see “The King’s Speech” to be entertained but also got a reminder about the essence of coaching. What Geoffrey Rush does portraying Lionel Logue is what I attempt to do on the training pitch:

Step 1. Ease in gently. Be nice. non-threatening. Funny if possible. Create a collegial  atmosphere of play, friendship and openness.

Step 2. Inject seriousness. Show that you are for real and tolerate no fooling around, because you are committed to the player’s development.

That was all right but I've seen you do better.

Step 3. Reflection and feedback. Say what you see. Contrast with what is possible. Extrapolate your player’s future with both scenarios. Ask the pointed question: what path do you want?

Step 4: Reinforce the positive change with feedback, compliments and recognition. Name names. Get specific. Hone in on a specific moment.

For step two, with the Hammer players, I do not hesitate to confront them. There’s nothing wrong with getting in your player’s grill as long as you maintain an atmosphere of safety. Invade their personal space. Point out an error. Stop the training and get everyone’s attention. Most of my players attend private schools and I think they are treated with kid gloves all day. Getting put on the spot is a new experience for them and fires new synapses.

Adjust this approach depending on the culture of the player’s school and home environment. For example I will be gentler with the parochial school kids because I think they see more harshness in the course of their day, they won’t find it a novelty. My one public school kid, I try to rarely criticize in public.

With Step Three, I relate my feedback to my player’s aspirations, not mine. Almost every player wants to win; tap in to that. If the effort on Wednesday isn’t good enough to win on Saturday, say so. Lionel Logue didn’t have to say much, Bertie knew the importance of his learning to deliver a speech.

It's not about the player and it's not about you. It's about the work.

Believe in your players. To do this, set and hold attainable goals. Contrast their performance not with that of others, but with them at their best. Tell a boy that you’ve seen him do better, and watch him recommit.

If you want to be a coach and you haven’t checked the Positive Coaching Alliance, that is the first thing to do. Pick up a book of Jim Thompson’s and incorporate it into your style, immediately.

Comparing this to The King’s Speech, I did a search on this film and the coaching process, here is one person’s take:

The King’s Speech

Here are some of the things I observed in the movie:

  • The coach and client maintained a relationship of peers or equals in the sessions
  • Lionel never judged King George for his area of weakness nor for the pace of the client’s progress
  • King George set aside protocol and norms and shared personal stories and information with his coach.  By being open and transparent, his coach is able to delve into the core of the issue and work the client to improvement
  • Both parties ended up bringing their whole, authentic beings to the relationship as well as holding heartfelt concern for each other.

I learned a lot about coaching when I went to a course created and taught by Mark Samuel of IMPAQ. This graphic was the key to a lot of my personal growth:

Accountability and safety can, and must, co-exist.

As a coach, the first step is to sincerely care about your player and to enroll him or her into the process. The next is to hold your player accountable, in an environment of safety. Studying the model, you can see that it all starts with “Choice” (at 3 o’clock) : after every outcome, your player must choose whether to recognize or ignore their accountability. Where there is no safety, it can be too painful to accept it, so denial is the way out. With safety, a player has the freedom to accept it, and that is the gateway to learning.

When you commit to supporting your player’s development, you can become part of his change. Whether you realize it or not, this will also change your life as well.

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