On The Benefit of Coaches

Atul Gawande looks at why certain professions have coaches like athletes, singers or concert musicians, and more importantly, why some don’t. He goes long on the history of coaching and ends by hiring a coach to help make him a better surgeon, who almost immediately helped make Gawande a better doctor. Here’s why:

Good coaches know how to break down performance into its critical individual components. In sports, coaches focus on mechanics, conditioning, and strategy, and have ways to break each of those down, in turn. The U.C.L.A. basketball coach John Wooden, at the first squad meeting each season, even had his players practice putting their socks on. He demonstrated just how to do it: he carefully rolled each sock over his toes, up his foot, around the heel, and pulled it up snug, then went back to his toes and smoothed out the material along the sock’s length, making sure there were no wrinkles or creases. He had two purposes in doing this. First, wrinkles cause blisters. Blisters cost games. Second, he wanted his players to learn how crucial seemingly trivial details could be. “Details create success” was the creed of a coach who won ten N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championships.

His personal example and another passage about teachers having coaches makes it seem obvious that every profession should have some sort of coach/mentor side to it.

Anyone want to be my blogging coach? I’m taking applications now. [via unlikelywords]

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