Mark Lebedew, my partner on the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project, occasionally (OK, frequently 🙂 ) rebuts certain coaching memes, quotes, and such often shared around social media. In one he took on the idea of the uncoachable athlete. You can see the thread here.

Here’s a quote from Mark’s exchange that I think speaks directly to his primary point.

“Very often what coaches interpret as uncoachable is actually their own inflexibility and inability to communicate.”

We can make a similar point with respect to the concept of mental toughness. To that end, here’s a quote from the book The Brain Always Wins.

“‘I have witnessed many times in high level sport a coach say that a player is not mentally tough and every time that notion has been incorrect. More often than not the player has been placed in a situation where adaption is needed and the brain is seeking more refined stimulation or rest to make the leap to the next level of stress. But due to a lack of knowledge about the brain, pressures to win, and or sociopolitical factors within the organization it’s easier to move on and regard the person as lacking.”

Do you see the cross-over between the two areas? In both cases, coaches place blame on the athlete for their failure to get the most out of them. The player isn’t doing what I want, so it’s their fault.

The moment you place blame on something external you lose. It means you give up. You become one of those things we call uncoachable or mentally weak athletes – a quitter.

Deliciously ironic, isn’t it?

Next time you face a player you think is uncoachable, lacks mental toughness, or whatever, look in the mirror. Think long and hard about what more you could do to help them. This is all the more important when working with young people, as they generally lack the skills to help themselves.

By the way, you may also find this post on the close association between mental toughness and fatigue interesting. Also check out the book Do Hard Things.

And uncoachable isn’t the only meme that needs reconsidering. We coaches shouldn’t make excuses.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.