When someone has been doing the same thing for over 40 years then chances are they have worked out what it takes to be successful and to get results.
Or perhaps… they are still committed to the process of ongoing learning and development, hoping to discover better ways to do what they have always done.
These are very different states of being. One says ‘I have nothing new to learn’, while the other is on a journey of continual growth and improvement.
Last week Danelle came home from the basketball class she takes the kids to as part of their homeskooling and was telling me how impressed she was with the way the coach taught and invested in the kids.
The coach, a 69 year old by the name of Warren Kuhn, is a well known name in WA basketball circles, because he has been around for as long as I can remember (and I started playing at 12 years old). I don’t have a resume for all Warren has done, but I know he coached at the WA Institute of Sport, was assistant to the Wildcats and has coached at a high level in various places.
This week I had a day off on Wednesday so I tagged along to watch the kids as they did their basketball class. I had met Warren briefly around 25 years ago when he recruited a kid I was teaching for college basketball in the US, so I introduced myself and we got chatting.
What I discovered was that Kuhn has been on a mission of seeking to understand how we can produce better basketballers here in Australia. Essentially he was wanting to know why we always veered towards ‘average’ and ended up bringing in Americans to lift the standard. At 69 he is still as passionate as ever about coaching and about introducing young people to the game – but his approach has changed.
As I sat there watching I had my own personal lesson as Warren explained how his philosophy of coaching had changed in the last few years. He had travelled the world seeking to learn why some countries were producing excellent basketballers while others continued to be average.
It was several years ago in Spain he had his revelation that ‘ideas are to precede skills’. In an online interview I discovered he said
‘The most important aspect is that teaching ideas should precede teaching skills. Skills are only worth anything when they make superior ideas work. This concept has not been widely accepted in West Australia yet, so many coaches are uncomfortable with the new style.’
So these days rather than starting with ‘how to do a jump shot’, he begins with the nature of the game, with giving the kids the big picture and the overall intent and allowing them to work out how to play within that. His approach to coaching on Wednesday was certainly somewhat unorthodox, but it showed his commitment to a new methodology that he believes will end up producing better results. Skills become a means to an end rather than end in themselves.
Its not surprising that many coaches in WA are uncomfortable with his new approach, because it lacks the systematic methodology of what has always been done. It is experimental and unproven – so it is a gamble.
How good to find a 69 year old who is still passionate, still learning and still willing to take a new tack if there is hope of better outcomes. In the interview Kuhn mentions that he has run up against the inherently conservative nature of the established sporting organisation as he has charted his own course, based on his personal convictions and discoveries.
Will his outcomes be better? Will he shift the primary coaching philosophies of basketball in WA? Maybe… maybe he will discover what no one else would ever find because he had the courage to sail off in a different direction and look in a different place.
Whatever you are doing, there are parallels. You can keep rolling with the tested and true methods that produce average results, or you can allow your internal dissatisfaction with ‘average’ to keep driving you to discover new ways that may just reshape the future.
And the key in all this?
Passion. If you don’t care then you won’t bother. Kuhn cares. He cares very much about basketball and he exudes that in his conversation. I came home from that day having been evangelised into a new way of seeing sports coaching and reminded again that we need our pioneers, innovators and creative thinkers to keep leading us into the future.