Knowledge Isn’t The Only Necessity

By Mario Fraioli

“My dad, from a young age—and now that I’m a coach—he reminds me all the time, that the greatest coaches/teachers he’s ever had, which is also true for me, taught him way more about life than they did about basketball,” L.A. Lakers head coach Luke Walton told Michael Gervais recently on the Finding Mastery podcast. “And it’s a 100 percent true.”

This conversation was so good. It’s a must-listen for any coach, regardless of the sport you’re involved in or the type of athlete you work with, and the key takeaways are just as applicable for teachers, managers or anyone in a leadership role. The above quote in particular is worth highlighting and emphasizing: while it’s important to know your shit if you’re going to be coaching someone, you’ve first got to show that person or group of people that you give a shit. Knowledge is necessary, yes, but without care, concern and compassion leading the way, it’s essentially a useless element. Take the time to get to know your athletes (or students, or mentees) as people, understand their motivations, empathize with their struggles, and show them that you’re going to see it through together—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the unpredictable. Earn their trust and offer them more than just an ongoing lesson in the X’s and O’s of a particular pursuit. All too often I see coaches going out of their way to show the people they’re working with how smart they are as if it’s some sort of value proposition. Stop it. They don’t care how much you know—they want to know how much you care. 

Walton’s insights on the importance of developing strong relationships and cultivating a culture of joy, competitiveness, compassion, and improvement within the team environment are excellent and invaluable. He also has some interesting things to say regarding mindfulness and having his players take “quiet time to themselves, letting their brain slow down and being aware of it,” which ties in nicely with his reasons for not being on social media so he can be more present as a coach, father and husband. In short, it’s worth an hour of your time!

A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, writing, media and other topics that interest me. Sign up here to get it sent to your inbox first thing every Tuesday morning.