Has becoming a parent made me a better coach?

The recent birth of my son was one of the most amazing and memorable days of my life, on a par only with the day I married my wife. It changes the way you look at everything; decisions you make, reasons for those decisions, how you manage day to day, sacrifices you make. It also makes you realise that not everything you try will work!

I’ve always been someone who thrives on routines in my daily life. I get up, have glass of water, open the blind in the dining room and continue to get ready in the same order everyday. Every morning is the same for me and that’s just the way I like it – I’m in control of what I’m doing and for me, that’s the right way to do it. I make tea with the handle facing the same way, I always put my left sock and shoe on before the respective right. My watch cannot go on my wrist before I have my socks on, otherwise it’s going to be a bad day! It’s just the way I do things. If anyone else does any different, they’re just wrong, because my way is the best way.

I’ve always been like this as coach too. The way I deliver my sessions, the way I talk to my participants, whether they be male, female, primary or secondary age or adult, the way I organise my sessions has always been the best way. If other coaches did any different, I would question their method – why are they doing it like that? My way is the best way, because I get success and, more importantly, because I’m in control. Why would they do it differently? Weirdos!

I’m also like this with my wife (how she’s put up with me for the 18 years we’ve known each other I’ll never know!). I stack the dishwasher the correct way. Any piece of cutlery, any bowl, any plate, any cup that is not where I would put it, is placed incorrectly. I pack the shopping the right way too. When asked if I need any help with my packing, I look at the person serving me with a face saying “of course not – I’m the best packer in this store!” My wife leaves me to it now as she knows she will get in trouble if so much as puts the toothpaste next to the milk!!! As for driving, I always have to take the wheel. I have to be in control of where we’re going and how we get there. Kirsty has given up on asking “do you want me to drive?” as she’s knows it has to be me that sits in the hot seat. Kirsty is not a bad driver by any means…she’s just not as good as me! Lastly, I make THE best cup of tea. Everyone else’s tea is always a disappointment as they haven’t made it the way would make it – the correct way!

As you can tell, I am a very rigid, structured and possibly stubborn (!) human being. That is until recently. Since becoming a father, I’ve tried to continue along the same pattern as previous – my way IS the best/correct/right way to do things. However…this has been tested and stretched dramatically. Charlie George (yes, I’m an Arsenal fan and yes, Kirsty knew about the Arsenal legend) was around 5 weeks old and I had already made Kirsty change her method or decision regards Charlie on umpteen occasions when she finally snapped. I had forced her to go against her instincts in what was best for our child too many times and from that point on, she would never listen to me or go against that again. At this point, I realised – my way is NOT always the best way. A realisation that has hit me hard, but one that I feel will be of huge benefit in all aspects of my life.

I now look at other coaches and admire the way they do things. I’ve started to look for the good things rather than saying “that’s not how I would have done it!”. I’ve started to change my content and try new things. I’ve actually began to practice what I preach! Coaching can take on so many different forms and can be done in a variety of ways. I’ve always known this, but never really wanted to explore too deeply as I was so set in my structured pattern.

What I possibly haven’t realised is that over the 17 years I’ve been delivering, I have adapted and changed so much of my style and content without really noticing. As I’ve done it on my own terms, it’s been controlled and comfortable. Now, I’m asking bigger questions of my self in order to test my willingness to do things differently. I’m also starting to really enjoy co-delivering with other coaches and tutors. Previously, because I’m so used to working alone, I would hate sharing!

In terms of those that I deliver too, everyone of them is different. Just like every baby is different. What works for one may not necessarily work for the other. My task is to make sure I can effect each individual as much as possible in the right way for them. It might not be the best way for me, but it will be for them.

From now on, I will be testing myself to do things differently. I will let my wife drive. I will let her stack the dishwasher however she likes and I will let others make me a cup of tea. I may not drink it, but at least it’s a start! I will also start challenging myself to deliver in a different way. I’ll be more open to change and listen to others as there is some fantastic work being down by some great people who all do things in their own way.

So, as I lie here at 4.36am after settling Charlie, has becoming a parent made me a better coach??? I believe it has…!