Yesterday in my post, Youth, I discussed some qualities in the mentor-mentee relationship; hard work, knowledge of subject, and loyalty on the part of the mentee, with the mentor having trust and belief in their mentee.  Youth often brings energy, exuberance, and a fresh outlook to the table; Experience, though, is important and valuable.

When I talk about experience, I am not strictly talking about seniority, or being “tenured”, or years on the job.  Schools and practice complexes are filled with teachers and coaches that have experience, but lack qualities that I consider valuable and worth emulating. 

I am talking about the experience

  • That comes from a history of successfully tackling difficult situations and handling them successfully
  • That comes from finding solutions to difficult challenges
  • That comes from “seeing” and navigating a “winning” path through a maze of obstacles
  • That comes from embracing new and different challenges rather than whining about change
  • That comes from having a large “bag of tricks” to pull from because they have “been there, done that

Author Seth Godin writes about this type of experience in his post, The river guide and the rapids:river2

“It’s probably not an accident that rapid (as in rapid change) shares a root with rapids (as in Lava Falls in the Grand Canyon).

The river guide, piloting his wooden dory, has but one strategy. Get the boat to the end of the river, safely. And he has countless tactics, an understanding of how water and rocks work, and, if you’re lucky, experience on this particular river.

The thing is, the captain changes his tactics constantly. He never whines. He doesn’t stop the boat and say, “wait, no fair, yesterday this rock wasn’t like this!” No, the practice of being great at shooting the rapids is a softness in choosing the right tactic, the ability to hold the tiller with confidence but not locking into it. If your pilot keeps demanding that the rapids cooperate, it’s probably time to find a new pilot.

Domain knowledge underlies all of it. Give me an experienced captain over a new one any day–the ones that got this far for a reason. Yes, the reckless pilot might get lucky, but the experienced pilot brings domain knowledge to her job. It takes guts to go onto the river, but once you’re there, the one who can see–see what’s coming and see what matters–is the one you want piloting your boat.”

Experience is:

  • Domain Knowledge
  • Choosing the right tactic for each unique situation
  • Confident – but not cocky
  • Seeing the right path – not the reckless or lucky one

Youthful exuberance is great… experience is a critical.

My advice to young coaches – find great, experienced coaches to emulate, and humbly know that you do not have all the answers… be a sponge.

To the veteran, experienced coaches – allow and trust your young, worthy, energetic staff to gain experience.  After all, the only way to get experience is to DO… we all have been trusted and given an opportunity at some point.  Pay it forward.

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com

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