I’m not a quick learner, but eventually I learn some things. Fortunately, I enjoy teaching, which is a great way to learn.

I find that I coach best when I approach coaching as a teacher. We teach people how to play volleyball, and we can teach a lot of other things along the way. One of the most rewarding things for me about coaching is how much I get to learn. When I am not learning much, I am probably not teaching very well.

Our team at Saint Mary’s reads books. Every summer we assign at least one book for each player to read, then she reports on the book to the team. This past summer my assistants Keegan and Brent assigned books to each player, but instead of just reporting on the book, Brent put a much bigger emphasis on teaching the concepts in the book. It’s wonderful seeing how much more invested in their books the girls are when they know they have to teach the concepts to the team. The accountability factor is high when you are asked to teach, and the result is the teacher learns the subject matter on a much deeper level.

One concept that I learned this past week from one of our players—something I should have been aware of, but was not—is that it is harder to learn in front of other people.

If you are alone and you are going through a process of trial and error, attempt and failure, you don’t get embarrassed. But when you go through the process in front of your peers, as players do on teams, it is much more uncomfortable.

For many, learning in front of others impedes their progress. They don’t want to look incompetent or stupid, so they avoid the uncomfortable process of failure by playing it safe and resorting to comfortable habits.

In order to truly engage in the learning process in front of others, there must be a very high level of trust. Trust is the foundation of successful teams, and we have learned from the book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (Lencioni) that the kind of trust we are talking about is the willingness to be vulnerable in front of your team. If we have that kind of trust, then we can go about learning without worrying about exposing ourselves as less-than-perfect. We learn faster.

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We are excited about our trip to BYU for our season-opening tournament. It will be a tough test for our team: UCSB, Illinois, and BYU! 3 tough matches in two days. I think we are ready…

Rob Browning, St. Mary’s Volleyball
Go GAELS!