A common thread within the strength and conditioning field currently is the awareness that a good mentor can make a difference in young coaches (those in Australia, have a look into the ASCA’s professional coach scheme mentoring programs). I started off in the industry without a mentor in the typical sense, I had good role models and co-workers but I didn’t have someone to guide me to make good decisions and push me along the way. I was lucky a few years and many mistakes later to meet up with a coach who became my mentor. The thing I am most thankful for is they opened up my closed mind and set thoughts (things must be a certain way or go in a specific order), I was challenged on all my preconceived ideas and constantly questioned on the ‘whys’ of my programs, planning and coaching. A misunderstanding about the mentor-mentee relationship is that the mentee should agree with everything the mentor teaches and basically become a clone version of that coach. In reality the mentor should guide the mentee to think critically for themselves. They should be a person you can question, bounce ideas off and that constantly challenges you.
Over my years coaching, I have since been fortunate to become a mentor myself. A strong belief I hold is that all coaches should ‘pay it forward’ and in time become a mentor themselves, this not with the goal of profit, however, this is not a relationship that is all take either. This relationship should be back and forth, mentors should gain new insights, leadership skills and learn how to give feedback as well as having the satisfaction of helping another coach. A mentee should be gaining increased knowledge, skills, advice and potentially a larger professional network.
How to get the best out of your mentor-mentee relationship:
· You should never expect your mentor to do everything for you
· Have clear goals
· Reflect with purpose
· Be thankful of their time
· Define roles and relationship- what is the role of the mentor, how often will you meet, what type of mentoring will be most effective, what are the responsibilities of both mentor and mentee
Now after all this, how to find a good mentor? It’s not about finding the mentor with the most experience, most Instagram followers or working in professional sport. It is about finding a mentor with the knowledge and experience to help you the most and the best fit for you. Look at experienced coaches that you could connect with that will help you navigate the challenges you are having.
Things to consider with mentors:
· Do they have enough time to assist you? If not, you can still connect and learn off them but they may not be the best fit for a mentor.
· Time and distance. Do they live close by? If not could you skype, email etc. to continue this relationship.
· Are they going to challenge you? Whilst everyone likes hearing how great they are, a mentor should be able to give ‘hard truths’ and give constructive feedback on areas you could improve. Remember this is done to make you better, not to break you down.
· Compatibility and trust. If you have contrasting values and philosophies this could be a challenge, it is a balancing act between someone who will push you to open up and conflict here.
· Someone that helps you get out of your comfort zone and pushes you to be the best coach you can be.
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