Coaching Association of Canada

Beth Barz, ChPC - Rugby

Dedication to Continuous Improvement or “Kaizen”

“Kaizen”, or the art of continuous improvement, was studied extensively in the early 2000s. The concept is that a system (or person) can benefit from continuous improvement over time, rather than monumental changes that happen irregularly or at long intervals. For coaches, we need to focus on kaizen for our athletes and programs, and also for ourselves. Here are two quick ways to ensure you can make kaizen happen in your own coaching practice.

1. Ask questions
2. Read

The best way to improve yourself and others is to ask questions. This can be of your athletes as you coach and plan practices, it can be of your staff as you work together and challenge those around you, and it can be of yourself to help you find areas on which to improve. The most significant improvements that athletes make are those they discover for themselves; those discoveries are often started with a question from a prompting coach. It stands to reason that self-growth also starts with questioning ourselves – our beliefs, programs, and everyday commitments.

Books on Questioning: Lynn Kidman – Developing Decision Makers, Warren Berger – A More Beautiful Question, The Right Question Institute (rightquestion.org), Dorothy Strachan – Making Questions Work.

The booklist on questioning above is a convenient segue to the second tip: reading. Reading is incomparable for learning about sport and people. As coaches, we often think that learning has to occur in a coaching environment – either on the field of play or at a coaching specific conference. In reality, finding books that are related to coaching, business, or sport psychology can help improve our learning immensely. The best part is that learning can then take place anywhere, at any time. For coaches who have crazy schedules, this flexible learning opportunity is exactly what we need. Fitting in time to read can be a challenge, yet the challenge of finding that time does pay off. Print or eBooks are excellent, as is finding relevant information online – whether it’s via a coaching website like the Coaching Association of Canada, or through different social media links.

As a small aside, I attended a speaking engagement at the Canadian Sport Institute-Ontario where David Dingwall spoke about reading as a means of self-improvement. He encouraged the coaches in the room to read 10 pages per day. Since then, I’ve carved out 20 minutes or so most days a week to read – some days it’s 10 pages and some days it’s 20. It’s a small enough chunk to be manageable and a large enough task to make it feel meaningful.

Overall, the idea of continuous self-improvement is massively important to coaches…after all, we expect continuous improvement from our athletes don’t we? In order to be good role models, we must choose to dedicate time to improve ourselves as well.