I recently told my team that I greatly appreciated their coachability. Later in the day, one of my freshmen asked me what coachable means. That's a great question and the answers might lead to some good goals for young players.
To me, coachable means open-minded. You listen to what is being said and see if you can use it to get better. You understand that better every day won't happen without change. Your coaching staff is on your side and the goal is to score better. That means you have ability to consider new things, work on positive changes and commit to agreed upon game plans.
Coachability isn't trying to please your coaches. You need to consider what is being said and adopt what works for you and filter out what doesn't work. If your goal is to please, you will lose this filter and lose yourself and your game. Coachability means a dialogue and talking through what's working and what isn't with your coaches.
Are you coachable? If your most common phrase is, "yea, but....." then probably not. If you take constructive criticism personally, probably not. If you think you know more about how to play golf than your coaches, I'd guess no.
You probably are coachable if you ask for help, especially on your weaknesses. If you see your skill set as something that can get better, you're most likely coachable. If you are able to talk with your coaches after a round and figure out what was good and what needs to be better, you are coachable.
Things that I've seen hurt coachability over the years is a fixed mindset instead of a learner's mindset. If you think your skills are set or your mindset is a done deal, there is no reason to listen to anyone about change. Statements such as, "I need to get angry and get it out" are what lead to that fixed mindset. The opposite would be, "How can I learn to behave after a bad shot or a bad hole that would help me on the next shot?" This one example is the essence of coachability.
Another thing that hurts coachability is the dependence on one voice. The best players in the world are always seeking an edge and they'll look anywhere to find it. They have the ability spoken of earlier in this blog of filtering out what won't help them, but they constantly seek what will and put it into play. They talk with other pros about how to hit shots, they watch how others choose to strategize and they grab putters out of each other's bags. They've learned to coach themselves and part of that skill is being open to new things. So, if your pro or parent won't allow you to listen to anyone else, that dependence might hurt your progress and coachability.
Perhaps the biggest roadblock to coachability is a lack of confidence. If you're only as good as your last shot and dependent upon results to bolster your ego, you'll see your game as delicate and change as scary. The ability to strike out on the road to better means you have to give up a skill that isn't great. However, that skill is what you know and what you've worked to develop and how you've done things to get this far. Unless you're confident in yourself to learn a better skill, giving up that old skill won't happen.
Coachability is about interdependence, which is strongest when you are first independent. As a coach, I've seen players all along this scale and I understand that when players aren't independent, they must first find it to become coachable. When they arrive at school dependent upon others or without their own filter, they must first develop that to then move to interdependence or as I call it, coachability. This is important to understand in this world of strong parenting, early instruction and a glut of information.
Our goal as parents, teachers and coaches needs to be to teach and lead players to independence so they can then go on to build relationships that are interdependent. Without the ability to know themselves and understand their games, players won't be able to filter what will be helpful and what is unhelpful. I know this blog is about golf, but as I write this, I thank God that my parents did this for me in all walks of my life. They raised me with trust in my decisions and helped me be independent and confident. Thank you Mom and Dad. Godspeed.