Self-Awareness pt.1: the MSc Student

 the advice I would give to ‘Me’ – the masters student 

Brunel Graduation

As I sit down with the ‘Me’ the 24yr old MSc Student studying Sports Coaching, along with coaching part time in an academy and working in education. The six bits of advice I would give him is:

1. Visit More to Learn

Take the time to visit more places to learn and develop. Not just in football, but look within other sports, other industries and experience other cultures. This will open your eyes; broaden your knowledge, awareness and appreciation for what else is out there. Ask questions, meet people, try things and by doing this you will learn, develop, and be more interesting to other people. After all, everyone enjoys a story………… so make sure you have a book of them.

2. Avoid Last

I know what you are like; you enjoy the pressure of leaving everything to the last minute. Trying to complete an assignment in the last 24hrs with no sleep, after having had 3 months to complete it. It might give you an adrenaline rush, but you wont get a chance to demonstrate you true quality. It is important to use the time you have, to prepare, research, create, and review. It is a good exercise to project plan, work within time scales, set targets for yourself and this will provide you with enough time to ask questions, adjust and give it the full attention it deserves.

3. Presenting Skills

In the position you are in working in education, coaching football and studying for your MSc you are going to be required to speak in public, but in different ways and with different audiences. My advice is that you look into developing your communication skills; how you engage the people you are working with. Consider looking at things like telling stories, drawing reference to your experiences and link them within what you are trying to get across to your audience. Consider the language, the type of detail and feedback you provide. Focus on being simple, effective and engage the people early. Watch, observe, practice, fail, review, learn, practice, fail and review. Ensure you are prepared and enjoy speaking to people. By the way, look out for TED Talks when they come out, they are a very good tool to learn from.

4. Don’t be afraid of failure

You are still learning and developing. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you make a mistake or fail that is not an identity, but a process. As long as you review and learn you can then move on. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, and make sure you ask for evidence and avoid basing your own reviews on emotions because you will be a lot tougher and unfair on yourself. Remember…… kind to yourself and be willing to fail because it means you will have tried.

 ‘I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed’ Michael Jordan 

5. Step out your Comfort Zone

You will soon be asked to do something that you don’t feel confident about. You might be asked to coach a session that you have not done before, or work with a more experienced group, maybe present to high learners who might question your work or given the option to leave it on this occasion, and maybe try it later. My advice is don’t ignore, put off or decline the opportunity. Grab it with both hands and run with it. You may have been asked because they believe you deserve it or they see it as part of your progression, or they just have no one else available at that time and you were in the right place at the right time. Therefore, don’t ignore or avoid opportunities. People don’t develop by living in their comfort zone. Risks, opportunities, and uncomfortable situations have to be experienced in order to appreciate what you are capable of, and how you can move forward. After all, if you never test the limits do you really know what you can achieve? Challenge yourself to develop yourself. The environment and the situations you are prepared to put yourself in will determine what you can become.

6. Enjoy the Moments

Make sure you enjoy everything you do and have no regrets. The opportunities that you have created for yourself and the experiences you are having need to be cherished. These are the stepping-stones for you to move forward and work towards your goal. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to appreciate it, work harder for it, learn from it and develop from it. There will be times when things are hard, challenging and even frustrating, but that is part of the journey and you can enjoy these because at the end of it you will have become a better person for it.

‘Normality is a paved road: It’s a comfortable walk, but no flowers grow’  Vincent van Gogh

The 4-Club Golf Challenge (being resourceful, adaptable and creative)

I was recently invited to play in a 9 hole, 4-club golf challenge. It is set up as a fun, social and slightly competitive competition that allows both golfers and non-golfers to play together. Two teams of 4 players set off every 10mins from the 1st tee. Each group plays 9 holes and a medal score is taken at the end of the round and the team with the lowest score wins. Non-golfers receive an overall handicap of 6 shots, which is taken off the final score. All seems fairly straight forward up until the point when you are required to play a shot from the bunker with a putter.

Each member of the team selects a club to play with and this is the only club that they can use for the entire round of golf regardless of where they are required to play the shot from. The shots are taken in an order 1- 4 and this continues from the start of the game until the finish (all 9 holes). For example, I (part-golfer) selected to play with a 4-rescue wood, my Dad (part-golfer) was playing with an 8 iron, my girlfriend (non-golfer) played with a 5 iron and my Mum (non-golfer) was playing with a flat faced pitching club. On the 1st hole I would tee off, followed by my girlfriend, then my Dad and finally my Mum. Depending on who played the final shot on the hole, would determine who would tee off. Therefore, regardless of where and how your shot was lying you had to use the club you had selected.

So for example, the team that we played alongside, one of the people playing had selected to play with a putter. They found themselves having to play a couple of their shots with a putter from the tee box, from the bunker and if my memory serves me well only 1 shot from the green, which presents quite a challenge, but a challenge that forces the person to be creativve, by  adapting to the environment and being resourcesful with what they have available.


The reason for me writing this was; it is a great example of a game, activity where people are required to use that divergent thinking, adapt and be creative to achieve an outcome in a range of situations using a single club. Using my experience, during the round I was presented with a number of shots that had I had a choice, I would have selected a different club, an appropriate club, which was best suited for me to play a successful shot from the situation that I had found myself in. Unfortunately, this was not the case for this round. I was challenged with not only playing the ideal shots suited for this club from the tee and on the fairway, but also in the deep rough, behind a tree, playing a short shot into the green, a chip around the green, a bunker around the green with a high lip and putting on the green. Therefore, I had to use my skill to be creative and make this club adapt for each shot.

I often had to be creative whether it was to change my grip, my stance, opening or closing the face, the position of my weight and the length of my swing.  I had to use my ability to manage the indifferent situations, which I faced, and using my creative ability to find a way.  It definitely challenged me, but in most cases I was able to find a way, I was able to be resourceful as oppose to giving up easily. In fact I embraced the opportunity to try something new and from that I was able to learn and develop myself. This is something that many people in life, especially in sport are often faced with. They are required to adapt, improvise, and make the best out of the situation that lies in front of them. My journey as a coach, especially early on often presented me with similar challenges. I had to be resourceful with what I was given, be creative in my approach and delivery, and be willing often adapt either before or during the sessions.  At first I found it very difficult because I wanted the ideal situation, the picture that is often painted, but that isnt the reality and as coaches, educators and players we need to be able to prepare for that, practice and learn.

Therefore, as coaches we need to present and encourage the opportunities for our players to be creative, resourceful and be able to adapt to the many situations that are presented to us in our sport.