Familiar Foe

Familiar Foe

Have you ever had the feeling of I don’t belong here or I am not good enough to be here? Do you sometimes find yourself worrying about what players or other coaches think of your coaching?

Well this is Imposter Syndrome.
It is super normal for coaches feel this way and is a natural response to feeling uncomfortable or lacking in a bit of confidence.
As a rugby player I never scaled any great heights. I was fortunate enough to play for a couple of decent amateur club teams and have some success with those teams, but I was never a professional rugby player or even close to it to be fair. I enjoyed my rugby, the camaraderie and the beer after the game.
It only dawned on me that this was potentially an issue when I started coaching at a higher level than club rugby.

I will never forget being challenged by an 18 year old first year academy player in 2017 about ‘who did I play for’ when coaching him on how to lift and jump effectively in the lineout. He then went on to tell me that his coach at High School First XV level had played professional rugby and knew a lot more about lineouts than me.

Whilst this might seem like just a petulant teenage remark it certainly put a dent in my confidence. It made me question my knowledge and whether I was good enough to be there. The irony is 2 months later the same player told me that he loved our lineout system and it just made ‘way more sense’ than what he had done before!!
Personally I think Imposter Syndrome is a lingering foe for most coaches. It is something that I have had to combat and I do that in a deliberate manner.

What strategies do I use to overcome Imposter Syndrome?

  1. I surround myself with quality people. I have coached with some awesome people over the past 12 years many of whom are now doing really well at the professional end of the game. This gives me real confidence that if these people believe in me, then I should believe in myself.
  2. I expose myself to other environments. I have taken up a number of opportunities to get into other team environments and observe some of the best coaches in the world operate. This has become more challenging in the Covid era but it is critical for my learning and in a lot of ways is reassuring in terms of the environment that I try to create and the content that I deliver.
  3. I build habits around my learning. I have become an avid podcast listener, book reader and coach connector. I take part in a number of coach groups on Zoom and WhatsApp. All of which are great in terms of learning but also understanding that I am on the same journey as a lot of other coaches.
  4. I am honest with coaches in my team/s about scrutiny being a stress point for me. I have explained to coaches that I work with that I feel stress when other coaches are observing me coach and are not contributing. The solution to this is we now co-coach all the time with one coach leading an activity and the others contributing with providing feedback or leading certain aspects of the activity. This results in a much richer learning environment for the athletes and has removed this stress for me. WIN, WIN!
  5. I invite other external coaches into our environment. Getting accustomed to having coaches come in to our team environment has helped a lot to both grow my practice and I guess validate my coaching identity. This is a great way to learn and to expose myself to that uncomfortable feeling more often.
  6. I look the foe in the eye and take it on. I have started the habit of doing things that make me feel uncomfortable. Starting the Coach Learning Series and writing this article are examples of things that make me feel like an imposter. It makes me feel like a fraud, and thoughts like ‘Who wants to hear from you’ pop into my mind. But all good I know this is a natural response to doing something that scares me. Do it more, feel it less? We shall see I guess.
    Do these strategies mean that I never feel like an Imposter?
    Absolutely not!! As I touched on earlier I think the feeling will always be there, but if I feed other more positive thoughts with these actions I have found that it is a foe that I can keep at bay…….
    Well, most of the time anyway…..

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