July 7, 2011

Coaches and Mentors

This post was last updated on December 12th, 2011 at 03:15 pm

 

Watching a recent interview with golf legend Tom Watson, David Feherty asked him what he thought  about the trend in the game today for players to use coaches. He commented on how the range at a PGA tour event is full of entourages for each player that includes swing coaches, mental coaches, fitness coaches and more. Watson, now in his 60's recalled how he is now one of the few players who doesn't bring a coach with him to tour events. He talked about the advice he was given as a young aspiring golfer: "Go find the best players, watch them and play with them". He said he found mentors, not coaches who helped him become the great player that he was. 

Of course this got me thinking about the two terms and they way not only Watson viewed them but how they relate to educators and more specifically the work I'm doing with Lani Ritter-Hall and PLP. Lani and I and our team of coaches have had many conversations about defining and redefining our roles. It's tough work. particularly dealing with adults who are professionals. 

I liked that Watson didn't revert to "the good old days" tone but simply said he grew up in a different time. He did however suggest that the mentors in his life weren't there to instruct but in various ways provided support through modeling and the occasional word of advice. 

It was clear, Watson was in charge of his game/learning. 

I don't know if it's worth exploring these terms, maybe as a few have suggested it's simply semantics. Yet the sense of ownership and the nature of the relationship seems different. Not better or worse necessarily, just different. Read the following wonderful responses to my question about the differences between the two.

 

@shareski mentors impart knowledge while coaches facilitate learning
Tina_Heizman
July 7, 2011
@shareski mentor has experienced knowledge in a specific area & a coach helps to motivate one in any area via universal insights
MetaWeb20
July 7, 2011
@shareski a coach is a mentor, but a mentor may not be a coach. coach has more intentionality to relationship. goal-oriented.
dlnorman
July 7, 2011
@shareski Lots of good responses so far. My contribution is that a coach tells you what you should be doing while a mentor does it.
ScottElias
July 7, 2011
@shareski to me a coach supports but a mentor is more evaluative and supportive. coaches here don't ever evaluate teacher performance.
MrsBfromNC
July 7, 2011
@shareski If done effectively, not much. We typically refer to "coaching" : http://t.co/e3Vkvkb more at www.excellenceandethics.org
kbakerIEE
July 7, 2011
@shareski the coach wants to help you win for different reasons than a mentor wants to see you succeed
hello_newman
July 7, 2011
@shareski a coach motivates. A mentor empowers.
fabdulla
July 7, 2011
@shareski Coach has more of an authority-vibe than mentor which seems more collaborative
jfinch
July 7, 2011
@shareski a coach teaches you how to do something, a mentor guides you in why to do something.
betsywhalen
July 7, 2011
@shareski Whistles.
Dave_Ferguson
July 7, 2011
@shareski Also at work, coach likelier to charge (outsider, remember?); mentor likelier to get recog rather than money.
Dave_Ferguson
July 7, 2011
@shareski To me, in workplace, coach tends to be outsider w more specific focus; mentor tends to be insider w broader focus.
Dave_Ferguson
July 7, 2011
@shareski Mentoring is based on building relationships, coaching is based on generating outcomes.
milobo
July 7, 2011
@shareski A mentor is able to do what is being taught and must lead by example; a coach CAN do the same but can also just tell what to do
mpullen
July 7, 2011
@shareski I see a coach being more short-term. When you call someone your mentor, much longer if not for life. Can a coach become a mentor?
kylepace
July 7, 2011
@shareski I see mentor/trust link, but some mentors are assigned (or anointed). Trust / earned status depends on org culture.
Dave_Ferguson
July 7, 2011
@shareski I believe that depends… aren't mentors assigned sometimes?
Kyle_simon
July 7, 2011
@shareski A mentor is there for advice & encouragement when you want it
MikeDial
July 7, 2011
@shareski Coach is more immediate – fix right away. Mentor work is more gradual as behavior evolves
baldy7
July 7, 2011
@shareski Also a coach is usually older than coachee, maybe mentor is age independent?
mmkrill
July 7, 2011
@shareski A coach gets you to do things you didn't even know you were capable of doing, or even wanted to do
MikeDial
July 7, 2011
@shareski seems like coaches are more about direct instruction, mentors about prompting reflection
msstewart
July 7, 2011
@shareski a coach is a title, a position. A "true" mentor is neither a title nor a position – it is more a state of being.
ryanbretag
July 7, 2011
@shareski also, a mentor might be thought of as a guide/sounding board, while a coach is expected to give explicit direction?
mmkrill
July 7, 2011
@shareski Mentors have carrots. Coaches have sticks.
injenuity
July 7, 2011
@shareski how about this—sometimes a coach can teach you but they don't always believe in you. True mentors see your greatness b4 u do
hello_newman
July 7, 2011
@shareski Mentors don't track win/loss records
suzieboss
July 7, 2011
@shareski Semantics…both support and help others learn a set of skills. Both can be assigned but can also be naturally occurring
stumpteacher
July 7, 2011
@shareski My 1st tchng mentor was assigned, not right. I had to seek out mentor in bldg who would provide insight/advice when most needed.
Mrskmpeters
July 7, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great stuff there for sure. I'm thinking that there is much more intent with a coach and a mentor may take on more of a passive role. In the case of Watson, mentors were determined by the player and often didn't realize they were mentors. Coaches  are hired to do something specific; achieve an outcome. Mentors may often have no idea of their influence. Again, for me this isn't about choosing one over the other but perhaps trying to decide when one role is more appropriate than the other.

That said, I must say there was something appealing about Watson's distinction and choice of mentor over a coach. Coaches seem clinical, focusing on technique. They breakdown and deconstruct action. Mentors have a way of seeing the big picture, seeing the individual and speaking hope and encouragement and often poignant and penetrating thought. In golf, there is something enjoyable when things flow naturally, not contrived. Yet certainly there are times when analysis can be useful, but for most the enjoyment of the game comes when things flow, when you're in the moment. Mentors likely help you get to this point easier than coaches. 

​Maybe we need both. Maybe we can be both. Maybe it doesn't matter what we name them. Maybe it does. As usual, just thinking out loud here. Feel free to join me. 

 

 

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