Having the Information to Be a Good Coach

Coaches are committed to the belief that their clients are “naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.” But that might not be enough information to enable us to do the best job for our clients. What if you didn’t know your client was blind? Some people don’t see their disabilities as such and might feel no need to mention it. What if you never met him and worked only on the phone? Maybe he thinks it doesn’t or shouldn’t matter — And what if more than anything he wished he could drive a car, would you send him out alone? If you didn’t know he was blind, you might not think about the problems. Aren’t we charged to do more than just watch?

I once taught papercutting (as art) to a group of students at a special school for kids who were developmentally challenged AND had been in trouble with the law. They were so disruptive that no regular public schools would have them. It was that school or prison. Some kids had an aid who followed them around all day. Some kids had more than one aid — PLUS the class teacher. Oh baby, they did have ISSUES.

But I thought it would be a great experience to bring my brand of respectful teaching to the school.

I showed them some examples of what was possible to do with a scissors and paper, handed out the paper and scissors, showed them how to hold their paper, I showed them how to hold the scissors.. how to turn the paper and not the scissors.

Most kids picked up their supplies and jumped in — making snowflakes, or designs. Some just cut the paper into tiny shreds. Each to his or her own abilities and talent. All of this.. OK.

But one young woman, scissors in hand said to me, “You’re gonna have to help me.”
“Of course,” says I showing her the paper in my left hand, “hold the paper like this.”
“You’re gonna have to help me.”
“Right,” I say. I hold the paper up to show her how to put the paper in her hand. “Hold the paper like this,” expecting her to pick up the paper and at least TRY to copy me.

It was then that the teacher sitting next to her gives me the news to use, “She only has one hand.”

OK …so.. now that shifts everything. I have to hold the paper for her.. She, just this side of prison, with a sharp scissors and me holding the paper. Now THAT’s what I call a dance!

As coaches we absolutely have to believe that our clients are naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Otherwise we might be in trouble for practicing medicine without a license, trying to fix something broken. We have to be able to discern if they might be broken so that we can help them to figure out what to do about it.

But a person with ADD is not broken.. just different.

On the other hand (no pun intended), we also have to know how their brains work. We do that for our other clients when we ask about their values and goals..in order to do our jobs as coaches to keep them on the paths they have determined.

So knowing how a person with ADD approaches problems — what they are likely to see first, or not see at all — is really key. We have to know ABOUT medications so we can remember to ask if they are getting what they think they should be getting from it. And we have to be able to notice if some thing they don’t understand really might be a side effect of that medication. We have to know to ask.. to remind them to ask their doctors.

Having ADD is, in my opinion and in my experience, a wonderful way to be in the world. I know there are those who disagree. But I also know that if an coach untrained in ADD issues, thinks they’ll coach me thru a simple structure for success and that I’ll just “get it” and go forward…. well, to me, that’s just cruel. It’s like one more person in my life who just can’t understand why I can’t do what I said I’d do, one more person in my life who I imagine I’ll disappoint by not doing what I am supposed to… by anyone’s standard.

and THAT, boys and girls, is perhaps the worst part of having ADD — being consistently inconsistent with what we tell others we’ll can do or will do, and being consistently inconsistent with what we tell ourselves.

A compassionate, but no nonsense coach who really does dance.. might have success. But it seems cruel to both the coach and the client. To the coach to expect him (or her) self to be able to take consistently inconsistent answers from the client without understanding the reasons.. and then expect themselves to keep on going without feeling like a failure. And cruel to the client who hopes someone will have some information to help adjust his progress.

And I think that lack of understanding and lack of ability to build a consistent and dependable structure is what makes a lot of people with ADD feel just rotten about themselves.

We all have to work WITH our life issues.. find ways to work around them if we can. And find ways to keep getting up in the morning and thinking of new ways to put one foot in front of the other.

If I’m not like everyone else, if I only have one hand, then please let me have a coach who knows about having only one hand. Don’t make me think up all my own answers to all my own questions because I really don’t know how to BE with only one hand. I don’t have any models of people who only have one hand. I don’t care if YOU, my coach, have two hands as long as you have some information about what it’s like to be like me.

Get it?