How using a phone can screw up your coaching


A guest post by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Todaydude

A smartphone can make you a smarter coach. There are definite advantages of having all-that-technology in your pocket. That’s what I wrote last week and I believe it.

Then Ross wrote in:
“What about all the ways a smartphone can screw up your coaching?”
Hmm? Really. What ways?

Three minutes later, I’d filled a piece of paper with dozens of downsides to using my smartphone while coaching. Things I hadn’t spent much time thinking about. Negatives, that if I’m not careful, can get me in a heap of trouble. And you too.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Downside 1: Distracted Coaching #1.

    You’ve heard this message before, but I’m going to echo it again, “Don’t use your smartphone behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.” It’s simple, the downside could be tragic, and as someone who has lost friends in senseless car accidents, I’m begging you, please don’t do it. I don’t want to lose you too.

    I get it, it can be so tempting to pick up the phone just to sneak-a-peak. But really, can’t it wait?  Or if you really have to, can you pull over? Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while messing with a smartphone. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.


  • Downside 2: Busted.

    A smartphone is naked without a protective case. There are thousands of cases for sale that look good, but offer little or no protection. I got myself a bombproof case. You should too.

    Listen, I’m a klutz. So I got a LifeProof case for my iPhone. It has saved me numerous times. Drops, immersions, and submersions (remember, I coach a water sport) haven’t stopped the phone yet (yup, knocking on wood).  The expense of that great case is well balanced by the security I get.

  • Downside 3: I See Paris, I See France …

    Speaking of security, you do use the passlock feature on your phone, right? That simple little code you type in can keep the world from having access to what’s in your phone.

    “Ah, there’s only a few pictures and games. I’m not worried,” you say? I bet if I got into your email or SMS account I could get super-sensitive personal information (such as, oh, login info to your bank accounts) and I’m not very tech savvy. You can imagine the damage a smart thief could do.

    Use your passlock protection, and write me a thank you when you lose your phone (notice “when” not “if”)

  • Downside 4: Distracted Coaching #2

    Silence can be golden, and smartphone are made so you can silence the bells, rings, whoops, beeps, tweaks, whistles, and any other notification noises for a damn good reason — smartphones love to butt in. When you least expect it, your phone will demand your attention.

    I was watching a coach give his pregame psych talk and just before reaching the frenzy every coach dreams of getting his team whipped into … his phone rings. And his ring tone was the Maccaraina. It’s interesting how 16-year old boys respond when they hear the Maccaraina bellowing from their coach’s pocket. Not quite what the coach was striving for.

  • Downside 5: Distracted Coaching #3.

    Why shouldn’t you check your smartphone whenever you like? If you’re not behind the wheel, a quick peek, won’t hurt. Weeeeell …psst

    There is a reward mechanism that plays out when you sneak-a-peek at your email. A little bit of dopamine drips into your brain when you check your email, and our bodies like that.

    So when someone sees you check your phone they subconsciously want to check too. It’s already super difficult to keep the attention of people today. Start waving a dopamine-taste in front of them, and you’ve lost them.

  • Downside 6: The Feedback crap-rap.

    Every human in the world has an opinion, and some of them will even have an opinion about you and your coaching ability. Do you really want to know what they think?

    Bluntly, no … no you don’t.

    There are very few people whose opinion about your coaching really matters. Your supervisor, your players, coaches you work with, and you. Anonymous people lucking in the dark corners of some forum have an opinion and it is worthless. You should not waste a microsecond of your day being distracted by it.

    Stop looking. Stop checking. Stop caring. Digital comments seldom have any positive value. If you are doubting your skills then check in with your boss or your giant. Leave the troll-comments about you for the birds.

A smartphone, like a hammer, can be a wonderful tool — but only when used wisely. As someone who has bashed more than one finger while wielding a hammer, watch out for the downsides of using it. It can hurt.


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Lewin

    Okay I was kind of hoping for a bit of insight into how using ergbuddy, boatcoach, strokecoach mobile, etc. can lead you down the path of mechanistically reducing on-the-water rowing to erging-that-floats, but hey this is good advice.

  2. Mike

    I think we are on the verge of several new tech invasions, in terms of helping coaches coach. Video, of course, but sensors, gauges, recorders and biofeedback are right around the corner, and even closer. Will they make coaching easier, better, more enjoyable? Up to the users, I think. Will be interesting.

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