Coaching a Friend, Part 1

Many associations in the judge program naturally evolve into friendships. That is outstanding. Working with colleagues who are also friends enriches the experience, making judging at events more enjoyable.

Friendships also alter the dynamic of your feedback. Your relationship with your friends do create certain biases and preconceptions. And it is important to be aware of situations where relationships can hinder your coaching. However, your coaching can also be informed by your knowledge of your friends and made easier by your level of comfort with them.

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover on this, so we’re going to be tackling the topic of Coaching a Friend in three parts. For this installment, let’s focus on the most-common tripping point when dealing with coaching our friends — that we might not recognize we should coach them at all!

Remain objective.

As we interact with our friends more than others, we grow accustomed to their mannerisms. As a result, we often presume things like intent far with greater accuracy. This can create situations where we are blind to the need for coaching.

Example: Let’s say that Maria and Phil are both friends of Josh and of each other. The two tease each other constantly, with good-natured ribbing as friends often do. Phil is judging at an event where Maria is playing. At one point Phil is sitting on Maria’s match during extra turns. Maria draws for turn and then starts to ponder. After a considerable amount of time has passed, the following exchange occurs:

Phil: “Hey slowpoke, you’re gonna have to make a play sometime this year.”

Maria: “Oh I will? Well darn, guess I’ll just swing out.”

Maria and Phil: *laughter*

It would be easy for Josh to dismiss this interaction as his friends being his friends, completely missing the fact that this interaction was inappropriate and unprofessional behavior on the floor of the event. Phil needs to be coached to more carefully consider what he says on the floor. While he may know Maria was comfortable with his statement, there is every chance that other judges (or players within earshot) would not be.

So how do we ensure we retain this measure of objectivity when observing our friends? It has to be a conscious effort. You should already have incentive to help your friends improve, so you should use that desire to drive you multiple steps back and examine their behavior as if they were someone else. Divorce what you know of them from what you saw them do and focus just on what you observed. What if you did not know them? Does your reaction change? What feedback would you give this stranger now standing where your friend once was?

Check back soon for Part 2, where I’ll discuss how to use what you know about your friends to upgrade your coaching, identifying a significant layer of information underneath pure observation.

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