Coach’s Log, Entry 2: Obedience versus Discipline
March 16, 2022
The difference between these two may be evident to most of you, but surprisingly, it isn’t to most people. I often hear coaches referring to athletes who don’t ask questions or make requests from them as “disciplined.” And likely because of the popular meaning of the word discipline.
But this attitude is closer to obedience than discipline.
The dictionary defines discipline in several ways. The first definition is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.” Many of us also understand this word to mean punishment or the consequence of negative behaviour.
Yes, discipline means all those things, but when we talk about disciplined people, and more critical to this log entry, disciplined athletes, we refer to their ability to follow practices that benefit their progress.
If being disciplined means that we stick to good routines for our development, then we refer to consistency in practice and how we think about what we practise. As I said in Entry 1, disciplined athletes know what they need to succeed and actively seek it. It is our job as coaches to instil this attitude in ours.
Therefore, disciplined athletes will stick to the frameworks we have in place to facilitate successful training, but never blindly. Disciplined practitioners of any sport, if they know what they need, can help improve upon frameworks of development.
Yes, and this is when the first dictionary definition matters, respect and acceptable behaviour is part of discipline. Like any good student, a good athlete should know how to approach challenges to their training regimen. And I’ll submit here that showing our pupils how to go into those conversations is also an essential part of our work as coaches.
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Disciplined athletes clearly understand the behaviours and resources they need to thrive in their sport. Further, they know the role of a coach in cultivating that understanding and providing those resources.
Good athletes can see the need for change and work with their coaches to bring that change about and improve mutual circumstances.
If we foster this understanding of discipline in our students, we can focus our time and mental strengths on skill development because we won’t have to correct behaviour.
Now, I’d be remiss in saying this is easy to achieve, but I’ll claim that the act of thinking about it can help see different, more viable versions of progress and success for our classes. Moreover, the kind of discipline I talk about in this log entry is a valuable transferable skill our athletes will benefit from in life.
Thank you for reading.
— Coach José