Teacher / Trainer / Coach – Who Am I

Michael Herdlitzka takes a closer look at this question that moves many of us
Who am I

By Michael Herdlitzka

Many of us call themselves or get called by their students one or more of the above. In most cases there is no clear picture of the differences and the appropriateness. Many have distorted or one-sided ideas about the different views, tasks and methods. Many mix up all these functions or think they are just “names” for the same thing. Many seem to think the teacher does it all, the trainer is responsible only for stamina matters and the coach tells what to do during a competition.

From andragogy (the science of adult education) we can learn the relevant definitions and differences. All forms are useful but only appropriate in certain situations while less suitable under other circumstances. It is a matter of talent and own education whether somebody is able to “switch” from one to another according to situational needs. If you are not a good “switcher” you rather team up with others. The better you “switch” the less high profile specialist you are which again makes teamwork the better choice.

The “right way” view: 

The teacher will give information about basic principles. The method is telling and demonstrating. She or he will be driven by “what” to teach, responsible for the very content of the relevant subject. This content is necessary for success and “out of doubt” in its correctness. The teacher believes in perfection.

The “best way” view: 

The trainer will give exercises for different situations. The method is variation and repetition. She or he will be driven by “how” to implement the knowledge and skills under varying requirements. The same basics can or have to be used in different ways. Floors may vary in size, shape and surface. Comps may vary in importance and duration. Competitors may vary in height, shape, age and talent. Last but not least the music may vary in character, “drive” and even speed. The trainer believes in optimisation.

The “own way” view: 

The coach will give perspectives. The method is asking and suggesting. She or he will be driven by “what else” could be used, tried out or implemented in order to develop more authenticity. Nothing is taken for granted, everything is made possible to think about and then turned into realistic actions. The coach supports the finding of more and new options in fulfilling tasks and differentiating from others. The coach believes in uniqueness.

Understanding these definitions and differences we notice that our profession delivers a lot of pretty good education for teachers, some for trainers, almost none for coaches. In our aim to assist competitors we should recognise the different views and analyse the circumstances when certain views and methods are more or less appropriate. We might discover that competitors do not need a teacher in the studio, a trainer on the running track and a coach at the competition. They rather need a teacher when they start, a trainer throughout their career and a coach before they reach the summit of their capability and during their stay on top.

For every responsible teacher, trainer or coach the students’ career lies in the centre of attention. Who can when deliver what kind of support at best? There is never such a thing as “my couple”, no person, school or team should “possess” people. Teaching, training and coaching are only services provided by professionals for capable individuals. This approach comes from the coaches’ view but should nowadays also be adopted by trainers and teachers.

If professional service providers work together as a team (!), a lot of coordination work has to be done. This leads to the introduction of a fourth function, the manager. True professional understanding opens up plenty of business opportunities for all kinds of different (!) service providers. “Giving lessons” is certainly not the only job needed for successful future development. In fact giving lessons in a fully developed profession would be only a minor part of the game.

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