Behind the Whistle: Player Coachability is Underrated


This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Kelly Devlin is the associate head coach at Navy.

As we enter the peak of the summer recruiting season (yay for the dead period being lifted!) I’ve found myself honing in on qualities of recruitable athletes that aren’t necessarily quantifiable in the likes of a combine or club tournament. One of the most underrated qualities of a recruited athlete in my opinion is coachability.

Being coachable is defined as the capability of being easily taught and trained to do something better. This trait not only gives me insight into a player’s character via her sense of humility, but it also shows her willingness to learn the game at the next level. College coaches know that any young players that they watch and coach are just that – students of the game. They don’t expect perfection, and most even encourage mistakes so they can see a player’s immediate response to those mistakes. Acquiring more coachable student athletes on a collegiate team yields programs that grow and adapt to reach their dreams quicker than those who are stubborn and stuck in their ways. 

This concept seems elementary, but it’s tough to come by in my opinion. Just walking around at our most recent clinic, I instantly had a better connection with the players who listened to my advice, asked questions, and executed my suggestions over those who nodded at me in acknowledgment, but refused to adjust their hand placement, elbow angle, positioning on the field, etc.

Now I understand that these players are young and may struggle with self-consciousness among many other things, but that’s just the aspect that impresses me... Even if a player makes my suggested adjustment and proceeds to sky-rocket a ball, I appreciate her willingness to be bold, to try something that’s new and uncomfortable, but may make her look silly, versus the player who sticks to what she knows in order to avoid making a mistake in front of a college coach.

I want to be clear, this example is not meant to be a platform to vent a frustration, it’s meant to encourage any young female athletes who wonder if they’re “good enough,” and what level they can push themselves to ultimately compete at, that they will never know unless they TRY! Henry Ford has a famous quote that comes to mind:

“If you keep doing the same things you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

I even think back to myself as a high schooler and even in college in front of my awesome coaches (shout out to Jenny, Phil, Katrina, and Jenn!) being able to compete so hard in the open field but being tight and afraid to mess up in stickwork and drill situations. Note to my younger and current self: the only way to get better is to take in all advice with an open mind and to not be afraid to apply it or to fail!

I wish the best of luck to all prospects looking to be seen by their favorite coaching staffs this summer. Be coachable, be open-minded, play free, and have FUN!

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