Why Most Coaches Coach The Way They Do

QWERTY – That's Just The Way It Is

“Normality is merely a matter of consensus; that is, a lot of people think something is right, and so that thing becomes right.” —Paolo Coelho

There are some things that are simply governed by common sense. For instance, putting buttons on the front of a shirt is a matter of logic. It would be very difficult to button your shirt up from the side, and next to impossible if the buttons were on the back.

Other things become fixed because more and more people believe that’s the way they should be.

Why Are The Keys Arranged That Way?

Two examples for you…

Have you ever thought about why the keys on a keyboard are arranged in the order that they are?

Well, for starters, it’s called QWERTY, because that’s the order of the letters on the first row of keys. But, I still haven’t answered the question.

The first machine was invented by Christopher Sholes, in 1873, to improve calligraphy (or cursive as I was taught to call it growing up in the Bahamas). The problem with the original typewriter was that if a person typed too quickly, the keys got stuck together and stopped the machine from working. Sholes decided to create the QWERTY keyboard to force typists to slow down and type more slowly.

Don’t believe it? Well, it’s true.

It just so happened that Remington – which made sewing machines as well as guns at the time – used QWERTY for the first typewriters. That meant that more people were forced to learn that system of typing, and other companies followed suit, making the same type of keyboard; until it became the only available model.

Most people assume the keyboard is that way because it’s the best layout for people to type quickly. Au contraire. It’s set up that way to handicap you and slow you down.

The second example takes us to Florence; Italy, that is.

There’s a cathedral in Florence with a beautiful clock designed by Paolo Uccello in 1443. The thing about this clock is that, although it keeps the time like all others, its hands go in the opposite direction to that of “normal” clocks. Uccello wasn’t trying to be original when he made his clock. In fact, at the time, many others were making clocks with hands turning – in a direction we’d call today – counter clockwise. For some reason, we’ve settled on the hands turning in the direction that we now think of as the “right” direction. (Some speculate that the Duke of time had a clock that turned in this direction.) It has become the only direction accepted for clocks to turn, with Uccello’s clock then seeming to be an aberration.

So what do QWERTY and Uccello’s clock have to do with basketball and coaching?

Let’s turn to people. Everyone is unique, each with their own qualities, instincts, forms for pleasure, and desire for their version of adventure. However, society imposes on us a collective way of behaving, and people never stop to wonder why they should behave like that. Sure there are those who stray off the communal path, but, generally, it’s accepted. Just like how we accept the QWERTY keyboard is the best possible. And, why you’re hard pressed to meet someone who questions why the hands of the clock go in one direction and not the other.

I think that this communal acceptance of “that’s the way it is,” extends itself into coaching. Why do most people coach the way they do? Because that’s how they were coached (or taught) .

That doesn’t make it right though.

Are You Up For A Challenge?

I challenge you (me … us), as teacher-coaches, to teach creatively, challenge (your own) conventional thoughts and seek to obtain a greater understanding of all that goes into your craft – and the young people you’ll be affecting.

Think about the reasons for why you do what you do. Because it could be that, you do what you do, just because the only ‘clock’ you’ve known has been the one someone else put in front of you. And, you could have settled on the direction you are going as being right because that was the direction that all the others were going in. Doesn’t make it right though.

To get what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done.

[ RELATED: Its Always Been Done That Way ]

Coach counter clockwise! Be adventurous. You’ll be surprised at the results you may have.

Run the risk of being alive… Coach creatively.


Coelho is one of my favourite authors. This post was inspired by a glance back at one of his books after having watched a local youth basketball game. Coelho once said, “The danger of adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort.

I think, often, we as coaches take the easy route and fail to do ourselves and our athletes justice by experimenting with new ideas. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Isn’t that exactly what we’re asking of our athletes? Adapting a phrase from a friend, Megan Glanfield, said to me: ‘Coaches have a responsibility to be the leaders of learning.’