It seems we all know of at least one legendary coach who has an amazing record. I have spent decades researching the best ways to learn and teach guitar. This led me to reading about great coaches and teachers in various fields such as sport, education, business and personal development. When you look at the records of some of these coaches there is no doubt they have a remarkable ability to lift their players and students to new levels of performance. One of the most remarkable coaches is the late John Wooden and former UCLA basketball coach. Wooden’s team won 10 NCAA national championships over a 12-year period. 7 of them in a row. Note, that no other team has won more than two championships in a row. Wooden’s team also sustained an amazing 88 game winning streak. Something that seems almost unimaginable in any sport.
The influence of a great coach
Learning guitar is not easy and the majority of people who decide to learn guitar will quit within the first 12 months. Most people quit due to a lack of focus. It may be that other priorities take over or they lose confidence in their ability to learn or, they simply lose the motivation to practice consistently. A good coach has the ability to foresee these problems and will generally have a plan to counter them. The excuses we tell ourselves for sabotaging our dreams are rarely true and a good coach knows it. John Wooden would have been very aware of the many reasons players quit. In his case I don’t mean quit the game of basketball but to quit trying. In high level sports players don’t easily quit but they do level out. It takes a special coach to keep players giving 100% week after week. A good coach therefore understands that their job is to provide the ideal conditions for optimal effort.
Focusing on results
Lets be honest. We want results. A typical guitar student is focused on being able to play songs first and foremost. They are usually very impatient and don’t want to wait years to obtain the necessary skills to play notable songs. Funnily enough its not unusual for a guitar student to quit within the first month due to frustration but, expecting serious results in those first few weeks is completely unreasonable. These unrealistic students pick up the guitar each day for a few weeks and become disappointed with their slow progress. They can’t understand why its taking so long. The problem is related to the conditions under which they are attempting to learn guitar. To explain, imagine you decided to get in shape and lose that extra belly fat. You start out doing a daily jog but on day 5 you feel a bit tired so decide to skip it. No big deal you say, its only one day. The next day you resume your jogging routine but on day 9 you again skip due to a business project you need to finish. You also missed day 10 because you were just not in the mood. By the end of week 2 you decide to put it off for a while because your work is just too busy at the moment. You tell yourself that you’ll get back on track next month when things settle down at work.
Providing the right conditions
We could assume the problem was purely a lack of motivation and commitment but we all know conditions matter. A case in point. I recently lived in Japan for 8 months. I did not drive a car because getting my license changed over was a big job. This meant riding a bicycle. Our apartment was in Kyoto and situated on a fairly steep hill. This meant every time I went out I had to ride back up the hill. I literally had no choice. I had created the right conditions for getting fit. Even on the worse days in the cold and wet when I just didn’t feel like exercising I had no choice. I had to ride up that hill. Over the 8 months I lost weight and gained noticeable leg muscle. After about 6 weeks I started purposely riding other hills in the area as I was now motivated. A good coach creates these conditions. They know that they must put you in a situation where you have no choice.
Coaches make a difference
Wooden may possibly be the greatest sports coach in history and is certainly not typical. Finding a great coach should be your mission if you are serious about learning guitar. You will know them when you find them because they will stand out from the crowd. Be relentless in your pursuit and remember, that on your mission to find a great coach you’ll likely come across many good coaches. Even an average coach can make a difference.