The Importance of Silence for Coaches

written by Erica Quam

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I remember the minute I was hired as the Head Women’s Swim Coach at Washington State University.

My boss at the time said, “Congratulations Coach! You’re not gonna sleep for a month!

He was right.

My brain was on. It wouldn’t turn off.

I had so much on my to-do list, I had trouble figuring out where to start.

I struggled to set any priorities because in my mind…everything had to be done and it had to be done right now!

I worried that I would forget something important that would slip through the cracks. Now as a head coach, it was MY responsibility if something didn’t get done.

My thoughts would literally wake me up at night.

My heart would race when I realized I hadn’t gotten back to someone I was supposed to…a recruit, someone in the department, my mom…

I remember thinking…this is not sustainable. Something has to give!

Our current world is noisy.

There’s so much coming at you - every single day.

  • Hundreds of emails.

  • Multiple notifications in various apps on different platforms.

  • Messages and comments to respond to.

When there’s actual silence or space, you figure out a way to fill it.

Maybe you grab a glance at your phone at a red light, standing in line at the grocery store, or during a lull in dinner conversation.

These behaviors are rewiring our brains to need this incessant input.

And if this resonates with you, I’m not here to judge. I do it too!

Everyone is subject to this addiction.

People in the tech industry are paid big bucks to figure out ways to keep you wired so you will keep consuming.

To help you find some silence as a coach, I’d like to offer you 4 things: a gift, a habit, a strategy, and a challenge:

#1) A Gift

Become aware of small gifts of space. Awareness is the best place to begin.

Start to build a little extra space between a stimulus and your response….like the urge to grab your phone out of your back pocket when you have an extra minute to wait.

Allow yourself to be there, waiting, and just breathe.

#2) A Habit

I work with coaches to build healthy habits - to help them break the patterns that derail them from doing their best work. Habits help you build trust in yourself and can be powerful tools for self awareness.

A habit I recommend is meditation:

  • Sit down

  • Set a timer

  • Notice…the pandemonium of your thoughts

That’s it.

After your five minutes are up, you may not feel successful.

That’s okay.

It’s all about observing the thoughts that come up, without judgement, and without attachment. Just let ‘em go.

#3) A Strategy

Your brain is not a storage device. Trying to contain all the things you need to remember in your head is not a good strategy. Your brain wants to solve problems. It has a hard time finding solutions when you make it into a container.

Step One - Dump:

When you can’t sleep…and when your head feels full and overwhelmed, set your timer for 5 minutes.

Then write.

(My coach calls this a brain dump.)

Write down all the stuff you’re thinking about. Everything.

The to-do’s, your judgements & criticisms, all those scripts replaying past conversations you wish you could go back and change.

Once the timer goes off you then stop.

If your mind is still churning, then look over what you’ve written: cross off the uncontrollable’s, group your to-do’s, and notice the themes.

Lots of times this activity is what your brain needs to get things out of your head and into a different container so you can go back to sleep.

Step Two - Park:

Take any actual to-do’s - priorities and action steps - and find a place to park them so your brain can rest.

Write them in a planner. Add them to your calendar. Whatever system works best for you.

If you’re like me and have a lot of ideas that you want to remember later, you can create a physical parking lot. This is what my coach recommended I do when I was at WSU. (I still use this system today.)

  1. Start with 12 file folders.

  2. Label one for every month of the year.

  3. Add in quotes you like, paperwork that needs to get done, activities you want to do with your team, or anything else you want to be sure you’ll remember for that month.

  4. On the first day of each month (or a week before if you tend to plan out the next week) open your folder and sort.

  5. Finally add, shift, or recycle: add them to your plan, shift them to another month, or recycle if they no longer apply.

#4) A Challenge

I started a meditation challenge today. Want to join me?

  • Start with five minutes. Not thirty.

  • After a while, go to six minutes. Not ten.

  • Decide how many times a week you want to realistically commit to.

  • Choose a time and place to help you be consistent.

  • If you miss a day, it’s tempting to quit or beat yourself up. Simply begin again tomorrow.

  • Then see what you notice.

That’s all.

Want a little accountability for YOur challenge?

Join me and a group of awesome coaches this season in the Coaches Mentorship Club. Tap into a community of coaches who will cheer you on, hold you accountable, and help you get back on track.

Try the group for 30 days - before your season start - to help you start a new habit. Cancel anytime.