Empty Your Cup


In recent weeks or months I’ve noticed there are pockets of cynicism directed towards the FA’s coaching program and although I guess it’s to be expected I find it a little disappointing. I’m too new to coaching to know what preceded the current program, or in fact, how long this program has been in place but I get the feeling that there’s a population of coaches who perhaps don’t feel that these courses can teach them anything or even worse, that the FA are just looking to make a few quid from these qualifications.

I find it disappointing because I’ve found both the courses I’ve been on hugely enjoyable and I’ve learnt a lot from them. I think getting in to coaching, especially youth coaching, makes you realise how little you actually know and if you want to develop then it’s important you open yourself up to this, although it can be daunting. To put it in Rumsfeld terms, getting involved in coaching has highlighted a whole host of unknown unknowns for me!

I guess when you see the cynicism and add it to the worrying (albeit anecdotal) stories you hear about the views coming out of certain professional academies it makes you realise what a big job this country has on its hands if we’re to develop a set of common values amongst coaches at all levels. One can’t help but wonder if it’ll actually take a gradual evolution to remove this obsession with winning, the preference of big physical athletes over smaller players with better technical ability and the use of drills in youth football.

In the mean time, I’ll continue to promote the value I see in the FA courses I’ve attended (which I’ve actively done already to those who seem a little cynical) and share this cool proverb which I received via email this week. I thing it suits the tone of this post quite nicely 🙂

Empty Your Cup

A master was trying to explain something to a student. Now this student was not a ‘brand new’ student, but a senior student who had learned many things. He had knowledge and experience aplenty to draw upon. But each time the master tried to explain something new to the student, the student kept trying to hold it up against his own notions of the way the world is and how it ought be, and he was unable to see the lessons in what the master was trying to teach him.

Finally, the master poured a full serving of tea into his own cup, and into the cup of the student. Then he told the student he wanted to give to him some of the tea from his own cup. He began pouring tea from his cup into the student’s cup, but the student’s cup was already full, and all the tea from the master’s cup spilled out over the cup onto the surface below.

The student said, “Master, you can’t pour anything into my cup until I empty it to make room for what you are trying to give me.”, and the master replied “Yes I know.” “And I can’t give you any new thoughts or ideas or perspectives on life’s lessons until you clear out some thoughts that are already teeming in your mind to make room for what I have to teach you.” Then the master paused for a brief moment, meeting the student’s eyes with his own knowing look and calmly but sternly said: ” If you truly seek understanding, then first, empty your cup!”

The student pondered for a moment with a look of absolute bewilderment. Then a look of enlightenment came over him, followed by a smile, and a look of receptiveness. The master started to explain again, and this time the student saw what the master was trying to say.

Finally, it’d be great to hear if you come across similar views within your clubs?

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About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

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