Big Picture Listening

by C.J. Aragon

One of the most important qualities of a great athlete is the ability to listen. It is a very difficult skill to learn, but one of the most important if you want to be able to improve. You need to be able to listen to your coaches, your peers, judges and many others to be successful.
Here are some problems I see with young athletes when it comes to listening.
First, listening to reply, not to learn or improve from what they are being told. The only reason they hear what you are saying is so that they can reply. When you listen simply to reply your comprehension of the message plummets, simply put you do not hear what is being said. When you are listening to reply you do not hear what is being said because you are thinking about your reply. You are thinking of the justification for your actions or you are just thinking of an excuse. Listen to hear the message.
Second, being able to remove emotion. What do I mean by that? Most of the time when you have a good performance you get plenty of praise and it is easy to listen to how good you are. Where it becomes difficult is when you don’t do well, when things don’t go your way. Most of the time you will be upset after a poor performance or practice and many times this is when your coach will be there to help you. This is the time when it is important to remove emotion. You might be upset, angry or disappointed, but you need to be able to hear the message your coach has for you in these circumstances if you don’t want to repeat the performance.
Third, listen to get the big picture. This is the tough one for many people. Many people hear only what they want to hear. Some will hear only the positive things a coach has to say and ignore the things that they need to work on the most. Some will hear only the negative things and think their coach doesn’t like them. I am pretty sure some don’t hear anything. Whatever the case may be, try to listen to get the big picture. Many times young athletes only see the actions of their last run or ride, and don’t understand why they are being coached a certain way. A good rule is to ask yourself why it was important enough for my coach to tell me that, and how will it make me better. If you don’t understand, ask. The most important part of being a good listener is to understand the message.
Everyone has different ways of relaying messages to you. How well you are able to listen and understand the message will be very important in how you develop as an athlete.

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