Our traditional conception of pedagogy presumes that after a certain point, people no longer require instruction. We go to school, then to college, then to university, some do further training in a specialism. After that, we’re thrown out into the world to get on with the rest of our lives. In his talk ‘The Difference between Coaching and Teaching,’ Harvard Medical School professor Atul Gawande explained that elite athletes flatly reject this model. They believe it’s naïve, and that few people can maintain their best possible performance by themselves. For instance, upon being ranked world number one in 2011, Novak Djokovic didn’t sack his coach. In fact, he probably gave him a raise.
Elite performers understand that learning isn’t something bestowed upon you; it’s a continuous process that requires deliberate practice and self-reflection. For athletes, coaches offer an external perspective on their performance, identifying areas for improvement. This can be psychologically challenging for people: it forces them outside of their comfort zones, allowing them to realign their habitual patterns.