What It Takes: Teachers, Coaches & Mentors (TCMs)

November 6, 2012 — Leave a comment

I’ve completed a Bachelor of Public Relations, I’ve reached the highest level competition in a sport I’ve competed in for almost 2 decades.  I have also lived long enough to have a few ups and downs in life.  All of these experiences have led me to, driven me from and taught me how to deal with different teachers, coaches and mentors (TCMs).

I have learned that it is my responsibility as a student, athlete and person to seek out these people and develop these necessary relationships.  There have been times when someone has reached out to me but in general this is a rare occurrence.

How do you choose the right TCM?

I believe the good TCMs all display the following qualities. These qualities are necessary if your want to develop at a rate which parallels your potential:

  • A good TCM knows how to motivate an individual.  They make an effort to have meaningful relationships and get to know you as a person and what really drives you.
  • A good TCM is patient.  Through having a meaningful relationship they know what limitations you have and are patient with you and your progress, avoiding harsh criticism or negativity.
  • A good TCM has the ability to diagnose a problem.  They have enough knowledge and experience to see problems and fix them.  Sometimes those problems are physical and sometimes mental.  It isn’t enough to be an expert in one.
  • A good TCM has an eye like a hawk.  As you develop as a student, athlete and person and work towards your goal it is important that the TCM can notice fine details and not become complacent in their guidance.  There is always something to improve.
  • A good TCM only utters positivity.  It is important to develop what psychologists call a “growth” mind-set.  Instead of making people feel that may not have enough natural ability, which will cause disturbances in motivation.
  • A good TCM can maintain attention.  With the exception of people who have certain medical conditions if a TCM loses the attention of the person they are working with it’s the TCM’s fault.  If you are captivated by a TCM how much more do you learn?  Think of your favourite teacher versus your least favourite.  Think of Vince Lombardi versus your high school gym teacher… maybe that one is apples and oranges.  You get the picture.
  • A good TCM knows that life outside the teaching, coaching and mentoring environment is much more serious.  If all the other qualities exist in the TCM when you engage in conversation or activity all is good, all is fun and learning.  Outside is a different story.  When my TCM isn’t around it’s easy to get serious and discouraged when speaking with people like friends, parents and peers.  A good TCM will do everything in their power to make sure that you are taking the necessary precautions to continue developing outside of the learning environment.  Outside is where you will spend the majority of your time.

What do you do if you don’t have a TCM with “all” of these qualities?  

It’s been a constant struggle of mine to find the right TCMs along the way.  As you change as a person, as they change and as time ticks away, situations and needs change.  Relationships start, build, climax and decline much like business cycles.  Many things effect these TCM/learner relationships.  My only advice is to put your development as high on the priority list as you possibly can.  It isn’t a selfish thing to do.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is.”

The last quality a good TCM will display is the ability to let go.  Often times the TCM will feel very attached to the learner.  It’s a relationship they have sacrificed for and they may have an attachment to you and your development.  It’s a problem when the TCM feels ownership over you and that development.  This is a boundary that needs to be addressed before, during and after the TCM has done their job.  It’s always nice to have someone who knows they have helped as much as they can and willing to point you in the right direction .  This will make sure the relationship is maintained.

What if there is no one in proximity with all these qualities?  This is often the case.  It’s a rare person who that good in a TCM role.  In that case you may need to combine your sources of mentorship.  Maybe one person displays half the qualities and the other displays the other half.  Many athletes have a mental and physical coach.  Many business people have mentors and consult outside advisers.

It boils down to a shared responsibility by both TCM and learner to satisfy these qualities.

The Art Of Adaptation:  Putting your self-development high on your priority list isn’t a selfish act and shouldn’t involve neglecting other important people and aspects of your life.


Everyone is in a different place in life.  We all have different perspectives.  What is a good TCM for one person may not be for another and vice versa.

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