By Mark Tennant, Director of inspire2coach
In the first article in this mini-series, How to Tell if Mentoring is the Best Approach For You, I defined mentoring and gave some examples of questions to ask yourself to decide if mentoring is for you. It’s time to look at how mentoring works and look at a guide to finding the right mentor to help you.
The beauty of mentoring is that there is no set recipe, and no ‘one size fits all’ formula. Mentoring is between the person wanting help, and the mentor. Mentoring is flexible, informal and driven by the person being mentored. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the start of every mentoring relationship is as different as the relationship itself.
6 Principles of finding the right mentor
The “right” mentor is linked to the person and their business, rather than coaching
This may be because coaching skills and content can be developed more through courses, whereas individual and personalised support is harder to develop in the same way. Your mentor may know little or even nothing about tennis, and this may actually make it a stronger mentoring relationship.
If you stay with your mentor for the long-term, you’ll have a consistent source of professional support
Freddie* was a young, up-and-coming coach in South Wales. He started on a formal scheme set up by Tennis Wales. His need for mentoring didn’t end at the end of the formal scheme and so he has continued the relationship on his own. That was 10 years ago! Freddie and I still meet when he wants to chat, is seeking advice, or when he has specific questions about his programme, his team or his business.
Mentoring relationships don’t need to be planned or scheduled
Teddy* called out of the blue one day seeking help. We caught up over a coffee and talked about him and his business. Since then, we catch up every few months to discuss his programme and his business.
Be open to identifying potential mentors that you meet in the course of your coaching
Alfie* completed his Level 3 and Level 4 with inspire2coach. He is a keen coach, interested in ongoing development and so he asked to continue working with me after completing the course. We met over coffee for formal mentoring sessions.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people because you think they won’t be interested in working with you
I was contacted by Greg*, a coach in Mexico, via Facebook Messenger. Greg* wanted advice on some of his players. He sent me a video with some questions, and we ‘spoke’ online to answer his questions. He now calls me Coach Mark and contacts me when he has questions!
Ignore geography; you can work with a mentor from anywhere in the world
In 2014 Rob* wanted help to evaluate and develop a very large 10 and under programme at his club in Finland. Since then I have visited the club at least once a year to spend time with him and to work with him, the team and on the programme. Through online conferencing and meeting packages, there are no geographical boundaries to mentoring.
*Not the coaches real names.
Common factors in finding the right mentor
Each relationship is completely different, works in a different way and is based on when the person needs help. There is no timetable and no agenda, although regular mentoring discussions will logically link from session to session..
Mentoring can be face to face, on the court or off the court, on the phone, online or by video and messaging. Social media and the internet have internationalised mentoring and have brought everyone closer together. It is now very easy to talk across time zones and continents free of charge and to share videos and other content in the same way.
You’ll need coffee, and lots of it!
Final words on finding the right mentor
Ask! If you think you could benefit from some help or advice, or just someone to talk to about your coaching and your business, then ask someone that you respect and think you could learn from. You could even put out a message on Facebook to ask for a mentor and see what happens. Remember that a mentor is more like a sounding board, so they don’t need to have all the answers. They need to be interested in you and what you do, be willing to commit some time to helping you, and be a great listener.
It’s easy to live in the tennis bubble that consumes our lives. You could look for a mentor outside tennis, or even outside sport. I believe that tennis needs to look beyond its own boundaries and to learn from business, education and industry, so why not ask someone outside tennis to be your mentor.
In the third and final part of this mini-series, we will hear from others who have benefited from mentoring from inspire2coach.