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Ask James Ryan: Best Lessons in Coaching

James Ryan

Lance Waldeck asked: What is the best lesson a coach or mentor has taught you? What is the best lesson you teach while coaching and leading others?

When I was first asked to teach Customer Relations at Niagara College Canada, I had no prior teaching experience, certifications, or even so much as a University or College education. True story. And yet, despite my apparent lack of qualifications, there was this inherently strong belief around the department and by my peers that I was somehow perfect for the job. Personally, I didn’t get it. And so, I met with the Coordinator at the time, a man by the name of Harry Lewis, who quickly became a mentor that I very much respected greatly. Not because of what others thought about him, but because of his basic approach to teaching. He was slightly eccentric, yes, but Harry will always be remembered as one of the smartest men that I have ever known.

I met with Harry over breakfast one morning to go over expectations and to review course content (which I was being asked to re-write and create from scratch, thus leaving my permanent mark on Niagara College forever) and the whole entire time, Harry kept doodling two small words on the top of his note pad. Over and over and over again, he scratched these words into the paper and into my consciousness. It was impossible not to take notice and even more impossible not to comprehend the message:

Students First.

Whether it be teaching, coaching, or customer service, the priority should always be on the needs of the students or players. Treat them all as your valued customers. Prioritize their specific needs and not your own. Always be respectful. And always lead by example. These are the lessons and values that I continue to instill in each of my players.

With two simple words, Harry Lewis was able to provide me with the ultimate guide for living life. For that, I am thankful.

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Ask James Ryan is a brand new article series, which invites readers to ask anything and everything, but only on the condition that James Ryan must absolutely answer everything with complete and brutal honesty. Given the nature of the questions thus far, this could get very interesting. #askjamesryan

Questions? Ask James Ryan @coachjamesryan

James Ryan
James Ryan

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