Asking Exactly the Right Question

(Photo courtesy of Ted Morgan)

By Carol Cronin (from Carol Newman Cronin – Author, Editor, Olympian)

Everyone thinks they want answers. But I’ve learned to value the right question, because that’s what sparks a discussion that leads to insight and learning.

A recent Snipe clinic includes a perfect example. Kim and I hadn’t been in the boat for several months, so both our sailing muscles and instincts were rusty. During a pause between races, she asked: “What do you feel like you need to work on in the gym before the next regatta?”

One personal weakness was already apparent on that already steamy morning: “Heat tolerance,” I responded. It didn’t seem like something I could really work on—until we discussed it. Kim’s idea (working out in the middle of the day, instead of my preferred early mornings) kept me thinking about the issue, long after I’d driven back to the relative coolness of a Rhode Island spring. And then on a paddle a few days later, I came up with an easy solution: Overdress for my morning SUP sessions.

My usual instinct is to avoid sweating whenever possible, so as both water and air warm up in the spring I gradually shed those cold-weather layers. By Memorial Day, I’m usually wearing shorts and a lightweight shirt. This year, though, I’m still wearing neoprene, embracing the sweat rather than trying to avoid it. Consciously acclimating to the heat we’ll have at the Snipe Nationals in Annapolis would never have occurred to me if Kim hadn’t asked her key question.

Asking the right question is a large part of coaching, even when the coach doesn’t already know the answer.

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