Our current education model with standardized testing caters to the former of those examples. The socially accepted measure of success of both students and teachers alike is based on specific metrics, requiring the teacher to maintain a minimally basic knowledge of their subject . Per this general measurement, a good teacher/coach is one whose students successfully pass the standardized testing in place. A great teacher or coach will produce students who not only surpass the basic standardized testing, but ones who thrive off further development, who seek out to understand more. A great teacher coaches a student on how to learn. A great teacher helps their student become even more than themselves, and, in turn, how to continue the development of others.
For me as a teacher and coach, one of the greatest factors for this is guiding my students to understand that they can achieve more than they think they can, and helping them to understand how they do so. Whether it is someone I am teaching to ride, play polo, or work on the farm, most people are taught how to do tasks. How to add 2+2, how to properly hit a ball, how to get a horse to bend, or how to repair something. The real task isn’t repairing the object, but having the skill set to know how to learn how to repair any object, and being able to evaluate what needs to be repaired and what doesn’t. In a game situation it's not a matter of knowing how to play as a team in the sense that you have been practicing week after week, but how to adapt and develop on the move as the game develops moment by moment. Making instantaneous decisions such as whether to stick with your assigned man on the other team, or to switch men. Whether to keep the same game strategy or change the game strategy.
Those with a rigid mindset will stumble when what has been taught does not work, but those who have been taught how to learn will excel at the challenge. This does not mean that the great teacher will not teach the fundamentals. Good fundamentals are an essential foundation to being able to learn and develop as things progress. For this reason the student will always surpass the great teacher, though the student will never attain the level of the good teacher. The teacher can never teach every bit of knowledge he has to his student, so the student will not reach the same level of the good teacher. When you see students surpassing their teacher then you know this is a great teacher because he is teaching the fundamentals of how to learn, and fostering an environment of learning with humility to help his students reach the highest levels.
Anyone who engages in teaching or coaching is worthy of respect as these are often thankless pursuits. The fruits of teaching and coaching often are not seen for decades later, but the truly great, patient teacher will know that the seeds he has planted will grow and that his students will know how to water these seeds of knowledge. I have been coaching for almost 10 years now, and it is incredible to see some of my former students reach the highest levels in my sport, including some of the best female polo players, fellow coaches, club managers, and other professionals in and out of the sport. And as a final note, it is not just the player that the coach is teaching. I am teaching the player, the family, the support staff, and all the farm workers, not only teaching the skills needed, but teaching through my example and through subtle practices how to create an environment of learning and support where everyone will become greater than they thought possible. Be patient and sit around to see, if you set your goals down in life you will only be selling yourself short. You will achieve more than you ever dreamed.
Manager and Head Trainer
Boston Polo Club