What does it mean to be coachable? By Elizabeth Williams WNBA Player for the Atlanta Dream
One of the best compliments I ever received as a young player was that I was coachable. I took a lot of pride in hearing that. Mainly, because I never wanted to be viewed as the opposite, as someone who was not coachable. But what does that really mean? Are some players viewed negatively because they don’t take every single word that a coach says as gospel? Are some players given more credit for not speaking up when coaches said or did questionable things? As I have gotten older, the attribute of coachability remains extremely important but I think both athletes and coaches need to examine the root of what that really means.
My name is Elizabeth Williams and I am currently playing in the WNBA for the Atlanta Dream. This is now my 7th season in the WNBA and my 6th with Atlanta. I also serve as secretary on the WNBA Player’s union. I enjoy being a voice and advocate for all of the players. When I think about my role within my Atlanta team as well as with player leadership, I think back to how I even got involved with that.
I graduated from Duke in 2015 with a degree in psychology. When most people hear that major they always think I want to analyze people or read people’s minds. I wish! I honestly just liked learning about how incredible to mind was and how it works. One thing I did take from that however is realizing that generally, people are more similar than we realize. And in sports, that is helpful to know. Positive reinforcement works, so having coaches who understand that can have a huge impact on how we perceive our roles as athletes. Coaches can motivate us by reinforcing the good that we do. This goes for both on and off the floor. So when I was asked after my rookie season to become a player representative, it was one thing to be asked, but another to have coaches and teammates letting me know that I would do well and was capable.
I am generally a pretty laid back person who doesn’t want to get in much trouble. I worked hard, did my job, and kept my head down. What coach doesn’t want that, right? I didn’t ask too many questions, I just did what needed to be done. So did that make me coachable? On the surface, of course. It makes coaches jobs easier when they are not challenged. And I feel like I am doing what needs to be done for my team.
But then I think about some other teammates I had in college for example, who also worked just as hard, or if not harder, but they were not always perceived the same way. Why? Because they were more likely to ask questions? To make coaches feel uncomfortable? As long as you are respectful, there is a place to do that. And moments like those, while at the time may have seemed out of place, actually allowed our team to challenge how we thought and eventually grow.
I say these things because I have been fortunate in my career to be viewed a certain way and I embrace that role. But I absolutely would not be where I am in my leadership role on and off the floor, if not for those who challenge the status quo and redefine what it means to be coachable. I challenge coaches to dig deeper, and continue to motivate
those who have a tougher exterior. And players, remain true to yourself but always keep in open mind in how you communicate and challenge what it means to be coachable..
To hear more about the social activism work that Elizabeth is doing within the WNBA read her NY Times article here.
About Elizabeth Williams
WNBA CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
Has appeared in 176 games with 153 start
Career totals include 1,647 points, 1,113 rebounds, 307 blocks, 210 assists and 135 steals
Her 1.7 blocks per game ranks seventh in WNBA history and fourth among active players
Has played and started in seven Playoff games for an average of 11.0 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game
WNBA Most Improved Player (2016)
First Four-Time AP All-American in ACC history, eighth ever in NCAA history
Only second Duke player to be named WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year (2015)
The second ACC player in history to be named First Team All-ACC four straight years
Four-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year
First ACC player ever to reach 1,900 points, 1,000 rebounds and 400 blocks
Born Elizabeth Olatayo Williams in Colchester, Essex, England
Daughter of Dr. Alex and Margaret Williams
Has one younger brother, Mark, and one older sister, Victoria
On the Principal’s List and recipient of the Cavalier Award in 2007-08
Was on Dean’s List at Duke in the Spring of 2012
A two-time ACC Honor Roll selection
**Bio Source: https://www.wnba.com/player/elizabeth-williams/