Watching a recent interview with golf legend Tom Watson, David Feherty asked him what he thought  about the trend in the game today for players to use coaches. He commented on how the range at a PGA tour event is full of entourages for each player that includes swing coaches, mental coaches, fitness coaches and more. Watson, now in his 60’s recalled how he is now one of the few players who doesn’t bring a coach with him to tour events. He talked about the advice he was given as a young aspiring golfer: “Go find the best players, watch them and play with them”. He said he found mentors, not coaches who helped him become the great player that he was.

Of course this got me thinking about the two terms and they way not only Watson viewed them but how they relate to educators and more specifically the work I’m doing with Lani Ritter-Hall and PLP. Lani and I and our team of coaches have had many conversations about defining and redefining our roles. It’s tough work. particularly dealing with adults who are professionals.

I liked that Watson didn’t revert to “the good old days” tone but simply said he grew up in a different time. He did however suggest that the mentors in his life weren’t there to instruct but in various ways provided support through modeling and the occasional word of advice.

It was clear, Watson was in charge of his game/learning.

I don’t know if it’s worth exploring these terms, maybe as a few have suggested it’s simply semantics. Yet the sense of ownership and the nature of the relationship seems different. Not better or worse necessarily, just different. Read the following wonderful responses to my question about the differences between the two.



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Great stuff there for sure. I’m thinking that there is much more intent with a coach and a mentor may take on more of a passive role. In the case of Watson, mentors were determined by the player and often didn’t realize they were mentors. Coaches  are hired to do something specific; achieve an outcome. Mentors may often have no idea of their influence. Again, for me this isn’t about choosing one over the other but perhaps trying to decide when one role is more appropriate than the other.

That said, I must say there was something appealing about Watson’s distinction and choice of mentor over a coach. Coaches seem clinical, focusing on technique. They breakdown and deconstruct action. Mentors have a way of seeing the big picture, seeing the individual and speaking hope and encouragement and often poignant and penetrating thought. In golf, there is something enjoyable when things flow naturally, not contrived. Yet certainly there are times when analysis can be useful, but for most the enjoyment of the game comes when things flow, when you’re in the moment. Mentors likely help you get to this point easier than coaches.

​Maybe we need both. Maybe we can be both. Maybe it doesn’t matter what we name them. Maybe it does. As usual, just thinking out loud here. Feel free to join me.

image credit: by wazari

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Dean Shareski

Dean Shareski is an author, educator, speaker and coach. He taught K-8 for 15 years as well as 8 years as Technology Coordinator in Canada. He has supported the PLP network at various times over the past decade. He also served supported Community Engagement and Principals for Discovery Education throughout North America. He has over 12 years of experience in online instructional design and teaching. Working, teaching, learning and living online gives Dean a unique perspective at this moment in time.
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