A good coach of any sport has several motivating cliche’s ready in their coaching vocabulary. We call these coachisms, and any good coachism will motivate you to perform at your best not only in practice or a game, but in life, too. Ones like “focus on the little things” or “let’s take this one game at a time” are valuable, albeit generic, lessons—they lose their edge when you hear them a billion times over.
The five coachisms we are presenting in this series have stuck with us because they are not overused, thus zapped of their impact. These five life-skills we learned as student-athletes that have haunted us—err, guided us—in our athletic, academic, and now professional careers. We believe that you can apply these tips in your language-learning endeavors, too.
Language-learning tip: success depends on you, and only you
This Coach John Zamberlin’s coachism drove my fellow Idaho State Bengal football players and me crazy during our playing days under the mustachioed and pilgarlic skipper. Now, however, that coachism is integral to how I approach opportunities and challenges in life, my job, and learning.
“If it’s mean to be, it’s up to me!” would be barked out to us as we ran our twelfth sprint, fully armored under the 100-degree dry heat of southeastern Idaho. It was a phrase formulated to be a rally cry—a beckoning to rise up to the challenge when others wilt. Who will make the tackle to save the score? Who will exert all effort and energy to finish off the attack? “If it is meant to be, it is up to me!” encouraged coach.
I had only understood this coachism in the context of football. In fact, it was an irritant to me (and my teammates, I would image), because it was barked to us when we least wanted to fulfill what was meant to be. Over time, though, Zamberlin’s coachism changed from an irritant to a lifestyle—dare I say even a bad habit. When a need is present, I am compelled to step in and take care of it, even if I lack some—if not the whole—of the knowledge necessary to handle it. When responsibility is abdicated, I feel an itch to rise and assume responsibility.
What about learning language, though? Simple: if learning a language is meant to be, it is up to you! Reaching your language goals starts and ends with you. Teachers, learning apps, books, Netflix, and cultural immersion can only take you so far. It is up to you to reach the level of language proficiency you desire.
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