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.
Our other coachisms
- If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me
- Do your work early
- If you’re on time, you’re late
- Don’t be clock watchers
Create a steady and consistent learning habit
This one comes in various forms and is credited to multiple coaches, including my father, Coach Dad (John van Vliet IV). My Dad coined “brick by brick” as a slogan for my high school—a fitting one as both the football team and the entire school were in their infancy and starting to lay the foundations for future success. The idea was to lay down one brick for the foundation of the team at a time, rather than throw up the entire structure at once. Every day at the gym or on the practice field was another brick added to the foundation of the team; every sprint or well-executed play was another brick.
My strength and conditioning coach at Idaho State, Mark Campbell, would push us to get one percent better every day. “Yesterday I ran ten out of twelve hill sprints under the target time. Today, I will run eleven.” Finally, Zamberlin would adjourn a productive practice in which we improved upon ourselves with “that’s another (good) one in the bank.”
Brick-by-brick, percentage-point-by-percentage-point, and non-cashable-investment-by-non-cashable-investment—every day we were pushed to improve upon yesterday.
So it is as a professional in any field: you find ways to improve yourself every day. So it is with learning a language: you find ways to become more proficient in your language skills every day. That ultimate success you aspire to achieve requires smaller, daily successes along the way.
You can achieve your language-learning goals by learning a new set of words every day. Find a few practical phrases every week and seek to use them in real-life contexts. Edify your mind and soul every month with a new Biblical or poetic passage or a chorus from a song to recite. Inundating yourself with the language reaps rewards—sometimes slower than you would like, but rewards nonetheless.
Attack your language learning word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase, verse-by-verse.