Watching Romain Grosjean’s first corner collision at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, one starts to wonder what can be done to help the young Frenchman from plowing into someone. It’s clear that he’s got talent and speed, but something inside the young man is preventing him from realizing his potential.
His first corner incidents seem to be more unintentional than anything else, which means that they can be removed from his driving habits. He’s already had a one race ban, and now it’s coming to the point that people are starting to give him less of the benefit of the doubt when he is involved in an incident.
What would help Romain Grosjean? He just needs a driving coach.
Most people don’t feel like they don’t need a coach, because they feel like they don’t need someone to teach them how to do something. (Not only is that incorrect, since we can always do things better, but the definition of a coach is also just misunderstood). A coach takes on a different role than an instructor. Coaches aren’t there to tell you how to do something, they are there to help you improve what you already know you can do. A good coach is a mentor who use their skills to improve the mental programming of their student, and act as counsel as they encounter challenges. More like a buddy-teacher with more experience, rather than a drill sergeant.
Coaching is not a new thing in sport. Many of our greatest athletes at the peak of their careers have had one. Also, you don’t only need a coach when you are a developing novice. Accomplished people like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan have had coaches, even when they were at the peak of their powers. They’ve helped to mold them, keep them focus and support them into the zone when they need to perform at their best.
Unfortunately, most racing drivers feel like they don’t need coaching, because they view coaches as instructors who will try to re-teach them how to drive, rather than being their driving peer. (That’s also because most ‘coaches’ inappropriately act like instructors, which serves to make the problem worse.)
Asking for a good coach just means that you are seeking a mentor to help sharpen your abilities, not admitting that you have faulty skills. That is an important awareness. It’s noting that you need someone who is more skilled to help you improve, not that you are weak.
Back to the case study that started this whole discussion. Earlier in the 2012 season, Jackie Stewart volunteered to act as a driving coach for Romain. It was an offer that Lotus F1 driver turned down. Maybe that is something that he should have a re-think about, given his recent result. Stewart wasn’t asking to be Romain’s driving instructor. He doesn’t need to teach Romain how to drive a car fast. He was offering to be a coach, which we all know is totally different.
If I was Romain, I wouldn’t take that as an insult if a legend like Stewart wanted to help me improve. If he won’t take him up on it, maybe I can get Stewart to coach me instead…