Edson: An Important Skill For Young Athletes: Listening

It’s a skill set that often gets overlooked.

We want our young athletes to practice hard, be good teammates and be ready to produce when they are called upon.

But none of those attributes can be fully attained if an athlete isn’t a good listener.

After all, good listening skills lead to better learning skills. And what you learn and put into practice makes you a better athlete.

Several years ago, I was talking with Hall of Fame basketball coach and good friend Larry Glass about the importance of listening.

Larry was the youngest Big Ten men’s basketball coach in history when he took over the top spot at Northwestern in the mid-1960s. After he left Northwestern, he and his wife Dee eventually moved their family to Leland.

He had no interest in getting back into coaching until his daughters told him they wouldn’t have a team if they couldn’t find a coach. So all he did was lead the Lady Comets to three straight Class D state championships. The Detroit Free Press named him its girls basketball Coach of the Decade for the 1980s.

So when Larry talks, I listen. I asked him one time what the difference was between coaching boys and girls.

He didn’t hesitate.

“Girls tend to be better listeners… at least in my experience,” he said. “They listen to what you tell them, then they go practice exactly that.”

Over the last few years I’ve asked several coaching friends of mine about the importance of athletes being good listeners.

“It’s not something that gets talked about much,” one coaching friend said. “But the kids I see improve the most are the ones that ask a lot of questions and then put those answers into play, literally.”

Listening isn’t limited to hearing what a coach says. In fact, I know several current high school athletes who tell me they learn from asking a teammate or even an opposing player they are on friendly terms with about what they do to get better.

An athlete who is a good listener tends to be someone who is humble and willing to get better.

You would think that would be all athletes, but we know that’s not the case.

To be sure, being a good listener isn’t automatically going to turn you into a star athlete. But it will make you a better athlete… and a better teammate.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.