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Tools for Coaching: Enneagram

Introduction: Kasey Fagan is an Assistant Coach for Liberty Softball that has starred for the Florida Gators and Arkansas Razorbacks. At Liberty she focuses on defense and making sure she connects and builds trust with each athlete to help them become their best. She explains how using a simple test can help her gear her coaching to specific athletes.

The standard definition of coaching has always been something that has changed throughout my life. When I was a young kid being introduced to athletics, my view of a coach was very broad. I looked at anyone who touched my life in sports with the child-like awe and respect that often happens in young kids. My coach knew everything and could do no wrong. That perspective shifted dramatically as I matured and grew older, as coaches let me down continuously, often using their athletes in never ending attempts to further their own agenda. Now as I am writing this, I know the way I view coaches and what they do is not done changing and I have not arrived at some all-knowing overarching conclusion. However now that I am a coach, I know that training or giving instruction is not all that is in my job description.

My name is Kasey Fagan and I am an assistant softball coach at Liberty University. I won’t go into my athletic resume, but I have been involved in softball for about 20 years. I have had many different teammates and coaches from many different backgrounds. Softball has taken me places that I thought I would never go, and allowed me to meet people and create relationships that I truly cherish. While on this journey (for lack of a better word), I no doubt saw good and bad times, made enemies, and had regrets. But I truly tried my best to understand people and to always give them the benefit of the doubt. When I was playing, I wanted to know why someone behaved a certain way, why I got along with certain teammates and coaches but not others, why some were successful and why some weren’t. This constant questioning and wondering did not stop when my athletic career ended. So here I am 6 years later on the other side of the ball, still trying to get to know my players and what makes them tick.

Enter enneagram. I was introduced to the enneagram during my second year at Liberty. I took the test and the results told me that I was a 6: “The Loyal Skeptic”. I immediately began reading and researching everything about my type. I was absolutely fascinated. I made everyone I came into contact with take the test so I could know their number and consequently know them better. I asked my coworkers to take it, my family, my players, my friends, and even the people I was dating. Someone would tell me their number and then all their behaviors would make sense. I am a firm believer that you can’t fit people into 9 different categories—the human mind is so complex and multi-faceted that even scientists struggle to understand it. But if you’re just a regular person like me and you want to try to connect with people, those 9 different categories are a start.

The enneagram has changed the way I work with others—especially my players. My job description at Liberty includes working exclusively with the infield. I will have anywhere from 5-7 infielders that are in my care each year. I get to know them on a different level and I try to connect with them so they can trust that I want what is best for them. Usually, my infield is predominantly 3s: “The Achiever”. Once I came to understand this, I changed my practices. For those who don’t know, the 3 is usually a very aggressive type, future focused, and goal oriented. They have little patience for interruptions, and are all about efficiency, and competition. They are very hard workers, but they are also very sensitive. They don’t like being called out in front of their peers, and they are generally not very trusting. On the flip side of this, 3s are extremely fun-loving and goofy people. They love life and they love being with friends. Once I came to understand that most of my infield was 3s, I geared my practices toward them. I made sure they knew what part of practice was going to be instructional and which part was going to be heavy reps. By doing this, they aren’t bothered by the interruptions of coaching—as long as they are made aware of the time blocks. I allowed time for more competitions, more teamwork games, and more drills that worked specifically to their position. 3s hate busy work and pointless activity, so I helped create an environment that maximized the use of their time.

The enneagram has change the way I talk to kids, the way I interact with them, how I discipline them, and even how I write practices. It has helped me engage with my student athletes on a level I didn’t think possible. It allows me to understand their behaviors on the field and what each individual needs in order to be the best player they can be. Finally, as a student-athlete who was constantly asked to change who they were, the enneagram has encouraged me to give room and create an environment where each young woman I am in charge of can have the freedom to be themselves.

So in conclusion, the standard definition of a coach has evolved for me personally. Starting as an athlete and getting to where I am now in my coaching career, my perspective has been flipped. I started my job thinking that it was all about the stats that my athletes produced, and they were just another body on the bench. The better they did, the better I looked. But now here I am, getting to know players before I instruct them, trying to find the best way to reach them, and ultimately every day trying my absolute best to show them that who they are is enough. The enneagram helped me (and still is helping me) get here. So do I think that a coach is someone who simply gives instruction? Yes, but there’s a catch. It is not so much about the person giving the instruction as it is about the person who is receiving that instruction. Do they trust you? Do they feel safe with you? Do they want to go to war with you? Before I studied the enneagram I cannot confidently say my players would answer yes to any of these questions. Now, as someone who has taken the time to get to know each young woman that I have been blessed to coach, I can say I am hopeful and more deserving of the title “Coach Fagan”.

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