Be a Tiger. Train like Lance.

Aug. 1, 2008
Even the best athletes need coaches. My good friend from Pankey, Dr. Gary DeWood, now the director of the Seattle Center ...

by Mark Murphy, DDS

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: coaches, technique, full potential, consulting, facilitating.

Even the best athletes need coaches. My good friend from Pankey, Dr. Gary DeWood, now the director of the Seattle Center for Advanced Dental Education, uses the story of Lance Armstrong to illustrate this point. Lance has four different coaches — one for overall conditioning, one for cycling technique, another for sports psychology, and still another for nutrition. Sound bizarre? The best distance cyclist in the world has people coaching him to be better at what he already does better than anyone else. I wonder how many coaches Tiger Woods has.

So, who is your coach? Or do you have multiple people who help you in various disciplines to reach your full potential? I have been blessed with many coaches over my career. Some were long term, others shared only fleeting moments with me; some I paid, others were free.

No doubt my wife, Denice, and kids, Matthew and Kimberly (both got married last year), have had profound unpaid influence on my development. Recently my son-in-law, Jeff Munro, and daughter-in-law, Theresa Mlinarcik, have also nudged, modeled, or challenged me in ways that have made me better at what I do. Parents, in-laws, grandparents, friends, and many others too varied to acknowledge here have left their mark as well. Ah, but my wife has been the yin to my yang, the left to my right, and has had a chance to hear or read just about everything I have ever done before it went public. The unconditional love and nonjudgmental nature of the 35 years we have spent together (five dating and 30 married) have provided a safe environment where I can trust the intentions of her comments and be open to input.

"When the student is ready, the teacher appears." I have had the distinct pleasure of consulting, teaching, facilitating, or coaching several individuals, teams, and groups over the years. I have also had the opportunity to spend time with coaches from various ranks in my journey — athletics as a youth, practice development as a dentist, corporate trainers when I was with Dental Technologies Inc., and strategic and financial planners in my current role.

The most important step in entering a relationship where we want to improve is to accept the fact that we need someone else's help. We did not go to business school, take sales training, undergo human relations development, or get marketing or financial degrees at dental school. Don't cast blame. It is all dental school can do to get us ready technically for this noble profession. We are ultimately responsible for the rest of that stuff. But every successful practitioner I know has found coaches ... usually different coaches for multiple skills, like Lance or Tiger has. They seek out the best coaches and observe and learn from them. It works better in a safe, nonjudgmental environment where we can be open to the input of others. And the successes we achieve are not just financial. Spiritual and feel-good rewards are important too. It is the delicate balance of getting paid in money and warm fuzzies that keeps us fulfilled.

Dentistry is surrounded by excellent coaching support. The Pankey Institute is where I began my search for help in 1985. At that time, this nonprofit foundation was really the only game in town for personal and professional growth and development. Avrom King was future-training dentists to help them understand the tiers of dental health-care delivery, and Dr. Pete Dawson was cornering the market on teaching solid fundamentals of occlusion. Now there are many great coaches. I have seen my good friends Cathy and John Jameson in action doing incredible things for dentists and their teams. There are many others who provide a wide variety of excellent curricula, different focuses, and philosophies. I do not pretend to know which training is right for you. But it is likely that some form of coaching would help you grow into the greatness of which you are capable.

Good coaching can prevent a multitude of mishaps, undo mistakes, and prepare you to accept success as it comes. Everyone wants to win on game day. The will to win is nothing without the will to train! Start early and invest wisely. Find the right coach and train hard. Chance favors the prepared mind.

In 1985, Dr. Pankey asked what was preventing me from moving from my current abilities toward fulfilling my capabilities. It took most of the week for me to find the answer. It was me. I started listening to good coaching and got out of my own way.

Never stop learning; never stop growing. Chase your dreams and fulfill your visions. Be a Tiger. Train like Lance. Be all that you can be.

Mark Murphy is a featured presenter for the National Dental Network and the National Lab Network. He lectures internationally on a variety of dental clinical and behavioral subjects. Dr. Murphy practices part time in Rochester Hills, Mich., and is the director of professional relations at The Pankey Institute. You may contact him by e-mail at [email protected] or visit

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