The Bonsai and the Bamboo – Player Development

People Develop at Different Rates

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Not all plants respond to the same care

Not all plants grow in the same way.


Once while I was at university a girlfriend once thought my apartment needed some decoration. Knowing I wasn’t exactly the gardening type, she bought me a cactus telling me it would be easy to care for. After all, it’s a rugged tough plant that can grow in even the toughest climates.

Just water it once in a while.

But this muppet even managed to forget to do that .. and the cactus died.

Yes, from dehydration.


Coaching and developing players and staff however is similar to growing plants.
In coaching courses I’ve often used the example of the bonsai and the bamboo to illustrate two important points about player and staff development.

  • Firstly, not all plants respond to the same care
  • Secondly not all plants grow in the same way.

Bonsai is not a tree, it’s actually an ancient Japanese form of tree cultivation that produces small trees. It’s a careful art form of constant care and trimming.

Bamboo is not actually a tree either, strictly speaking it’s a grass, but what is unique about bamboo is that it grows at a very rapid rate in spurts.

A little like bonsai, we often coach some people who need constant care, cultivation and trimming, but others need very little care and can develop with just some basic direction and grow in spurts like bamboo.

The point of importance is that not every one develops how we did or at our rate and some grow with little intervention, others need more constant care. It’s always helpful to keep in mind what works for bonsai, doesn’t work for bamboo.

Oh … and even a cactus, the toughest of people, needs some love!


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