On Friday I was having a coffee with a University Lecturer friend of mine. He was telling me about the focus for his day’s lecture with undergraduates studying coaching. The topic of the lecture explored the importance of philosophy in coaching. We enthusiastically set to putting coach education in the UK to rights, highlighting how little coaching philosophy is covered within the vanguard of traditional coach development and coach education.
This brief breakfast conversation made me reflect on my own 24-years of coaching and how I came about my own coaching philosophy. Like many coaches I began with a love for my sport; first playing, then assisting and eventually coaching and teaching. When I took my first qualifications I was introduced to the four pillars of player development; physical preparation, technical development; tactical development and mental development. After 7-years of that journey I started my Level 3 studies, but even studying at this level did not afford me the opportunity to explore the true value of a coach’s philosophy.
Along the way I clumsily borrowed bits of philosophy from great players and coaches in my sport and others (I am grateful to the likes of Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Vince Lombardi). But at times this left me with a mish-mash of ideas, values and platitudes that I could not easily articulate or share with others.
If you submit to the school of thought that coaching is about developing people as much as it is about winning games and titles, then a coach’s philosophy should be at the heart of their coaching tool kit.
Philosophy, for me, is a combination of so many things it’s no wonder we rarely give it the credence it deserves in traditional coach development. Philosophy might be described as beliefs about what makes a good coach and good coaching. Those beliefs in turn should influence the behaviours, values and character of the players, assistant coaches and other support staff that engage with the coach.
In my own coaching we (my players and other coaches) talk about character, mental approach, tactical approach and measurement. We value confidence, teamwork, integrity & honesty, determination & hard work, discipline & focus and sacrifice.
However, it’s not enough to simply talk about character, values and ethics. The challenge for any coach is how their personal philosophy and own coaching behaviours positively influences the collective values of the team or the athletes they coach.
This is no simple thing, and after 20-plus years of coaching, I’m still trying to refine how best to “walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk”. So, I’ve co-opted the help of my colleague and friend, Richard Cheetham, to help us explore this subject in greater depth in a series of articles over the coming months. We’ll look at some of the following challenges for coaches: -
- How do you create a meaningful coaching philosophy?
- Getting your players and staff to walk the talk?
- Understanding the C-system?
In the meantime, give some thought to your own coaching philosophy and feel free to share any pearls of wisdom that currently serve you well. It may help to couch your thoughts in terms of the following: -
- What are your core coaching values?
- How do your coaching ethics affect these values?
- Who sets the values, ethics and behaviours for your team and how are these monitored and measured?
- How do you encourage your players to express their character in your coaching?
Whilst my own philosophy is more about developing people than just winning, this is one of my all-time favourite Vince Lombardi quotes.
Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.
You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time.
Winning is a habit.
Unfortunately, so is losing
Off the back of the most successful Paralympics ever, Coaching Hampshire & IOW are looking to raise the profile of disabled and non-disabled coaches in sport. Our plan is to recruit, develop, deploy and retain 50 coaches to support disability sport across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight over the next 2-years and beyond
There are around 11 million disabled people in the UK, less than two in ten disabled people in England are taking part in sport. To overcome this The Disability Coaching Network primary focus is to work with NGBs to identify the best coaches and mentors to support coaches within disability sport, with the hope to increase the inclusion of disabled individuals within sport. We aim to bring like-minded volunteers and professionals together to share ideas, practice, and resources. By working together we hope to continue to:
• Raise the profile of disabled and non-disabled coaches in sport.
• Recruit, develop and retain more coaches who can deliver inclusive sport
• Support coach development through coach mentoring and training
• Create a collaborative community of deliverers and organisations
• Influence coaches through aspirational role models.
Coaching Hampshire & IOW carried out a survey to indicate the barriers which may exist in disability sport and disability sport coaching. Information received has helped us to strengthen the Disability Coaching Network to deliver a coaching provision which is best suited to disability sport needs and that aim to address the barriers that exists.
Main barriers were;
- Limited access to information and resources
- Limited opportunities and programmes for participation, training and competitions
- Anxiety and lack of confidence in coaches.
For us to continue to develop The Disability Coaching Network we need to sign up coaches in disability sport or those who wish to be more inclusive. Please could you follow the link and sign up. This would give you a chance to share your ideas and solutions and for us to inform you of up-coming workshops and opportunities.
This week I had the good fortune to rub shoulders with some of Hampshire’s brightest and best coaches from Athletics.
Meeting Erik Little…
On Tuesday I met up with old friend Erik Little. Erik did some work for Coaching Hampshire & IOW a couple of years ago, helping us to promote the benefits of fundamental [functional] movement with our young leaders and then again with Hampshire’s Badminton set. Two-years on Erik has continued to guide the next generation of track and field athletes to achieve their goals. Like most coaches, Erik is judged on the accomplishment on his athletes. In what has been described as Hampshire’s most successful year ever, Erik coached three of the Hampshire athletes who won English Schools medals as this year’s National Championships.
Its clear that after just talking to Erik for an hour, he is not only immensely passionate about coaching, but he has the knowledge and experience to match. Having coached Olympic level athletes in Canada, Eric was offered the chance to be fast-tracked to performance coach status, but refused, explaining “I want to learn from the bottom-up, not the other way around”.
Like many coaches, Erik developed his understanding of coaching by learning from others. In the early days Erik reflects on the knowledge he picked up from the Eastern Europeans who were already experimenting with ‘Plyometrics’ and what Eric now describes as “High Velocity Strength Training”. Over the past two-decades Erik has been developing a system to make marginal, albeit measurable, gains in the performance of his athletes. Whilst a 3-5% improvement in physical performance doesn’t seem like much to some, you can bet that those are performance gains elite athletes would die for.
He also knows that there’s some reluctance for coaches to fully embrace physical development particularly working with younger athletes, where puberty and growth spurts can often be confused with improved performance. This challenge encouraged Erik to devise a way for coaches to learn about functional movement and movement efficiency, without the need for a degree in biomechanics or sport science. Using his skills as an illustrator, Erik has painstakingly created over 1200 drills that can be used in a systematic and progressive way, that can support coaches and athletes in their own development.
I’ve systematised the area and encourage coaches to create their own system using the various drills…move away from sporadic or occasional usage, or worse, wait until injury forces a change. I use the acronym MOVERS for the programming and have also organised the thousand or so drills into categories that are developmental, apply to many sports and have measureable results. I link the area as well to dynamic posture work using MBalls etc.
Erik has agreed to present a couple of sessions for coaches in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and we hope to run sessions utlising Erik’s unique approach, both pre and post Xmas.
Supporting Coaches Workshop
On Wednesday 25th September I co-delivered a coach education workshop with Chris Benning. Chris is the Club & Coach Support Officer (Hampshire) for
The session was aimed at the various ways we can support our coaching workforce, looking specfically at recruitment, development and retention.
Recruitmen isn’t just about having processes, but its about understanding the type of club you are. Before you can begin to recruit the right coaches, you need to know what you are recruiting them to do. Delegates where asked to consider: -
- Your club’s aims and objectives – what do you want to achieve and how
- Your values – the characteristics and behviours of your athletes, coaches and supporters
- Your performance measures – what does success look like e.g. more members, individual improvement, winning championships
Many of the delegates talked about the challenges of getting coaches to look outside of the club for additional development. Some even confessed that their own coaches made little effort to share ideas within their own club workforce. The workshop highlighted a variety of ways to support coaches beyond traditional qualifications, which included: -
- Formal – coaching qualifications (assessment of knowledge and understanding)
- Non-Formal – workshops, videos, books (skills development that can support qualifications)
- Informal – mentoring, observation, coaching practice and self-reflection (experiential learning)
Finally we looked at ways to reduce drop-out and keep more coaches coaching for longer. The group discussed why on average 75% of athletics are aged over 40 and whilst the Leaders in Running Fitness has seen a dramatic increase in female coaches, why there are still more men than women involved in Athletics coaching. Some of the obvious ways to retain coaches included: -
- Saying thank you
- Promoting the work of coaches in news articles alongside the success of their athletes
- Nominating them for local, regional and national awards
However, the topic that caused the most discussion was the idea of paying coaches. Whilst some were of the opinion that paying coaches would send their respectives clubs into a spiral of financial ruin, it was generally accepted that volunteering should not cost volunteer coaches any money. Most agreed that by making even a small increase to subscription fees, expenses (or a contribution towards them) could be made.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to support and manage your coaching workforce more effectively, then get in touch then send us an email or check out our Coach Education pages on the website.
Daniel Coyle is the author of The Talent Code, sub-titled ‘Greatness isn’t Born, It’s Grown, Here’s How’. David Epstein wrote The Sports Gene (‘Inside the Science of Extraordinary Performance’), which seemed fundamentally at odds with Coyle.
What happened when they met? Were there tears at teatime? Blood on the carpet? (Actually, it was all very civilised.) You can read Daniel’s transcript of their meeting, but before you do, here’s a reflective question for you:
- What’s most important when it comes to performance?
- Quality of coaching
- Quality of practice
Put these four options in order of importance, then click here to read what happened when Dan met Dave.
By Adam Kelly
PhD researcher in Sport Pyschology, Southampton Solent University
The term ‘crisis’ is used every now and then in sporting circles, however, it is also known as panic (when referring to an individual) or a collapse. Adam Kelly asks; is this a bad thing? Taking the emotion out of the situation; a crisis could be your chance to change or a turning point for you or your team.
But how do you change? How can you minimise the negative effects of a crisis?
Tips for coaches
As coaches we invest masses of time and energy into our athletes and their performances. We know that staying objective and taking our emotions out of the situation is the best thing we can do, but this is easier said than done.
As coaches we have an effect on how our athletes view the situations facing them. Our body language, the terms we use, tactics we apply and the knowledge we provide can all impact the athletes’ perception of the situation. In these situations athletes are far more sensitive than usual. Therefore we need to provide a consistent message in these ‘crisis’ situations.
Tip 1: Staying calm
The key to dealing with a crisis at the time, is to stay calm. As coaches we have the opportunity to step back, look around and assess the situation before we make a decision.
This process is what Dr Steven Peters has termed ‘putting your chimp in a box’. This term is based on a scientific understanding of how the human brain reacts to situations. We are receiving a variety of stimuli from all around us, we cannot control those stimuli, but we can control our reactions. This is where Dr Peters’ term comes into play, as the primitive part of our brain will want to flight or fight the stimuli or situation. However, as human beings we have developed the ability to use our brain to make a decision based on our previous and vicarious experiences, not just the immediate siutation. In a matter of seconds we can come up with a variety of solutions.
Commentators will often say ‘she/he is cool as a cucumber’, when actually their strength is just controlling their reaction to the stimuli they are facing.
Tip 2: Overcoming adversity
In sport there comes a moment in every coach and athletes career when we face and overcome adversity. Why do some succeed and others not? I would suggest the preparation for said situation is a key component for succeeding.
As we know ‘crisis’ situations will happen over a season, however not regularly enough for athletes to familiarize themselves with. When preparing for a season, outline possible situations or ‘worst case’ scenarios. Implement these scenarios into training allowing the athletes to try new or reinforce certain tactics, mindsets and techniques. This helps provide the experience of these crisis situations. When the previous experience and familiarization is positive it helps contribute to increased levels of self-efficacy and confidence in our athletes.
Tip 3: Crisis means opportunity
In the aftermath of the ‘crisis’ some athletes will react to it as ‘a bad day at the office’, some will take it personally and get angry, others will dismiss or forget it. These are all natural reactions; once they have subsided we can assess the situations and look at a variety of options for the future. This provides us with the opportunity to change our behaviours or use the ‘crisis’ as a turning point as Pritchard suggests.
Review the situation that the team or athlete faced. Take emotions out of the equation and deal in facts (also understand the players’ perspective). Try not to dismiss obscure tactics used by others, as this can become a bigger issue if other teams follow suit. After this review, start planning the changes, don’t be afraid of trying something new. This is the time to try new tactics, techniques, philosophy, physical training etc as the athletes will want to improve and are more open to new ideas.
A good example of this approach is the Australian cricket team losing the Ashes for the first time in 18-years back in 2005. Afterwards the Australian team analysed the situation and their response, thereby giving them to the
opportunity to change their approach. Head coach John Buchanan took the team away for a boot camp where players and coaching staff were treated like soldiers. Everyone was assigned a role and had to follow a chain of command. Players and coaching staff had to carry water and camping equipment for hours across the outback. That night they only had a few hours sleep before been woken up and marched for another few hours. The key was for the group to develop new behaviours for dealing with adversity and understanding how, as a team, they could pull together when the going got tough. They played the return series in Australia 2006-7 and won all five matches.
Tip 4: Detailed planning
Plan future training, competition tactics and techniques in detail. Include back up plans for ‘crisis’ situations or obscure tactics. The coach and captain need to work together to provide the team with a clear direction and rationale for that direction. The direction is the new style of training or tactics being deployed. This direction needs time for the team to understand and may require reviewing. The review is a good time to include the team, as they will provide an insight into the training, which should be reflected the new direction.
A great example of using detailed planning to effect is former British Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan. He uses a 45-minute warm-up for professional rugby teams, which is detailed by the minute. No vague areas, no generalised statements, everyone is focused upon maximising time and effort to get ready for competition.
Tips for athletes
As athletes we train day after day to prepare as best we can for competition and then on game day everything goes wrong. In our heads we ask ourselves ‘Why do I bother?’, ‘Am I good enough?’ or we tell ourselves ‘Everything is against me.’ So how can you perform with these thoughts and facing ‘crisis’ situations?
Tip 1: Staying calm
The same principles apply to athletes as they do to coaches. We are all human and all have the same parts to our brains. We need to control our reaction to the stimuli or situation we are facing, by thinking and not reacting on our primitive instincts. This will give us the best chance of making the right decisions, which can turn the performance around.
Two examples of performers using Dr Peters ‘chimp in the box’ technique are: Ronnie O’Sullivan (World Snooker
Champion) and the GB Cycling team (8 Olympic Gold’s). Both achieved great success by staying calm when difficult situations arose.
Tip 2: Belief
Even when these doubts are in our heads, we can still turn the performance around. Great examples of athletes performing in a ‘crisis’ situation are; Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal to win the world cup, Ben Ainslie’s comeback to win Olympic sailing gold or the European golf team’s Ryder Cup win.
What these performers have in common in these situations is an inner belief that they will succeed. This belief is linked to self-efficacy, which is our perception of us succeeding at the task in hand. Self-efficacy can be built up through four factors: -
- previous experiences
- vicarious experience
- verbal persuasion
- physical state.
Of these factors, we know that our physical condition and previous experience are important, however, vicarious experiences and verbal persuasion can be equally important. Good examples of vicarious experiences are that of a team that ‘have the momentum’. When you see your teammates performing successfully you gain in confidence as a result, this is called vicarious experiences. Vicarious experiences can often lead to outsiders saying that the ‘momentum has changed’, as other players start performing better after seeing their teammates playing well.
Tip 3: Preparation
The underpinning for success in any sport is preparation. Coaches can provide the best training session, but if you (the athlete) do not engage in the session it becomes pointless. Athletes should be looking to improve everyday and every training session. This is easy to say, especially in amateur sport, as life can take over, but once you are at training you need to utilise every minute.
As an amateur athlete you may train twice a week for two hours that is only 4 hours. Elite athletes train for 30+ hours a week and they still make mistakes, so make sure you prepare effectively and utilise training sessions to give yourself the best chance of succeeding in those ‘crisis’ situations.
In conclusion we all need to take emotion out of the ‘crisis’ situation and work on the facts. Coaches should realise that the athletes will look to them for guidance and the coaches will look to the athletes to believe in their abilities. Together coaches and athletes can use ‘crisis’ situations to improve performance and develop more appropriate behaviours.
Follow Adam on twitter: @adamkellypsych or visit his blog: adamkellyblog.wordpress.com
Every now and then the meetings we attend at work can be really refreshing and inspire us [yes, inspire] to do things differently…
I recently attended a meeting, which made me think about how I coach. In particular it made me think about how coaches relate to their athlets and the preparation of their training sessions. As much as I love coaching some days even coaching seems like hard work. When you’re pushing for continual improvements in performance its not unusual for the tensions and pressures to result in frayed nerves, conflicts between players and conflicts between players and coaches.
As the coach you can’t always mitigate against all the potential conflicts that will arise in these pressured environments, but there are a few things you can influence. Here are some of the suggestions managers at Hampshire County Council are looking into to create stronger, more productive teams: -
- More team/people time
If coaches could concentrate on just coaching, then we’d immediately free up more time to build rapport with athletes, check out the latest developments in teaching, communication, fundamental movement video analysis (the list is endless), which would make our coaching more effective and efficient. Finding someone to support your efforts by filming practices and games, taking stats, or managing your team can free-up valuable time. In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight there are a plethora of willing and capable students willing to support local clubs as they try to develop the skills to be fully competent coaches, administrators and volunteers.
- Catch people doing something good and tell them
Everyone likes to hear they’re doing a good job. It doesn’t matter how confident or resilient your athletes and coaches are, getting positive feedback makes people feel good. Take time to tell people when they’ve done something well. It could be an improvement in their technique, reaching a specific performance goal, their effort in training [or a game] or simply improved decision-making under pressure.
- Value happy staff and teams
Your coaching staff and volunteers are key to getting the most out of you and your athletes. Be careful not to take them for granted. Take time to meet with your coaches and volunteers to provide them with updates on the progress of your athletes. Remind them how important their contribution is, no matter how big or small. Whether its the person who makes the post-game teas, the minibus driver or your assistant coach – they all need to know that their efforts help the proverbial boat go faster.
- Trust more
You can’t do it all on your own and neither can you control all the variables involved in developing improved performance. Encourage your athletes to take more responsibility for training sessions by letting them choose the content (from a pre-prepared list of options). Encourage athletes to lead group/team talks. Each week give a different athlete the opportunity to lead the warm-up or cool down.
Why not encourage your assistant coaches to lead a session? It doesn’t mean you have to stop coaching, but allows your athletes to hear a different voice and maybe gives you a different perspective of your coaches and athletes.
- Your staff as customers
When you think about being a customer you want excellent service, to feel fully satisfied and recieve value for money. If you’re working with volunteers, consider ways that you can add value to their time with you and the club by giving them skills, recognition and positive experiences. Offer them training or opportunities to take on more responsibility. But its also about the little things too! Every conversation or exchange between you and your support staff should end with them feeling listened to, supported and ready to come back for more.
- Have more fun
Highly pressurised training environments need to have a pressure release valve. Sometimes its the event itself, which allows all the training and hardwork you’ve put in to be expressed in a symphony of controlled movement, creativity and confident execution (on the good days). However, ocassionaly competition only leads to more stress. Whatever kind of day you and your athletes are having athletes should be reminded that competitive sport is [serious] fun. Athletes who can link hard work and pressure to fun are more likely to stay poised, focussed and motivated to put in the necessary effort to move towards your [agreed] goal when put under pressure.
If there’s no fun or laughter in your coaching, then there’s something seriously wrong. You don’t have to become a stand-up comic to make this happen – simply try to create a training environment where fun features every week. Tell jokes, play fun games in training, share a funny story. Encourage athletes to create distractionary activities on long road trips (ever tried playing Pictionary on a moving bus – safety first).
More lessons from business
Over the coming months Coaching Hampshire & IOW is working with business more and more to learn lessons about how to coach more effectively. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our Coach Education Month or go directly to our events in March 2013.
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