Business lessons for coaches
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.