The last few weeks I have been doing a fair amount of coach education with the Sports Studies students of the University of Hertfordshire, as well as my recent workshop, ‘5 Numbers to Live By.’ Discussions quickly came around to how to get a job in this industry so I thought I would share with you some of my reflections. Bottom line; be a great coach and get yourself noticed. So how do you do this?
To be a great coach I have been focusing on talking about the ‘Coaching Process.‘ I’d like to mention a few of my own mentors on this subject who have influenced many of my thoughts on this topic, namely Louis Cayer, Helen Emms, Paul Dent and all the coaching team at Gosling Tennis Academy. So to set the scene my discussions with the students focused on:
- Creating a culture
- Creating a training environment
- Observing performance
- Giving and receiving feedback
In this post I will focus on the first two:
Creating a Culture:
I started by speaking about Creating a culture. I explained to the students that if you’re looking to get a job with an organisation it’s really important to see if you are going to be a good fit for each other. I think that great teams have a great culture, which consists of the following:
>Having a Big Goal and a set of processes in place to achieve it.
For example, at Gosling Tennis Academy, they have a goal of:
”winning now and in the future, on and off the court.”
They define winning as having a champion in the same calendar year in each of the following events:
>Junior 10 and under British Nationals
>Junior 14 and under Tarbes (unofficial world championships)
>Junior Grand slam
>NCAA Divison 1 Team
>Senior Grand slam
So if you’re thinking about approaching an organisation think about whether you’d be excited about being part of a team with these goals. The processes they have in place that lead to winning at Gosling are:
- World class knowledge
- Clear understanding of level
- Improve performance at each stage of development
- Integrated improvement of performance
By knowing this you can start to think about where your skill sets will fit within these processes! Then you can demonstrate how you will help them achieve their goals.
It’s also worth asking them about their values and beliefs. I was very fortunate to part of the process that the Gosling coaches went through in 2008 coming up with their own Values & Beliefs:
- Competitive spirit
- Process focus = More wins
- Everything can improve
- Programmes are individualised
- Tennis is a team sport
Creating a Training Environment:
Assuming you’ve got this far, you’ve probably already visited the organisation you’re interested in getting a job with and spoken to them about their goals, processes, values and beliefs. Well if you’re lucky you might be asked to show them what you’ve got and do some coaching so they can see if you can actually coach!! This is your job interview and you’ve probably heard that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!
Creating a great training environment is not as easy as it might seem. I really value having someone in my team who I can rely on time and time again to rally the troops. In my sessions with the students at University of Hertfordshire I focused on a few key concepts to create a great training environment.
You don’t have to be a ‘hoo-rah’ American style loud and animated personality to be passionate but you do need to engage your athletes some how. But if you’re starting out then let the goal and the drill be the coach for you and make sure you stick to some simple rules guaranteed to get results!
> No finish line no race so set targets- make sure there is a clear objective that is challenging
>Keep score to switch them on and create a sense of urgency- make sure there is competition
>Make it fun by using games as well as drills to train the theme you are coaching
>Create an environment of choice and consequence. This doesn’t necessarily link to the previous objectives of having fun, competition and challenge. But in my experience it does create a sense of accountability if you expose them and do not afford them the opportunity of being able to hide and not take responsibility (you cannot take responsibility if it was not your choice in the first place). Choice and consequence leads to ownership, responsibility and accountability.
Encourage player ownership and control by offering options, making suggestions and providing choice e.g. Would you mind if..? How about we..? How many do you think it will take to do this? etc.
Within each drill/task there must be at least 1 ‘choice point’ for the player e.g. if you choose what is to be done, then the player can choose when. If the coach decides to feed tough balls from the basket, the player can choose from 3 options the number of balls he wants to receive.
The player can choose the level of challenge of the drill/task e.g. ‘Would you like national or international level feeds to be given to you? Would you like national or international standard targets to aim for?’ etc.
Trust me, if you do these things well you will make yourself stand out as a coach by creating a great training environment! Good luck!
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