I get two texts from friends of mine. Both have started taking training sessions with teams in their respective clubs. The first one is along the lines of ‘I’ve just started doing a bit of coaching,have you any drills for me?’. The other guy comes to me and says ‘The under fourteens I’m coaching are weak under the aerial ball,how can I work on it in a training session?’
Both questions might appear to be very similar. But immediately without ever seeing them on the training ground I know that one of these guys is already on a different level to the other. However, I also think that they are both limiting their horizons by seeking the easy option and asking someone for a drill.
Friend A has fallen into the trap that befalls so many trainers out there. He has sixty minutes to fill on a Thursday evening and he wants three drills to fill the time before the kids play a match. Preferably drills that are easy to execute but look complex enough that the other parents looking on and the chairman of the club look at him and say ‘Jeez fair play to him he’s right good’.
He has no goal in mind for the session. No learning outcome that he wants the players to achieve and hasn’t identified any weaknesses to work on.
Friend B is thinking like a teacher. He has identified a weakness in his team and he is looking for a way to work on improving this in his session.
You might have noticed that I haven’t called either of these guys a coach yet? (Although they both referred to themselves as coaches!) Because in my eyes they aren’t. Friend A is a trainer. He is facilitating a training session and any improvements are a fortunate by product of repetition in drills with no specific goals and little or no facilitated learning on his part.
Friend B is closer to being a coach with his identification of a problem. But he has missed out on the fundamental part of being a coach which is the ability to devise and implement a solution to the problem.
This is the key to being a coach. Fifteen minutes on Google will give you enough material to run a session that looks good,anyone can do this. In my eyes coaching is simply about problem identification and solving and being able to integrate the solution into your teams sessions.
My advice to people who want to leap the gap between training and coaching is to follow a few simple steps.
- Identify the skill or aspect of play that needs work
- Devise a way of working on the skill or movement in a non pressurised situation
- Visualise the different scenarios in a game in which the skill or movement may be needed
- Work on these scenarios in mini or conditioned games
- Reward the attempted use of the skill or movement in a game situation
- Avoid using generic praise or criticism and give good technical feedback to the players
Finally,forget about asking other coaches for drills. I get most satisfaction in coming up with my own ways of improving skills and solving problems. Then,when you have solved it for yourself,speak to other coaches and ask them how they may have approached the same situation. You might then tweak your own approach based on the discussion or the other coach might use a nugget of information from you to improve their own teaching.
You will find in time that these types of discussions between coaches are both highly productive and thoroughly enjoyable.