Generally coaches have a pretty busy schedule. In most cases, at a grassroots levels coaches are juggling a fulltime job and family responsibilities, as well as their role as a coach. Due to the various strains on a coaches time, it can become easy to neglect dedicating time to learning and improving in the art of coaching.
In order to help with this battle, I’ve compiled a list of 10 ways to improve as a coach, ranked in order of demands on your personal time:
1.Observing (5 minutes+)
A great learning tool can be to observe other coaches at your club. This could be for less warm up or for a whole session! Observe their player management, coaching cues, methods of communication, physical demonstrations or how they progress a session. This can have an instant effect on your own coaching practice if you identify something you want to include, or even actively avoid!
2. Feedback (5 minutes+)
It’s amazing how many coaches don’t ask for feedback from their players. Don’t assume your players grasped everything in the session, or understand every coaching cure you gave. Consider having a brief feedback session involving your players. What did they like? What did they find difficult? What would they like to work on more? What needed more time dedicated to it?
3.Reflections (5 minutes+)
Along the lines of observing/reflecting, consider doing a brief reflection of your sessions. This could be done with a pen and paper, or voicenotes on your phone during your drive home. What worked well? What didn’t work? How did the athletes respond? What was the feedback? What would you change for success next time? What have you learnt? Have any areas of your knowledge been highlighted as needing improvement?
4.Reading (5 minutes+)
Reading is an easy way to develop your skills as a coach. It could be a book, blog or article. You can read a few pages, or a chapter or two at a time. You can pick it up and put it down as and when convenient to you. On the bus, in an airport lounge, on the coach to away games, the situations are endless. I would encourage you to read biographies, books on leadership, psychology or management or even coaching manuals. You can read at your own pace as you see fit!
You can see the reviews of some of the books I’ve been reading lately for some suggestions.
5.Podcasts (15-60 mintues)
Podcasts are a great way of building learning and development into your daily/weekly routine. They vary in length from 15 – 90 minutes or so. Most of us have some form of commute to work, be it in the car, or on a bike/bus/train/plane. Often this time is “dead” time. You could read the newspaper, or flick through your Facebook/Twitter feed, OR you could use your commute as an investment to further develop yourself as a coach. I regularly follow 4 podcasts during drive to/from work and have found they inspired ideas/actions I wouldn’t have otherwise contemplated.
Personally, I really like Ron McKeefrey’s Iron Game Chalk Talk and Pacey Performance Podcast for S&C and regularly listen to these on my commute. There are masses of podcasts out there to choose from, so I guarantee you will find something that will help you.
6.Seminars/Workshops/Webinars (1 hour+)
These events can be pretty varied in nature. I recently came across a free webinar with one of the most sought after professionals in my field. No catch! You may well find your sport/field has some similar opportunities. I have booked onto an afternoon gymnastics workshop next month! Have a search for any seminars, workshops or webinars that would help you, there may be a small fee to pay – maybe see if your club can cover some or all of the fee! Feel free to look at the Ask the Expert series videos too
7. Professional Visit (1 day+)
Are there any other coaches you could learn from outside your club/region or even country? Could you contact them to see the possibility of coming on a professional visit to see how they work? This was common practice at an organisation I worked at previously. Prior trips had included heading to Celtic Football Club in Scotland and Juventus in Italy. Don’t be afraid to send an email. The worst they can say is no! My last professional visit to Hampshire County Cricket proved to be great fun as well as very useful!
8. Conferences (1 day+)
Conferences can be a bit more time consuming. Generally these range from at least 1 day up to 3 or more. Be selective, I tend to just pick the 1 day I think will be most applicable it will make the most of my time and will be cheaper. For example, a few years ago the UKSCA had a mini-conference on training youth athletes, but this year the mini-conference is on training Olympic athletes, so less relevant for my personal area of interest. However, during the main conference Saturday session, there may be some more useful presentations. A good example of a conference is the UK Coaching Summit. Your own sport should also have something specific. Be prepared to look outside the box and consider some physical preparation or leadership conferences too.
9. Training Courses (1 day+)
It goes without saying that training courses are the basic way to progress your knowledge in the field. Whether this is progressing from a Level 1 to 2 coaching award, or even up to a UEFA A license badge. If you want to progress, it’s inevitable that you will need to invest the time, money and effort to progress your qualifications. For example, in the future I plan to complete the EXOS online performance specialist certification as I’ve heard some good things about them. Again, find something relevant to your particular field.
10. Find a mentor (long term)
This is a more time consuming method but possibly one of the most valuable. By finding someone in your field with greater experience and possibly greater education, you can effectively shortcut your route to mastery. By drawing on their mistakes and successes you can learn more quickly, avoid making these errors yourself, as well as build on the the successful methods they have found. There are many ways to do this such as via online mentoring programs, or by finding someone in the flesh. Keep in mind that you are asking them to give up their time,so consider how you could also make this a valuable experience for them.