As we pass another milestone and look towards the opening coaching sessions of Term 3, we pause again for further introspection.
In Issue #1 we talked about the expectations we have for our players and holding them accountable to the right ones. In this issue, we flip the lens of scrutiny and ask what it is we expect of our coaches during the course of a season.
This practice of self-appraisal is one that I find myself engaged in for a large portion of the soccer season, if not constantly; its difficulty surpassed only by its necessity. In my profession, self-assessment is an arduous and poignant process which can stand to offer unique insight to a much bigger picture.
In a similar vein to teachers and educators, coaches are in the business of facilitating learning & development. That is, coaches possess specific messages that they want the individuals under their supervision to hear; and if those messages are to be remembered, and understood, then they must have one specific quality – they must be “sticky”.
Naturally, it’s a worthwhile endeavour for coaches to get to know, very quickly, what works and what doesn’t with specific groups of players.
>The Message – protagonists
First and foremost, let’s look at the people involved – the coach, the players and the parents. I am a firm believer that the content and delivery of a message comes second to the connection between the people involved in its delivery, reception and reiteration. In simple terms, a message will not stick if the people involved aren’t mutually invested, no matter how important or wonderful that message is.
Kids don’t learn from coaches they don’t like; much like students don’t learn from teachers they don’t like.
The truth is, for significant learning to occur, it must be preceded by and, therefore, built upon a significant connection. Taking a group of players from where they are right now, to where they need to be in a year is possible, only if the coach is genuinely invested in the players; and their investment is reciprocated by the players and parents. For this reason, transparency and sincerity are essential; kids see right through insincerity and parents faster still.
>The Message – content & delivery
Secondly, presenting the message in a way that’s engaging for the audience is a difficult task but a profoundly worthwhile one when done correctly. Truth be told, it’s contemplating and addressing my relative success or failure therein which occupies a lot of my time off the field. As I sit down to write new session plans, determined to correct short-comings, right wrong-doings and strengthen connections with my players, it’s bad coaching sessions that linger longer in my head. Much in the same way that a young player might grieve a defeat longer than he celebrates a win. To those players, I give the same advice I endeavored to heed when I received it.
Don’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.
Neither praise nor criticism is harmful. Frankly, both are necessary for growth, and whether they stem from internal monologues or external dialogues, it’s what you do with them that determines their effect.
>The Message – seeking first to understand as opposed to being understood
As a coach / educator, it’s easy to become discouraged, upset and frustrated when a group of players aren’t open to a particular message. Similarly, it’s even easier to point the finger of blame outward rather than inward. In my younger days, I would lament those bad sessions and doggedly reject the notion that I had been at fault for the failure of my message to stick – the kids won’t listen, they don’t pay attention, they’re a tough group. When, in reality, I was unabashedly tried to convey a message without first building a strong connection with my players.
I won’t pretend that bad sessions don’t occur, of course they do. Nowadays though, my reaction to them is reformed. A new perspective exists where it didn’t before and a determination to address the right things pervades my work. Coaching at KIKOFF has accelerated my journey towards a better way of thinking and an improved method of coaching, though not without its flaws.
The underlying point of this article is not to merely discuss one coaches journey from “needs improvement” to “needs a little less work”, but rather to make it apparent that all of the coaches here, at KIKOFF are invested in the work that they do. Long after the floodlights switch off, rest assured we’re either mulling over a previous session, planning the next one or striving for ways to strengthen relationships with our players.
Achieving a certain level of transparency and sincerity between the coach/athlete/parent triad, is important as the season progresses. It’s our collective interest to maximize the long-term development of our players and to create an environment where that’s possible. We are invested in this as much as you are; if ever you have any concerns, my door is always open and my cell-phone always reachable.
Technical Director / KIKOFF Soccer Centres