The horror show

As part of some formal CPD through my workplace, I was tasked with recording a coaching session and reflecting on it… it was horrendous.

The course is all about reflecting on our coaching as practitioners and being more deliberate in our behaviour, communication and thought process during coaching. The course was full of experienced technical coaches, one of whom I will be working with in a National Age Group Squad in the coming months. I was the only non-technical coach in the group. These coaches have all been in the sport far longer than I, have greater experience than myself (both playing and coaching) as I have only been in the sport and current role for 6 months. To say I found this task intimidating was an understatement.
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I decided to embrace the challenge and video one of my hardest groups to coach. There are a number of reasons why this group are my most difficult group:

  1. They are the group I have had the least contact with
  2. The sessions take place at their club, rather than an independent gym or NGB site
  3. The gym is incredibly cold – Like I’m talking it was 1 degree when the session was recorded
  4. We don’t have exclusive access to the gym – the 1st/2nd team are also frequently milling about completing their own sessions and having a chat
  5. Attendance is typically variable. There are 4 core members and 4 that are inconsistent.

So, that is the context with regards to the task. However, I don’t think these should be any barrier or excuse for why a effective and efficient session can be completed.

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Body language matters!

So What?
When I watched the footage back it wasn’t pretty. Firstly my body language was awful! Yes it was very cold, but my body language suggested I was disinterested and couldn’t wait to leave. Arms folded or hands in pockets. Actually, this wasn’t the case at all. Mentally I was engaged in the session and happy to be there, but physically this didn’t come across. The worst part was one of the other coaches pointed this out and suggested that I needed to up my energy in the session too.
The session was very much coach-led (autocratic) rather than athlete-led (democratic). Whilst this may be appropriate in the initial stages with this group due to work ethic and discipline issues, this certainly isn’t my long term aim and isn’t my preferred coaching style.
There were very few open ended questions, just a case of me delivering the information directly to the athlete, not posing them questions or asking them to problem solve themselves.
Overall, I was horrified to see this coaching performance myself, never mind having to present it to others!
Now what?
Now, I could have made a load of excuses – the group is inconsistent, the gym is freezing cold, there’s no buy in, blah blah blah. But I didn’t.
I decided to control the controllables – my own performance. I can’t control who attends or what the weather decides to do. BUT I can control what state I arrive in (Energy), how I communicate with the athletes (Body Language) and how frequently I utilise coaching skills in the session (Open Questions).
So, I decided upon starting a coaching diary.
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Within the diary I would record:

  1. Who attended?
  2. Did I shake hands with each athlete?
  3. What target did the group set collectively (session end time)?
  4. Did each athlete receive at least 1 piece of positive feedback?
  5. How many open questions did I use?
  6. My body language on a scale of 1-10 (poor-excellent; subjective I know but it was a prompt)?
  7. How did I challenge each athlete on a scale of 1-10 (poor-excellent; subjective again)?
  8. My energy during the session on a scale of 1-10?
  9. What needs to improve for next session?

The use of this sort of record has massively improved my reflection on my sessions. Although this is what I was aiming for anyway, having a formal record helps me to ensure I stay on track and am consistent in me coaching performance.
So here’s my challenge to you. Stick your iPhone up in the corner of your gym/on the side of the pitch/court or even use a go-pro. Record 10-20 minutes of your coaching. Reflect on it and see what you think. Could you benefit from a coaching diary similar to mine?
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