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After an abrupt change in my life over the past few months, I now find myself in several places: one, back in the place where I started; two, maybe in the place where my future lies and three, feeling envious of some of those around me…
In the avoidance of being cryptic, two months on from a redundancy, I find myself back with my boots on and back where I started coaching within an Academy Football environment, and thoroughly enjoying it. Termed as battle hardened (e.g. old) and experienced (e.g. older than everyone else), I am back to my roots coaching football with a renewed purpose and vigour. I feel a better coach than when I was here last time around, though the feeling of being old is exacerbated by the majority of my fellow coaches not knowing the joy and tears of Italia ’90, or even the heady days of Euro ’96 and Skinner and Baddiel as they weren’t born or still in nappies (not to mention I am coaching the son of a player I used to coach 20 years ago).
I am also in position to pursue other opportunities in other fields of interest in education and learning, one of those being working within the Higher Education sector. Again, I bring lots of experience (see above) from the coaching sector, and have seen the face and outlook of coaching and learning change over several years (again, see above!). The opportunity now to support this development and change for the benefit of coaches – myself included – is where I see my future lying, both as part of a wider HE group and through my own projects.
However, as I observe my fellow coaches, work with them and talk with them, I have to admit of feeling envious of where they are. Whilst, my battle hardened views and experience seems to be valued, and my knowledge of the sector and contacts is proving useful, there was one moment that brought it all home to me.
Two excellent young coaches I work with at the Academy and I were discussing coaching research and application, when one turned to the other and said, “You know, you are a poorer version of what Jon is.” I took this as a compliment but replied with stark realisation of my own position – “No, you are a better 25 year old version of me.”
And it is true – the questions they are asking now, and the learning they want to discover, is the same as me. However, I wasn’t asking those questions when I was in my twenties, I’m doing it in my early forties. The opportunities and increasing knowledge and experience they will have will see them (in theory) become a significantly better coach than I will be, and for me this bodes well for the future of coaching.
And while I reach for my pipe and slippers, and look for an application for a free bus pass, I feel delighted to be part of their journey, and they to be part of mine, where we can learn from each other, and together to make ourselves better coaches and better people.
And whilst the landscape is changing, some things are still key:
- Connections and relationships – you can’t undervalue the importance of building great rapport and understanding of each other.
- Staying current – the need to stay up to date, not always with qualifications, CPD and licencing requirements, but be aware of current and new trends, new research and a wide variety of reading across different genres.
- Communication – talking, listening and sharing is still key…as well as being open minded
- Coaching is still learner centred – though I haven’t always seen this!
- Everything is cyclic…..Some things change - Some things remain the same
Oh, and by the way, it is good to be back on many levels…
Loved this reflection Jon - many parallels to my life except I wish I was still as young as you are. I work hard at staying current, especially as my charges are sooooooo much younger than me.
Jon, coaching is not just learning from the manual it is also about real life experiences. We have all met the new guy straight out of university who thinks he going to change the world only to come unstuck when he meets reality. Great that you are enjoying coaching again we have so many tools available to help us but it is possible that you have become a better communicator which is the real reason why this time around things are better.
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